Founded by a pair of Japanese watchmakers, Kikuchi Nakagawa got its start in 2018 with the launch of the Murakumo, a time-only wristwatch inspired by the Patek Philippe Calatrava ref. 96 of the 1930s. Now the duo once again look to Swiss watchmaking of the same period for the Ichimonji.
Kikuchi Nakagawa’s newest watch sticks to the elegantly focused formula that defined the Murakumo – a black-polished steel case, along with hand-made hands, and a Vaucher movement. The emphasis is recreating the vintage aesthetic as well as honing the case finishing to the highest level.
The appeal of the Ichimonji is very much like that of its predecessor. It looks and feels like a vintage watch, but not quite, because it is clearly finished to a far higher level, a quality that is discernible in how the surfaces catch the light.
Design wise the watch faithfully recreates the sensation of a vintage watch, but elevates it to another level of refinement thanks to a keen attention to detail. Take for instance the hour numerals for five and seven, which have been replaced with dots in order to avoid cutaway numerals.
And the external finishing of the watch is similarly elevated. In fact, there is likely no other watch in this price segment with a similarly finished case. The case is polished by hand as a movement component would be, as are the hands. While the baton-shaped hands appear similar at a glance, but are actually three dimensional and hand finished to create brushed top surfaces and mirror polished bevels.
But like the Murakumo the Ichimonji has a movement that’s well made and entirely respectable, but not very interesting. The Vaucher movement within does the job well, and with some style, but doesn’t quite live up to the nature of the case and hands.
That said, the movement is more than acceptable for the US$20,000 price tag, the vast majority of which covers the careful and artisanal decoration of the external steel parts.
A subtle evolution
Ichi-monji (or 一文字) translates as “single line”, which explains the starting point of the design – the hands. According to cofounder Yusuke Kikuchi, “First of all, we wanted to make a watch with three-dimensional baton hands.”
“Then I designed the numerals to match them,” he adds, “The font is inspired by several vintage watches.”
But the Ichimonji is an entirely new watch, and not merely a new set of dial and hands retrofitted to the Murakumo.
“For the harmony, I changed all the necessary elements of the case,” explains Mr Kikuchi. “The lug width is now 20 mm instead of 22 mm,” he says, “And I also modified the shape of lugs and bezel.” The resulting looks is a clear departure from the ref. 96 aesthetic with its characteristic wide lugs.
And the case finishing is also varied – alternating between brushed and polished surfaces – in contrast to the Murakumo that was entirely black polished, giving it a mirrored finish on all surfaces. “We applied a brushed finish to case middle and back,” notes Mr Kikuchi, “In order to create contrast with black polish.”
At the same time, it can be surmised that the circular-brushed finish on the case back is more practical as it camouflages scratches and scuffs better than the black-polished back of the Murakumo.
Under the case back sits the KN001, which is actually a Vaucher VMF 5401. It’s a wide but thin automatic calibre with a micro-rotor, and specified with the highest level of finishing, making it comparable in decor to the same movement in Parmigiani watches.
Like the movement, the dial is also Swiss made, coming from Comblemine, the dial maker owned by Voutilainen. The rest of the watch, however, is Japanese, including the all-important case and hands.
Key Facts and Price
Kikuchi Nakagawa Ichimonji
Diameter: 36.8 mm
Height: 8.5 mm
Material: Steel with black-polished surfaces
Water resistance: 30 m
Movement: KN001 (produced by Vaucher)
Functions: Hours, minutes, and seconds
Frequency: 21,600 beats per hour (3 Hz)
Power reserve: 48 hours
Strap: Crocodile with black-polished steel buckle
Availability: Direct from Kikuchi Nakagawa with 12-24 month lead time
Price: US$20,000 without taxes
For more, visit Kikuchi-nakagawa.com.
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