Looking back, the origin of MINASE was probably a single step drill. MINASE started with the question, “What type of watch could we make if we try to make the ideal watch using our original tools, which have come to be used by many watch manufacturers?”
MINASE is based on Kyowa Co., Ltd., which was founded as a cutting tool manufacturer in 1963. The company first handled precision drills for metal machining. Later, Kyowa’s expertise in drill manufacturing and metal cutting caught the attention of watch manufacturers, who asked us to produce a drill that could make a crown hole at one time. In Japan in those days, there were no drills that could make precise concentric stepped holes and that were highly wear-resistant. For this reason, Kyowa started to make its original step drills. Since then, our drills have been used for efficient, precise metal machining in various industries, although we did not think of making watches by ourselves at that time.
Taking advantage of our original step drills, we entered the watch manufacturing industry and started the business of manufacturing watch cases in parallel with our tool business. We have created our own drills and jigs to meet the machining requirements of watch manufacturers’ designs. As we gained more experience in pressing and cutting, we naturally came to handle increasingly complicated watches. Later, we started to manufacture bracelets and cases not only for mass-produced watches, but also for high-quality ones, including those of world-famous watch manufacturers. High-quality watches necessarily require high-precision machining and fine polishing, and so we mastered polishing techniques. At first, we were only imitating others, but our pride as a tool manufacturer eventually drove Kyowa to become an expert watchmaker. Thus, Kyowa expanded its watch business from drilling to case cutting/forging, bracelet manufacturing, and polishing.
We have tools, we can make cases, we have carried out OEM of finished products. But we still want to make our ideal watches.
Therefore, in 2005 we decided to establish our own new brand, MINASE. The brand name comes from the place name Minase in Akita Prefecture, where our workshop is located. Minase looks rather like Vallee de Joux, which is known as the birthplace of the Swiss watch industry. The snowy, remote location of Minase geographically restricts its residents, but it also increases their patience, which is essential for craftsmen. Having developed excellent tools and jigs, manufacturing know-how, and skilled craftsmen, we decided to make our ideal watches that would be treasured for more than 100 years.
Our know-how accumulated through case manufacturing is still alive in MINASE today. Sallaz polishing, a substrate preparation technique for cases, is just one example. MINASE has learned the sallaz polishing technique which is unique to Japanese high-quality watches through manufacturing the exterior of high-quality watches. Thus, by meeting the challenging demands of watch manufacturers, in 1996 we became a general watch manufacturer engaged in design, development, and manufacturing.
Starting from the Master Craft Series in 2005, we completed our goal with the HiZ Series in 2011. The complex design employing the MORE structure, sallaz polishing, case-in-case structure, etc. requires many exterior parts and makes manufacturing difficult. And yet we were determined to embody the spirit of “Japanese monozukuri” (Japanese art of making things) with our HiZ Series.
Our challenge started from a single drill, and will continue into the future.
In 2017, the original movement was completed, and we will continue to line up models incorporating the original movement.