Urushi is a Japanese traditional natural lacquer and it is a natural sap collected from the Urushi tree. In this case, a 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 they desire. A new layer of Urushi is then used as a binding agent for the very fine metallic powder to be sprinkled on. The next step is when the whole dial is repeatedly painted with a red tinged semi-transparent Urushi lacquer, which is then dried and polished as many times as the craftsman deems necessary. This entire process reveals a subtle but deeply satisfying result.
Maki-e is the next process that is used in the form of the crescent shaped power reserve indicator. As with the Byakudan-Nuri technique, a layer of Urushi Lacquer acts as the adhesive to the fine, gilt-coloured powder that is then applied to it. The craftsman then gently taps the dial to dispense the powder evenly across the surface and then uses their own specially chosen material to perfect it. The dial is at last finished. This Byakudan-Nuri technique requires much longer than is needed for a simple Urushi dial.
Urushi, Byakudan-Nuri and Maki-e are three complex processes used to handcraft each and every watch by the craftsmen and women in the studio of Urushi Master Isshu Tamura in the Hokuriku region of Honshu, Japan’s main island. Check out Seiko's video below to watch the magic happen: