I was born and raised in Suwa, Nagano Prefecture, and I wanted to work locally. I studied mechanical engineering at a technical high school and I decided to enter Suwa Seikosha on the recommendation of my teacher at the time.
I did not like studying very much at that time and all I knew about Suwa Seikosha when I made the decision was that it was a company that was probably making something (laughs). After entering the company, I was put on a bus and as I wondered where I was going, we arrived at the watch department of the technology training center, my assigned workplace. Although I had never considered making watches before, I loved the process of creating things and I quickly became absorbed.
When I was at the technology training center, many of my older colleagues had won at the Skill Olympics, so I felt pressure when I was chosen to enter. The institute kept the creations made by these colleagues and their examples encouraged my own studies. As a result, I was able to perform confidently at the event. I was extremely happy that I won.*
*Mr. Nakazawa won the watch repair event at the 1981 International Skill Olympics in Atlanta, USA.
The decision was made in spring 2005 and I started fully in November that year. At that time, work was starting on the creation of the Sonnerie exhibition piece, which was a really rewarding experience. It reminded me how much I enjoy making things.
There are many basic elements to watchmaking as a whole, so let’s use screws as an example. High-precision screws are used in quality watches. Some parts can be damaged very easily, such as those with mirrored surfaces or those treated with an oxide film. Screws are used to connect these parts to one another, so if they are tightened and loosened too many times, the groove bends and becomes warped. This not only reduces the beauty of the watch, but also decreases its accuracy.
To avoid this, it’s crucial to have tools that suit the way you work. There are specific movements needed to adjust the tightness of the screw, such as “350g of torque here,” and this needs to be done using specialist tools. However, it’s not just a matter of collecting these kinds of tools. Tweezers are a good example. I prefer the short type myself. You need to work out the specific tools that are easy for you to use considering factors such as rigidness and how they fit your hand.
With trusted tools, watches can be assembled with the minimum of time and effort. By taking great care over each basic process, even simple ones such as tightening a screw, a beautiful movement can be created. It is difficult to do fine work in this simple way, but each wasted effort eliminated is a step in the right direction.
Of course time and effort will be spent on things like adjustments, but watches are the most beautiful when they have been assembled in one go, so I try to keep the process as simple as possible.
The Micro Artist Studio’s work on the Eichi was inspired by Philippe Dufour’s Simplicity. The front of Simplicity contains just the hour, minute, and second hands and a numbered dial, but the reverse reveals the glittering movement. Although a simple watch, it can only be described as ‘amazing.’ Mr. Dufour assembled it himself by hand.
We also wanted to make a watch like this, one that reached a level where it could be considered art, so in 2008 we announced Eichi, a watch where time and effort had been spent on each individual part. I think the full extent of our effort is expressed in details like the porcelain dial and the handmade feel when viewed from the back.
Eichi II was the result of everyone at the Micro Artist Studio coming together and thinking about how to make an even better watch.
Although this kind of simple watch is still a luxury product, it’s not ostentatious. It’s not a watch that is bought as a fashion object but because the buyer knows its quality. The purpose of some other exclusive watches, ones that contain jewels or lavish amounts of gold, is to be seen. The quality of a simple watch is known only to a few people. It is worn to satisfy yourself and your own preferences. That is a simple watch.
Another aspect of a simple watch is that the value stays constant. The quality doesn’t change over time. It retains its value even over 100 years, so you can hand it down to your children and grandchildren. I think one of its best features is that it can be cherished over a long time.
The studio currently has ten members, each with extraordinary resumes. As a collection of professionals, I think we have an impressive team. Passing on our technical abilities is a mission that we must accomplish.
The requirements for a young person who wants to inherit these skills are motivation and enough creativity to be able to find their own solutions. Naturally they need to be enthusiastic and it’s important that they don’t just wait to be taught, but also try and search for a good way of doing things by themselves.
Of course we teach the types of basics, standards, and work processes that can be written down, but there are many aspects of watchmaking where a craftsman, including myself, has to rely on his own feelings and sensibilities. It’s hard to put this into words, so it’s best that students experience it firsthand. They have to cultivate this kind of intuition.
The process of passing on skills to the next-generation begins with practical experience of watchmaking at the Micro Artist Studio.
This is another reason why the studio has attracted attention. The loss of skills and craftsmanship is a problem throughout the whole of Japan. We do not want simply to pass on watchmaking skills; it is also important to pass on knowledge of other crafts through collaboration with masters in those areas.
We have been able to express the incredible quality of Japanese skill and craftsmanship through a range of watches and we hope to continue doing so in the future.