Bengaluru, November 30, 2018: A new creation in the Presage collection of fine mechanical watches once again takes its inspiration from Japan’s everlasting fascination with the moon. Following on from the success of the recent release with a deep blue enamel dial that evoked the night sky, this new limited edition uses one of the most elaborate lacquer techniques of all, Byakudan-nuri, as well as traditional Urushi, to portray the rich tones of the sky and moon just before dawn. Byakudan-nuri is a technique that has been used for centuries to decorate Urushi lacquer and, because of the complexity of the craftsmanship involved, was reserved exclusively for use in places and on objects of high status, including temples, shrines and on the armor of Shogun warlords.
Urushi, Byakudan-nuri and Maki-e
Three traditional techniques are used in combination to create the atmosphere and feeling of the moon against the night sky as dawn approaches. First, the dials are made with the traditional Urushi technique in which jet black lacquer is painted by hand onto the metal base of the dial, dried and then polished. These processes are repeated several times until the craftsman has achieved the exact depth of black that he desires. Using a new layer of Urushi as the binding agent, the sub-dials are then sprinkled with a layer of very fine metallic powder. The whole dial is then repeatedly painted with a red-tinged semi-transparent Urushi lacquer and then each new layer is dried and polished for as many times as the craftsman deems necessary. The effect is subtle but deeply satisfying. While the red of the sub-dials is deep, these two dials catch the light and shine when the ambient light grows brighter, just as parts of the sky catch the dawn light before others.
Now it is time to add the moon, using Maki-e, in the form of the crescent shaped power reserve indicator. As with the Byakudan-nuri technique, the crescent is first coated with a layer of Urushi lacquer that acts as the adhesive to the fine, gilt-colored powder that is then applied to it. Once the powder is on the dial, the craftsman gently taps it to disperse the powder evenly across the surface and then uses his own specially chosen material to perfect the surface. The result is an indicator that not only reflects the shape of the crescent moon but has the moon’s shimmering, granular texture and contrasts with the smoothness of the sky against which it stands out. At last, the dial is complete. Each one is the result of painstaking efforts over a number of weeks because this Byakudan-nuri technique requires much longer than is needed for a simple Urushi dial.
Every step of these three complex processes, Urushi, Byakudan-nuri and Maki-e, is completed by hand by the craftsmen and women in the studio of Urushi master Isshu Tamura in the Hokuriku region of Honshu, Japan’s main island. Tamura has been responsible for all the Urushi dials in the Presage collection but, because of the combination of crafts involved and the time, patience and skills required, this Byakudan-nuri dial created by Tamura and his team takes Presage into a new realm of watchmaking achievement.