Wednesday, March 7, 2018

7 Days with the Minase Divido

So a quick point, although I announced the start of the 7 day review of this watch in Part 3 of my Minase visit report -

A Grand Day Out - Minase 3

The review actually started last Tuesday, February 27th.

Courtesy of Minase
So it is time to sum up and wrap up what it has been like to wear the Minase Divido for one week.  I was given the watch at the factory, and then had it sized in Tokyo.  And a big "Arigato Gozaimasu" goes out to Ysuyoshi Hoshino who was kind enough to hustle over from the Minase HQ in Kashiwa, Chiba-Ken to Tokyo to do the adjusting!  Needless to say, I think Seiko would have said "take it to a watch maker" ; )


As you may recall, I was first introduced to this particular Divido the day before during the tour of the Minase factory.  It was, as you see above, somewhat disassembled.  

This was to enable one of Minase's watch makers the opportunity to demonstrate the how the pieces fit together, and to give some visual understanding about why some of the design choices were made.



Minase started out in the watch business doing OEM work, making cases and bracelets for some other more well-known brands.  And in the process of doing this, decided that they could perhaps build a better watch themselves.  The case of the Divido is unique, but also somewhat traditional.  It is the only piece in the current Minase collection that is round.



The case is a very balanced, very sensible 40.5 mm in diameter.  It is round, but with lugs that extend out slightly to create a bit of depth and structure (both visibly and physically).  

The size was perfect for me, with the lug horns just reaching the edge of my wrist.  

The case is the beneficiary of Minase's incomparable Sallaz polishing technique.  The results speak for themselves.

The watch is water resistant to 5 ATM or 50 meters.  This is achieved without a screw down crown or a more traditional case design.  



So as you can see from the exploded view of the Divido, you will note that the case contains several elements that help comprise what Minase refers to as their "case within a case".  You will notice from the bottom piece to the top there are several layers, or "stages" of the watch.  

The bottom of the watch is pretty straight forward.  It acts both as the case back and the "anchor" to the "interior case" with comprises the movement, the dial, and the index ring.  This achieves a great level of depth and creates a very interesting visual effect.  Essentially, the center of the watch almost "floating" in the "outer case".

This is a little easier to conceptualize with a light glowing through the case back -


The watch is very legible owing in no small part to the "layering effect" that is achieved through the case in case concept.  Another important note - while you can see the light from the phone glowing through the back, this is not a watch that utilizes lume with the exception of a small bit on the hands. 

Yes, that is me with a flashlight in my mouth
And I think I get this.  This is a watch to be worn and admired in normal light conditions.  And in fairness, there are plenty of watches that eschew lume completely.  But I also know that a lot of watch collectors are very, very partial to lume and will only buy a watch with heavy amounts on the dial.  And fair enough.  For the record, I personally have found no shortcomings from this, but if copious lume is a deal breaker for you, this might not be for you.

The one thing that I thought I would be put off with was the "open" date window showing the date as well as yesterday and tomorrow.  But the date for today lines up perfectly both with the arrow and the 3 o'clock marker.  It was a pleasure to look at the watch, and it was always easy to get the date and time with a glance.  The only challenge was my wandering eye admiring the case within case and the deep blue of the dial.



This is the inner case on the bench, so not locked in and 100% aligned, but it gives you a sense of the depth and hence, the legibility of the watch face.  The outer chapter ring is a stand-alone stainless steel piece that provides the hour indications.  

Courtesy of Minase
 So again, this sets Minase apart.  It would be easy to simply slap a dial in there, but the goal was to create something unique and special.  Just to give you an idea, here are the constituent parts that help make up the whole of the inner case of the Divido -



Oh, and it bears mentioning - all of those seemingly unimportant parts that you might not be able to see 100%?



Sallaz polishing.  While a few better known brands might simply use Sallaz polishing for their cases, Minase feels that every part that is potentially visible and is important. 
Courtesy of Minase

I have appropriated a photo from Minase to show the crown in better detail that what I was able to manage...


as you can see ; )  On the plus side, this does help highlight the floating effect of the case in case design.  The crown is sort of a hybrid of those found on a traditional big crown pilot watch.  The crown itself is tactile and solid, engages smoothly in all positions.  Now without crown guards, it appears to sit out a bit more prominently than it actually does.  Having said that, it is out there and can snag on sweaters, etc. as any other prominent crown could do.



I am borrowing a shot I took at the factory of the same model, but with a rubber strap (i.e. easier to photograph).

Minase refers to the movement as the KT 7001.  Look closely and you will see Swiss Made on the rotor.  This is not anything that Minase is trying to hide.  When deciding what movement to use, Minase didn't dwell on keeping it 100% down-home 日本 (Japan).  They start with a Swiss ebauche from the folks at ETA (2824-2) in this model, and then put their touch on it -







In terms of timekeeping, it was flawless.  No noticeable deviations.  I had asked about this, a Swiss movement in an otherwise Japanese watch (one that in many ways is more Japanese than some other bigger operations who do a lot of their manufacturing "off shore", and the answer was simple.  They wanted the best.  Minase's case has a very complex design and assembly.  And this was not done just for the sake of complexity.  It was (and continues to be) done in the interest of longevity.  Even the lug pieces can be replaced in a Minase watch.  So the belief is that the best, most reliable movement available should be used to ensure that it will be solid right out of the gate, and will be able to be serviced well into the future.

The bracelet is perhaps the most impressive that I have encountered in a watch at this price point.  


The links are tight, but very movable when the watch is worn, ensuring a very comfortable fit on the wrist.


The bracelet is secured with a twin button clasp, but it is not a butterfly on the underside, but rather a single side.  This is what creates the slight gap between the bracelet end and the clasp.  


This is not evident when worn normally (i.e. watch face up) but when the watch is face down with the wrist and clasp "sunny side up", the natural pull of the watch downwards accentuates the space.  This is also a very clever design choice because it allows for the free movement of that section of the bracelet ensuring that the actual link piece can move, not pinch.





The bracelet was incredibly comfortable and did not pull on my very hairy wrist.  Because the bracelet uses alternating sized links, the fit and feel of the bracelet is quite good.

Also interesting to relate, there are no visible screw heads or pin and collars on the side of the bracelet as you would see in other bracelets -


The links are removed by removing the screws on the underside of the links themselves.  This is not intended to be a "do-it-yourself" touch, but rather a more elegant solution.  Minase would strongly encourage you (assuming that you are not a trained watch maker) to have the bracelet adjusted by a trained watch maker.




Overall, this is a very, very impressive watch.

But this is where we get to the question - is this the watch for you?

Minase is not now, (nor do I expect it ever will be) a manufacturer of the size and scale of Seiko.  And frankly, I do not get the impression that they ever want to be.  So the first question you have to ask yourself - do you identify with the brand, or the watch?  Then secondly, if you do identify with the brand, what type of brand do you appreciate - is it a massive commercial concern, or is it a small, local concern staffed by local craftspeople who have been apprenticed by the company from a young age?

If we are simply talking about performance, I would put the Divido up against anything from Grand Seiko, or frankly just about anything else at its price point.


If we are talking about the emotional content, the stuff that hits you with a visceral gut bomb?   The intangible stuff that makes you feel things without you necessarily understanding why?  Well, then the Minase Divido ticks those boxes as well.

When you consider brands like GoS, ochs und junior, Sarpaneva and other esoteric brands that still manage to captivate us?  That's about more than just a watch, and a financial calculation.  That is about passion, about feeling, about romance.  And the Divido well and truly belongs in that category.

Should you buy the Divido?  I have to be honest, it is not for everyone.  Not everyone will "get" the design philosophy.  Not everyone will feel safe buying a relatively unknown, small production, (let's face it) micro brand.  Some purists will not be able to get their heads around a Japanese watch with a Swiss ebauche.  Well, fair enough.  Some people like vanilla ice cream...


And some of us like pistachio ; )

But in all seriousness, this is not a watch for everyone.  Minase is not design by committee for the masses.  And that's okay.  On a personal note, I will be very, very sorry to see it go back to Japan.  It has been a real joy to wear.

Here are the pertinents, straight from Minase -

Specs:


Case
Stainless steel 316L. Domed box type sapphire crystal (non reflective coating), flat sapphire crystal on the back.
Water resistant up to 50 meters (5 ATM).
Diameter - 40.5 mm. Thickness: 12.0 mm. Weight: 100 / 150 g.

Movement
KT 7001/1 by MINASE with hand-made polishing and "perlage" on plates and bridges.

Dial 
"Case in Case" structure: the essential feature of HiZ concept and exclusive development where individual components are assembled to become a 3- dimensional dial. Together with the movement and the hands, this structure
becomes an independent entity assembled inside the case.

Functions
Hours, minutes and central second hands. Date at 4.
 
Strap
Rubber (EPDM) with stainless steel deployment clasp or in a solid stainless steel execution featuring MORE concept. The patented design feature individual links that are screwed individually instead of the traditional pin-system

Clasp
Deployment buckle with steel side pushers.


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