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.
With the possibility of a new creation almost every day, certain things are at a disadvantage of being defined just as an element in history. This calls for old practices to be passed down to generations to avoid the risk of dying trades. In that note, watch strap artist – Tong CF – is doing his part to preserve Japanese traditional crafts through his47Ronin watch straps.