Are you a watch lover? A jeans lover? A lover of hand craftsmanship? All of these things come together in the newest Oris x Momotaro special edition watch. “Every pair of Momotaro Jeans is made from denim weaved on vintage shuttle looms in the company’s factories. Details are sewn by hand to ensure quality and durability.” This concept mirrors Swiss watch brand Oris’s incredible attention to detailing and fine craftsmanship when it comes to its watches. The collaboration between Japanese-based Momotaro and Oris yields an incredible result: a steel and bronze Oris Divers Sixty-Five watch with an indigo Momotaro denim strap. That strap naturally features the two white “battle stripes” that are Momotaro’s signature.
The Oris x Momotaro timepiece is — simply put — a beauty to look at. The 40mm dive watch features a great muted gradient green dial that pops thanks to the bold gold-toned markers and hands that are coated with Super-LumiNova. A bubble-curved sapphire crystal completes a vintage yet modern look. The case is stainless steel with a uni-directional rotating bezel with bronze edges. It is water resistant to 100 meters and, as mentioned, is finished with a hand-stitched denim strap. Powered by an automatic movement with 38 hours of power reserve, the watch is sold with a denim travel pouch. All in all the look is cool and the concept– teaming with an in-demand top-notch denim brand – is cooler. Maybe the best part about the watch, though, is the price. It comes in at $2,200 retail.
Momotaro founder Hisao Manabe named the company after a Japanese folklore hero when hestarted it 14 years ago in 2006. However, Manabe was no stranger even then to fabrics, as he had established a textile company 14 years earlier in 1992. His dream was to produce quality denim without compromise. He would only use the finest long-staple cotton, and only deep indigo rope dye to achieve the best possible fade. In short, Manabe wanted to set a new international denim standard, something he has achieved.
Now, Hisao’s son Katsu Manabe shares his thoughts on the popularity of denim and jeans in the Japanese culture, and on the brand’s involvement with Oris.
Mr Manabe, tell us a bit about yourself and your role with Momotaro Jeans
KM: “My name is Katsu Manabe and I’m the son of the company’s founder, Mr Hisao Manabe. My job is to take the Momotaro story to the world and develop the overseas market. The story began in 1992 when my father established a textile company called Collect. At the start, there were just three people working in a tiny office near Kojima station. It was very basic, but it was just what they needed – from there, the company has grown to 140 people, who work at our headquarters in Okayama and in Tokyo.”
Why the name Momotaro?
KM: “The original idea was to find a strong name that would capture our drive to create the best indigo denim in Japan, and to be the best denim company in the world. Momotaro is a heroic figure in Japanese folklore and really closely associated with Okayama. Our airport is even called Okayama Momotaro Airport. It’s the most famous symbol of this city and prefecture, and so we proudly named our company after it.”
How strong is Japanese jeans culture?
KM: “Jeans became a cool fashion import in the 1960s and since then, people have loved wearing them. In the 1970s and 1980s, the school movement and hippy fashion hit Japan, and jeans became a staple of the Japanese fashion scene. There was a vintage denim trend in the 1990s that’s never really gone quiet. There are still loads of denim-heads running vintage denim stores telling the story to a new generation. Today, jeans are central to the Japanese fashion market.”
What’s the difference between Japanese, American and European jeans?
KM: “I think it’s clearly defined. In the USA, jeans have a simple but strong image and the focus is on fit. In Europe, the story is around design and styling. In Japan, we focus on details and quality. Japanese craftsmanship has a spirit of hospitality. By that I mean every detail is carefully considered for end users. That’s what genuine quality means to us.”
Is there anything special about the way you weave or dye the denim, or in how you manufacture your jeans?
KM: “It’s summed up by the words ‘no compromise’. We don’t compromise on any aspect of the manufacturing process. The original material has to be long-staple, high-quality cotton; we only use deep indigo rope dye for a beautiful fade; we use old vintage shuttle looms to create a hand-made feel in our textiles; and details are carefully hand-sewn. In short, no compromise on quality. We always exceed global standards. … All our sales and store staff have to learn to sew too, including hem-stitching, which is harder. We have around 50 people who can sew.”
Are young people interested in working for you and in learning these skills?
KM: “Yes and no. Young people want to learn basic hemming and sewing. But it’s not so easy to hire young people to work in our factories. We also find there are fewer mechanics around who can maintain our vintage shuttle looms. Recently, one of our specialist mechanics, who has 50 years’ experience, trained up a 27-year-old guy to work on our machines. That was cool.”
Why did you choose to partner with Oris?
KM: “We felt it was a chance for both of us to explore new ideas and new territory. This is the first time we’ve worked with a Swiss watch company, and I don’t think Oris has partnered with a Japanese textile company before either. Oris is the perfect match for us, because like Momotaro, it’s independent, it makes bold and brave choices, and it’s obsessive about quality. This isn’t just a product collaboration – our spirit, culture and craftsmanship really synchronised. And we also love Oris watches and the Oris story. Go your own way!”
What is your role in the Oris x Momotaro watch?
KM: “We’re making straps for the watch using our hard-wearing indigo Momotaro denim, finished with our signature white ‘battle stripes’. I’m sure it’ll stoke up interest because it’s a super collaboration. …”