Thursday, September 29, 2016

Repeat - A Few Minutes with Hajime Asaoka

This originally ran in 2011 -

When thinking about innovative, creative and original watch makers, your mind might first travel to Switzerland, Germany, or France... in other words, Europe. And what of Japan?

And now a few minutes with Hajime Asaoka

Courtesy of Hajime Asaoka
James Henderson - What was your first watch, was it a gift?  Is there a story behind it?

Hajime Asaoka - It was a Citizen automatic chronograph watch - a gift from my father when I entered junior high school.  At that time quartz movement watches were big in the market, but I chose an automatic watch.

JH - When you were a boy, what did you want to be "when you grew up"?

HA -   I wanted to be a product designer or a person really producing something. 

JH -  Where did you go to school, what did you study?

HA -  I studied product design at Tokyo University of Arts.  The university specializes in making the best goods in Japan and I studied not only product design, but how to actually make many different things/products.

Courtesy of Hajime Asaoka
JH - I lived and worked for a few years in  Kasukabe (Saitama-Ken), and Hachioji in Tokyo and was impressed by the way that traditional craftsmanship had been preserved from generation to generation, passed on from father to son.  Who did you learn watch making from?

HA -  I learned by myself to make watches by studying the book, Watchmaking by George Daniels.  I had a lot of experience using machines from my student days in university.

JH - Did you ever consider doing something else for a living?

HA -  Basically, I am a product designer.  So, making watches does not bring income, I was supposed to be a product designer.

Courtesy of Hajime Asaoka
JH - Living and working in Japan what are some of the advantages that you have?

HA -  All of the tools and information are available to me here in Japan,  so the working environment is great!  More importantly, Tokyo is safe, clean and a very good place to make a life.  I am happy with it.

JH -  So as a product designer and watchmaker, what is your favorite creation?  (it doesn't have to be your own)

HA -  A pocket watch by Albert H. Potter.

JH - Who else out there is making watches that interest you?  Who is it that you admire?

HA -  I believe that George Daniels is the best watch maker today.

JH - If you weren't doing this, what do you think that you might be doing?

HA - Somehow, I am sure that I would be making something.  I am very interested in the watch itself.  And not only this!  I am even more interested in the production and the process.

JH - What is a typical day in the life of Hajime Asaoka?

HA - After I start working at work shop in the afternoon, I will then make watches until midnight.

JH - What do you like to do in your spare time?

HA -  I spend time with my kid and, well, I think about watches!  I am not so interested in other things - I really like working.

JH - What advice do you have for the next Hajime Asaoka out there?

HA -  You can learn logic and theory in books.  But if you do not like the act of production, you can not be a watchmaker.  You should seriouly think if you really like to produce things or not before you decide to be a watch maker.

Learn all about Hajime Asaoka -

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