In January this year, when Oris brought several members of the press to Taipei for the showcase of its upcoming releases, the company’s regional director, Michael Meier, hinted at an upcoming project with a Japanese streetwear label that was “in the works”. Naturally, the entire press group spent the next couple of days trying to squeeze out more information from him, to the extent of randomly throwing out Japanese streetwear brand names just to see if we could hit the jackpot. No one got it right. But we can now reveal that the brand in question is in fact Momotaro, a Kojima-based denim maker, and a label that surprised us all given its relative obscurity outside of the denim-lovin’ community.
The word “Momotaro” stems from an ancient Japanese folklore and literally means “Peach Taro”, or “Peach Boy”. The original Edo-era story tells the tale of a child born to an elderly couple who found a giant peach floating down the river, ate it and regained their youth. This was a tale of rejuvenation, or “kaishun-gata”, and since the brand is birthed in the Okayama region, which is the birthplace of Japanese denim, the Japan Blue Group that owns Momotaro named it after that. As the group’s owner and CEO, Hisao Manabe, says, “Our journey started from the revival of Japan Blue colour — Japanese traditional ancient blue (natural indigo). We research and understand the beauty of denim. We care for artisanal high quality and apply even ultra-low-tech, very traditional manufacturing methods. Our products are considered real and genuine, and [are] acclaimed internationally.”
Momotaro uses very specific manufacturing methods for its products. Its denim is made from Zimbabwean cotton, one of the finest available and picked by hand, thus reducing damage to the cotton, which is a pristine white and excellent for dye absorption. Using indigo dye, for which Japanese denim is famed, and traditional shuttle loom weaving to create raw selvedge denim, Momotaro’s artisans then sew the cloth with vintage sewing machines that date back to the early days of denim workwear, making this a truly handcrafted product.
An Affinity with Oris
In that sense, Momotaro has plenty of shared analogues with watchmaking, though like all renowned Japanese labels, it takes the idea of handmade tradition to extremes. Its touches are seen in the Oris Divers Sixty-Five Oris x Momotaro Edition, a limited edition that is being unveiled today. The watch is housed in a stainless-steel case with a bronze bezel, and features a gradated, muted green dial with vintage lume-coated markers and hands. The strap, as you may have guessed, is crafted in raw selvedge denim by Momotaro with a leather back, and the brand’s signature double stripes on the top strap.
The watch comes in a denim watch pouch that doubles as a travel case, again bearing Momotaro’s double stripes on the front and Oris’ logo printed on the inside flap, as well as a denim cardholder with the denim brand’s peach flower logo printed on it. On the wrist, the 40mm sized watch looks good both with a suit and a casual tee, and the denim strap will naturally age along with the bronzed bezel, which makes it a sublimely long-lived timepiece that will change with the way you dress. It’s powered by the 733 calibre and, like other Divers Sixty-Five models, has a 100-metre water resistance.
Katsu Manabe, Hisao Manabe’s son, through whom the project was developed, says, “Japanese craftsmanship has a spirit of hospitality. That means our craftsmen consider details with the end-user in mind. That’s the secret to the quality of our jeans. This isn’t just a product collaboration. Our spirit and culture and craftsmanship really synchronised. I love the watch, and definitely want it!” The gentleman has read our minds.
Self-winding Oris calibre 733; hours, minutes and seconds; stop seconds; 38-hour power reserve
40mm; stainless steel with bronze unidirectional rotating bezel; water-resistant to 100m
Denim with pin buckle; comes with denim watch travel pouch and cardholder