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Kurono is all about accessibility with rarity. In line with the spirit of our watches, we want to introduce purpose-built, artisan-made collector-grade products at more than reasonable prices. But in very small quantities.
Kurono is proud to introduce a limited run of collector watch boxes featuring the prized kuro-tamenuri urushi technique, and hand-made in Japan - the same highly-prized technique reserved especially for objects of high status including katana scabbards and the armor of Shogun warlords. The watch box is in high-polish black with red patina on the edges that will slowly reveal more patina as it ages and is used.
Tamenuri urushi is highly prized in the high-end fountain pen collector community, and is widely featured in brands like Namiki and Nakaya. However, the price-points of those products limit tamenuri appreciation to a few. Similarly, handmade Japanese tamenuri lacquerware can command stratospheric prices - especially those attributed to a master 'national treasure' artists.
Made of wood with kuro-tamenuri urushi technique hand applied, the Kurono Tamenuri Box is a single watch box with a felt interior, hand-signed on the lid in gold with the maker's mark and the 'kurono' logo.
The Kurono Tamenuri Urushi Box is handmade in Japan by artisans in the Ishikawa Prefecture.
The word Urushi derives from the word "tearful" or "fine delicacy", and the Japanese character for Urushi includes the characters "water", "person" and "tree". Not only does Urushi represent the beauty of the lush and watery surface, but also a familiar part of people's daily lives that involve water and trees.
How Urushi is harvested
Urushi lacquer is made from the sap of the rhus vernicifera tree. To harvest the sap, a couple of slashes are made in the tree for it to seep out. Once the sap is obtained, it is filtered several times through layers of special paper. The result is a translucent lacquer which color ranges from very light to a dark amber.
Properties of Urushi
Urushi, to many especially collectors, is seen as a miraculous substance. Urushi cures naturally through a process of oxidation and polymerization into a material with remarkable properties for a natural substance.
As the urushi lacquer hardens, it absorbs moisture from the air. This makes the lacquered surface perpetually shiny and slick. It also makes it very durable and able to withstand erosion from water, acids, alkalies, alcohol, and changes in temperature, which is the main reason lacquer became an art form to begin with.
Over time, urushi will actually become harder and more scratch resistant as the polymerization process continues on even after the initial manufacture.
Of particular renown in Urushi handicraft is the city of Kanazawa in Ishikawa Prefecture, the former Kaga Domain. Maeda Toshitsune, the third feudal lord of the Kaga Domain who lived through the final phase of the turbulent Sengoku period and into the Edo era, summoned renowned craftsmen of all trades from across Japan to the region’s Osaikusho workshops. It is said that the techniques employed by the famed Urushi craftsmen brought to Kaga Domain in this way are the origin of today’s Kanazawa lacquerware. Kanazawa continues to give rise to numerous master craftsmen, boasting a unique tradition of Urushi handicraft incorporating samurai culture.
About Tamenuri Urushi
Tamenuri is an ancient Japanese urushi application technique dating back to the Jomon Period (14,000 to 300 B.C.), and slowly perfected over time from craftsman to craftsman.
On the box, Kuro-Tamenuri is used - a style where you have a solid opaque red urushi base which is then applied with additional layers of of dark translucent suki-urushi on top. This results in a uniquely deep patina which will naturally lighten over time, and slowly reveal the red base beneath as it matures.
Black pigmentation is achieved by the addition of iron, and red pigmentation is brought about by the addition of ferric oxide (Fe2O3) or cinnabar (HgS).
How Urushi is Applied
Layers red urushi (or akane-urushi) is first hand applied with a horse-hair brush to the hand-sanded wooden base, and then cured in a special cabinet that maintains a very specific and consistent heat and humidity.
Multiple layers of translucent black suki-urushi is then applied over the cured akane-urushi base. While the box looks black - the edges where the suki-urushi is typically the thinnest reveals a bit of red where the base akane-urushi color peeks out. This effect will be amplified over time, exposure and usage - and more of the akane-urushi's red vibrancy will be revealed as the suki-urushi lightens.
Each layer of urushi that is applied must be cured in this cabinet for a minimum of 24hrs to fully harden. Only then can that layer be sanded and another layer be applied. After the final layer is cured, the surface is polished and left to time where it will harden even more as it ages.
Handmade Requires Patience
Urushi requires patience and determination to yield a beautiful piece of lacquerware. However, unlike mass-produced machine-made products - because the box is handmade, you will find minute imperfections especially as the urushi is hand applied. It will not be perfect although as much care and patience as possible is taken.
It also takes quite a bit of time to make each box, with an average of 4 months. The inherent and unique nature of urushi is that the longer it is left to cure, the harder and more beautiful it is. Cheaper, mass produced lacquerware have very short curing time of days, leaving the workshop the moment it is dry. This makes the urushi surface soft, immature, and dull. But curing it for too long will result in exorbitant prices running into the thousands as you typically see with fine Japanese lacquerware. We find that a curing time of 3-3.5 months is the sweet spot that balances price without compromising on quality.
Achieving Your Personal Color
Sunlight - specifically the UV light - will over time lighten the top suki-urushi layer and make it more translucent. Whether you prefer a redder or blacker patina to your box depends on where you display it, and how much natural light you expose it to.
"... in the still dimmer light of the candle stand, as I gazed at the trays and bowls standing in the shadows cast by that flickering point of flame, I discovered in the gloss of this lacquerware a depth and richness like that of a still, dark pond, a beauty I had not before seen. It had not been mere chance, I realized that our ancestors, having discovered lacquer, had conceived such a fondness for objects finished in it..." ~ Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, 1933
Why Are We Launching This Box?
Many collectors and insiders have requested for a product like this to store or to display their Kurono Tokyo watch. But as with everything that we do, any product - even something as simple as a box - must have a significant element of artistry, and must bring to the table an inherent value that far surpasses its price. A simple search will show that the price of this is a fraction of what is the norm for fine Japanese lacquerware, much less a tamenuri. And if you do the math, this initiative cannot and will not generate any significant profit. What it does generate - we hope - is the continued goodwill and faith collectors and fans have in the brand.
Will Fulfillment of This Be Delayed Due to Covid-19
As the box is made in ateliers that are located quite a distance away from any major city or even secondary city in Japan, at the moment, exposure risk is still low. All necessary safety and health precautions, directions and conditions as mandated by our government is met if not exceeded. While we cannot comment or predict effects to global logistics in the future, the fact that the box requires months of curing before being ready to be shipped helps mitigate any effects of panic the immediate term. Expected delivery fulfillment will start in July.
- Dimensions: 265mm x 80mm x 35mm
- Single watch box made of wood with felt interior
- Two-part box (lid & base)
- Red akane-urushi base, with suki-urushi layers applied over it
- Signed by hand - maker's mark and kurono logo - in gold on lid
- Handmade in Kanazawa
- Limited to 80 pieces
(*this product is for the single-watch box only, and does not include a watch)
- Internal product will be ozone-disinfected prior to shipping
Price: USD $187 / SGD $265
Delivery: Starts July 2020
(Price exclude shipping and any applicable taxes in your country)
SOLD OUT ありがとう