New To The Fratello Shop: Introducing The Fratello × Minase Divido Limited Edition
Minase may not be the first brand on people’s lips when they talk about Japanese watchmaking, but the brand is making a concerted effort to change that. With stunning craftsmanship and finishing that can easily rival the brand’s closest competitors, Minase is a brand that we are very excited to be working with on the latest Fratello Limited Edition.
We had previously reviewed the Minase Divido on Fratello back in 2019. After Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, was spotted wearing a Divido during the G20 summit in Osaka, the brand began to pick up some momentum in the watch community. This momentum became a rolling thunder as the brand’s recognition, and fanbase grew considerably over the next couple of years. But still, some people may not be acutely aware of what they’re missing out on. What does Minase stand for and why was Fratello so keen to work with the brand that many regard as one of the industry’s best-kept secrets?
Who or what is Minase?
Good question! Nestled in the mountains of Akita Prefecture of Japan, Minase is a small village some 450km north of Tokyo. The eponymous watch marque, Minase, is a sub-brand of Kyowa Co. Ltd, a renowned cutting-tool manufacturer founded in 1963. The quality of its tools quickly caught watch manufacturers’ attention worldwide. Kyowa began to manufacture cases and crowns for some world-famous watch manufacturers. High-quality watches require precision machining and fine finishing, so Kyowa mastered intricate finishing techniques using the highly-revered Sallaz polishing machines.
In 2005, Kyowa decided to start its own watch brand, and Minase was born. Minase watches were exclusively sold in Japan until 2017. A partnership with H-Development in Switzerland opened the doors for the brand to reach a broader market outside of Japan.
Today, when Minase launches a new watch, it sells out very quickly. Minase has gotten to where it is today (and seems set to continue its ascension) thanks to its quality and dedication to the exquisite craft. Take any Minase watch, and the elaborate designs create a unique aesthetic like nothing else. The quality of machining and the level of finishing are simply superb.
Japanese watchmaking has become synonymous with excellent finishing and attention to detail, and the Minase is no exception. When it comes to case finishing, Minase places the importance of hand-applied finishes at the fore of everything it does. This very Japanese attitude to watchmaking shines through at every possible stage when examining the Fratello × Minase Divido Limited Edition.
The Divido — Fratello style
As mentioned, the Divido is not a brand new model from Minase. Since its launch in 2013, the Divido has become one of the most recognizable and most popular models in Minase’s catalog. Indeed, it is our favorite of Minase’s designs and seemed the logical place to start. With Minase’s watches’ focus being the incredible case and bracelet quality, we decided we wanted a dial that would speak up and demand the wearer’s attention in equal measure.
Color me blue
We are big fans of color here at Fratello. When done right, color can take watch design to the next level. Picking the right color, shade, volume, and finish is all very much an artistic science. Thankfully, the Japanese are well known for their mastery of the science of art. Between Fratello and Minase, we came up with the glorious blue dial you see before you today.
At first glance, it looks like a radial sunburst pattern, and to some degree, it is, but at the same time, it’s so much more. If you look at the images again, you’ll see it isn’t a perfect uniform sunburst finish applied by a machine. No, you can see visible brushstrokes, lacquered by hand to achieve this effect. The inspiration for Minase dials can be found in the the principle of Suiboku-ga: “Ink and water painting”. The Suiboku-ga painter modifies the ink dilution, the brush position, the depth of the stroke and line thickness, sharpness and level of color. Essentially, Minase has replaced the ink with a special lacquer, but held true to the same principle, using a brush. This is what gives the dial such impressive depth of reflection, shadow play, and constantly changing depending on the light hitting the dial. It’s truly remarkable and a mesmerizing display.
Cased to perfection
The Divido case is a 40.5mm case composed of several parts with many polished and brush surfaces, highlighting Minase’s expertise in metalwork and finishing. Not all finishes are created equally. Even something as seemingly simple as brushing can be starkly different between watch brands. Minase’s Japanese perfection is clearly evident on the Divido case, with perfectly uniform lines brushed with the right combination of texture and subtlety. The polishing is what really helps elevate the Divido to the next echelon of visual impact.
Another famous Japanese manufacturer has made a name for utilizing a polishing technique known as “zaratsu” polishing. This polishing technique is also known as “Sallaz” polishing, with both terms down to the machines used to achieve this mirror-like polish. The early polishing machines were made by a company called “Gebrüder Sallaz” (Sallaz Brothers), hence the name. The term “zaratsu” is a Japanese transliteration of the Sallaz name.
Craftspeople generally take years to master the art of these machines…
The critical difference between the Sallaz polishing machines and other more common ones is the use of the front of the rotating polishing buffer rather than the side. This allows for greater uniformity in the polish application. Still, it involves the risk that the corners may become rounded unless polished by a skilled craftsperson. Craftspeople generally take years to master the art of these machines before they are allowed to work on watches destined for customers’ wrists.
Bracelet and strap
The Fratello × Minase Divido Limited Edition comes on a choice of either a rubber strap or a metal bracelet. The black rubber strap is the cheaper option. It offers a comfortable wearing experience and is fastened by a similarly excellent fold-over clasp, decorated with the Minase “drill head” logo.
Minase has matched the excellent casework with a bracelet of equal quality.
As one would expect from a company that cut its teeth on a groundwork of precision metalworking and machining expertise, the bracelet is nothing short of exceptional. All too often, bracelets let down the overall design of a watch, often appearing as solid-yet-unspectacular afterthoughts. Here, nothing could be further from the truth.
Minase has matched the excellent casework with a bracelet of equal quality. The Divido bracelet is thin yet strong. It articulates beautifully and boasts the same type of Sallaz finishing as the rest of the watch. Resizing is an equally satisfying experience and made easy by the unique yet wholly logical Japanese approach.
The missing link
The industry standard has links removed via pins or screws on the side of the links. This creates an obvious hole in the link and does not conform to the Japanese way of artistic perfection. Instead, each link is held by a single screw on the underside. That screw unlocks a sandwich of the leading, matte-finished link that mounts from behind and the polished core that hooks into the link in front of it. It’s an elegant and oh-so-simple solution to bracelet adjustment and one that makes you wonder why it isn’t more common.
…Sallaz polishing adorning the surface.
Even the bracelet clasp has been afforded the same attention to detail. That includes the integration to the design as a whole and the quality of finishing, with more Sallaz polishing adorning the surface. It is a simple two-button locking system, signed with the Minase logo. It feels secure and super slim and effortlessly blends into the bracelet design.
Improving on excellence
One previous comment on Minase’s Divido was that the finishing and visual fanfare quality on the dial side was not matched on the case back. While the movement is a logical and robust choice (Sellita SW200-1 with upgrades to the finishing), it was still rather bare when compared to the rest of the watch. Additionally, the plain movement holder highlighted the empty space in a less flattering way.
…the case back’s visual impact was finally on par with the front of the watch.
Working with Minase, we were determined to allow the Fratello × Minase Divido Limited Edition to shine equally on both the dial side and the case back. By black-coating the movement holder, adding some engraving, and creating a custom, black-coated, and decorated movement rotor, the case back’s visual impact was finally on par with the front of the watch. In fact, Minase loved the improvements so much that it used them on another recent launch.
Limited to just 10 pieces worldwide
At Fratello, we are incredibly proud to be working on a limited edition release with a brand such as Minase. With its dedication to its craft and exceptional watches, we are thrilled to finally be able to release our collaborative project into the wild. However, when we say limited, it is indeed that. With just 10 pieces being made, this is a prime opportunity to experience Japanese watchmaking’s best-kept secret.
Now that you’re well-acquainted with Minase and the quality of its work, you can reserve your own Fratello × Minase Divido Limited Edition over at the Fratello Shop, right here. With only 10 pieces ever being made, you’ll need to act fast to join this club. Minase’s watches sell out quickly when made in larger numbers than this; however, the exceptional level of hand-applied finishes makes it easy to see why.
For more information about the Fratello × Minase Divido Limited Edition, or to reserve your piece now, click here.