To Tong Chuek Fung, a watch strap isn't just something that attaches a timepiece to the wrist - it can also be turned into a piece of art. When he was working in Japan as a consultant, Mr Tong became fascinated with crafts such as kimono textiles, pottery and tatami, and was inspired to incorporate kimono fabric into watch straps.
I have been designing and crafting Japanese-inspired watch straps for luxury brands such as Panerai, Rolex, and Grand Seiko, iconic fashion pieces such as G-Shock, as well as many well-designed and high-quality micro brands across the world. The only smartwatch I have worked on, however, is Apple Watch, so I thought it would be interesting to design for other smartwatches. I have been browsing both traditional watches and smartwatches on Instagram to get design inspiration and meet like-minded people and brands for some interesting collaborations. That was where I came across Mobvoi-TicWatch, one of the most popular smartwatch brands in the market.
A striking example of “living craft” is Tong’s incorporation of heritage Japanese textile into something you wear every day on your wrist.
We talk to the watch strap artist, Tong, about this unique craft.
Before becoming a watch strap artist, I started as a consultant helping Japanese companies entering Singapore, and marketing Japanese products & tourism for overseas market. I was living in Kyoto where I was surrounded by world heritages as well as traditional Japanese crafts such as kimono textile, pottery, tatami, bamboo crafts, etc. I become interested in Japanese traditional crafts, learnt about Japanese craftsmen’s spirit, and found that their trades are rapidly dying due to lack of domestic demand, and the younger generations are not continuing the trades.
We recently got an email from 47 Ronin, a manufacturer of bespoke straps. Their designs really made us sit up and take notice.
47Ronin 浪人 Watch Straps are designed and handcrafted piece by piece with exotic materials from Japan. They make their straps from all sorts of materials other than the usual leather, including Kimono fabric, Japanese print, and other materials from various parts of Japan. Each watch strap is designed and handcrafted by Tong, a Singaporean business consultant turned craftsman, who also has a very special relationship with Japan.