Who wears watches anymore? When the ubiquitous cellphone can do just about everything - including the prosaic task of telling time - what place does a wristwatch have? These days, a timepiece must serve as art piece or design statement to be something truly special, and worth wearing. (Goodbye and good riddance, calculator watch.)
One watchmaker working for these times, and this frame of mind, is dedegumo. Based in Kyoto, Japan, the workshop turns out one-of-a-kind handmade watches using hand-cut Italian lace leather and intricately detailed brass, copper, bronze, and silver pieces. Founded by Izumo Senco, one of Kyoto’s master designers, dedegumo trains each of its watchmakers in classic techniques and skills that have been passed down through generations; artisans then bring their own creativity and contemporary Japanese design aesthetics to each watch they make. Owing to the independent, artisan-led process of creation - each artist takes charge of his or her design from start to finish - no watch is ever the same.
dedegumo just opened its first shop outside of Japan, in New York's Lower East Side; it has a custom-built open workshop so that customers can observe watches being made. It’s worth going down to the shop to see the six craftspeople in action: hand-coloring brass with a blowtorch, carefully cutting a watch face in the shape of a cherry blossom, placing the hands on a watch movement. Imported parts, materials, and tools ensure that the precision of the original Kyoto workshops is carried over.
The presentation of a dedegumo watch is irresistible and personalized: each timepiece comes in a traditional wooden box wrapped in a furoshiki cloth, with the name of the watchmaker inside. I unwrapped one model, clad in a mod, hot-pink furoshiki, to reveal a hand-hammered brass watch whose industrial-chic face framed delicate filigreed hands and a carefully cut lotus flower inside; two thin brown leather straps crisscrossed to give the look of a ribbon tied around the wrist. Inside the box, a red card told me that Megumu had made the watch “by hand, for you” (she had signed the card with a flower that matched her watch design, with the message, “enjoy...”). “dedegumo” means “out of the clouds,” and each box comes stamped with the company’s logo, a small cloud. It’s a dreamy and charming evocation of times gone by. Happily, this is a place where the age-old tradition of building a unique watch with character, from scratch, still lives on.