Hajime Asaoka’s signature style is early mid-century with a touch of Art Deco, and he chose the studied charm of a 34mm case for his premier (and accessible) release of 2024. We first saw this size from Kurono Tokyo in 2022 with four fresh two-tone releases. Now, by introducing the Calligra, Hajime Asaoka has committed. Is it too small or just a natural, even purer take on vintage? Well, considering that fans already swooped these watches up in less than a day, perhaps more and more people are coming around.

The case has the same well-proportioned, sweeping design that we know from the brand’s 37mm annual editions and my Grand Urushi Aoyama Edition. And even with brief order window openings and small production, Kurono Tokyo is big in watch circles. Last year, the GMT 1 received a GPHG nomination, and while it wasn’t Kurono’s first one, it’s still significant. Plus, remembering that Hajime Asaoka is a self-taught watchmaker is no less impressive than it was upon the brand’s international debut around four years ago.

Introducing the Kurono Calligra

Small is the new normal

Kurono Tokyo’s 34mm watch range is found under the Special Projects section of its website It’s a sub-range set apart by a more playful aesthetic and accessible price point. Yes, I’ll admit to being tempted, with the first four followed up last year with another batch, and now we have a third. So, what is different about this third iteration from Asaoka-san? The case is the same, still housing the well-priced Miyota 90S5 caliber. The dials, though, display a new level of elegance. The watch’s sleek 9.6mm thickness is a comfort boon, and its diameter matches a short 41mm lug-to-lug. With celebs rocking sub-30mm Cartiers on the red carpet, small is not small anymore. It’s increasingly tempting for the greater watch-buying public, and the Kurono Tokyo Calligra might even solidify the trend.

Introducing the Kurono 'Calligra'

The Breguet connection

Sure, the 34mm Calligra may feel petite to those with a preference for big tools, but it requires a reset. As a throwback to the 1940s and ’50s, it is a period-perfect form (much more so than reissued icons still coming out with 38–39mm cases). This means that it’ll be a great daily wearer for vintage collectors. For me, a big part of the appeal was the thought process behind the release, which was based on Hajime Asaoka’s hand-drawn versions of Breguet numerals. Asaoka-san tells us, “Generally, it is very difficult to place and balance Arabic numerals in a circular pattern as indices because they were originally meant to be placed in a straight horizontal line. But Breguet indices seem to have been designed from the beginning to be placed in a circular pattern on the dial of a watch”

Introducing the Kurono 'Calligra'

Instead of opting for an existing font, Asaoka-san created these numerals for these three watches. “I started with the calligraphy of small numbers using a pen, in the same manner as it was done 200 years ago. Afterward, I selected the ones with the most beautiful balance, enlarged them, and used them as the original templates for the dial indices,” he explains.

Introducing the Kurono Calligra

The Kurono Tokyo Calligra trio

At the risk of chastisement from my watch-loving wife, I’m sticking my neck out. There is an elegant blend of masculine and feminine elements at play here. All three versions of the Calligra — Stark Black, Silver White, and Dark MOP — come on a textured, white-stitched black leather strap and feature the same bright-blued and lumed syringe hands. Together with a needle-style seconds pointer, they contrast nicely with the polished steel case. All three variants also have a delicate railway minute track framing the elegant Breguet numerals and an inner dial circle. In addition, there is a sweeping logo at 12 o’clock balanced by the “Automatic” script at 6 o’clock. These were also present in the first two series of 34mm designs. This time, though, their curves partner perfectly with Asaoka-sensei’s hand-drawn Breguet indices, making for a cohesive design.

Introducing the Kurono Calligra

Is small-case splendor a fad or a revolution?

If I were to conclude, I’d say these three offer a quietly spoken evolution of Asaoka-san’s 34mm range. With 11 watches having been released, it is becoming a collectible sub-range for the brand. Sure, the question above is a deeply personal one for many. But small is here to stay, even with big watches having returned last year. There is no denying the massive improvement in comfort if you’re used to fat 43–45mm dive tools and Big Pilots. But can a watch like the Calligra have the same presence?

Pick the right small watch, and you’ll find a big wrist presence with stunning versatility. Gone are the days of your watch catching on your shirt cuffs and your sweater bunching up behind your big Breitling, exposing it to knocks. Also, if you’re wearing a mini-grail, you might want to keep the pleasure out of sight and personal. So keep shrinking the wrist hits, I say. By introducing the Kurono Calligra, Hajime Asaoka has another small-cased hit on his hands.

All three versions went on sale yesterday, February 23rd, for US$1,170. Regrettably, we couldn’t alert you sooner, so by the time of publishing this article, they all sold out. Take out the pitchforks and flaming torches if you must, but you have our sincere apologies. At the very least, perhaps we can appreciate the approach to this release and discuss the larger issue at hand — small watches. Is a 37–38mm watch already minuscule for you, or are you ready to downsize to a proper vintage size? Once you try, both the Kurono Tokyo 34mm series and vintage gems will surely get on your radar, offering value and comfort. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Watch specifications

34mm Calligra
Silver White / Stark Black / Dark MOP
Two-tone silver, black, or silver and with blue mother-of-pearl, proprietary Breguet numerals, and railway minute track
Case Material
Polished 316L stainless steel
Case Dimensions
34mm (diameter) × 41mm (lug-to-lug) × 9.6mm (thickness)
Box-style sapphire
Case Back
Stainless steel, screw-in
Miyota 90S5: automatic with hand winding, 28,800vph frequency, 42-hour power reserve, 24 jewels
Water Resistance
Hand-stitched textured black leather (18mm width) with pin buck;e
Time only (hours, minutes, seconds)
US$1,170 (sold out)