It takes a team to do any task successfully. Each equipped with their own set of skills, the members bring their own flair to the table and the Seven Masters at Inoue Hikone are no different. The company specialises in three watch winder designs, namely the Shihou, Hafu and Kuden that feature elements of Inoue Hikone’s traditional Butsudan structures. Equipped with the knowledge of craftsmen who first started creating butsudans or Buddhist altars 350 years ago, the masters showcase the ancient art of those who first helped defend Nanamagari Street in East Japan.
The street, directly translated to Severn Turns, was known for crafting weaponry and armour before branching out to produce Buddhist ritual items. Today the area is known not only for being on the Eastern side of Japan’s largest lake, Lake Biwa but also for being home to a team of elite craftsmen. The century old brand shares with us the delicate and painstaking process that goes into producing a watch winder.
Over the course of six months, the Seven Masters as they are known come together to produce one watch winder piece. The first of the seven, is The Kijishi who crafts the main body of the butsudan altar. Using the mortise and tenon joint technique, the craftsman combines carefully chosen pieces of wood to form a nail-free structure. This allows for the butsudan to be dismantled at a later time.
Next, is The Kudenshi or palace maker. Responsible for the small details that join the roof of the butsudan (kuden), his role requires him to be precise in his measurement. Using the same joint techniques as the Kijishi, the craftsman ensures that there is accuracy in each joint. The third is The Sculptor who selects the design and carves it out of hinoki cypress or pine wood. The three dimensional depictions of flora and fauna help to add to the beauty of each watch winder.
Next, is The Lacquerer who applies urushi lacquer to the carved wood using a brush before polishing the design with a premium technique called roiro finishing. The work provides a deeper hue and mirror-like surface that are all trademarks of urushi lacquer work.
The next craftsman to aid in crafting the watch winder is The Gilder. By applying sheets of pure gold leaf, of approximately 0.0001mm, with the help of a special lacquer glue, the craftsman is responsible for gold leaf stamping. So delicate is the sheet used, that the craftsman risks losing it should even the slightest breeze occur.
The Chaser helps to engrave, using a tagane or hammer, the shapes by manipulating copper and other metals to the necessary design. Like The Glider or The Lacquerer, the craftsman completes his task by applying a coating of urushi lacquer or gold plating.
The final craftsman is The Makieshi who designs and paints natural landscapes, flowers and birds. Following his initial sketch using lacquer paint, the craftsman then adds sprinkles of gold or silver powders as well as inlays of mother of pearl to give each watch winder that luxurious look. As the last skilled eye to handle the watch winder, the Makieshi adds the finish touches to the creation to ensure that the polished look is complete.