With the possibility of a new creation almost every day, certain things are at a disadvantage of being defined as just an element in history. This calls for old practices to be passed down to generations to avoid the risk of dying trades. On that note, watch strap artist – Tong CF – is doing his part to preserve Japanese traditional crafts through his 47Ronin watch straps.
Tong – who worked in Kyoto – Japan for a few years says he was enthralled by the different Japanese traditional crafts that he came across in the city. However, with few youngsters taking the initiative to continue the art form, it is gradually becoming a dying trade, he adds. Thereby, he thought that with his role as a business consultant – who guides different Japanese companies to grow at a global level – he could make a change.
What followed is the debut of 47Ronin watch straps that are handcrafted by Tong himself. About the debut he explains, “While it is almost impossible to bring around a full piece of Kimono, or a 2-metre tatami to show how beautiful they are to others, I had the idea of putting a small piece of their essence on the watch strap, where anyone can bring it around, show off its beauty, and tell interesting stories behind each design and its material. I wanted to put a piece of Japanese art on people’s wrists, and introduce the beauty of traditional Japanese crafts far and wide.”
From then on, he has collaborated with more than 50 Horlogerie brands by implementing his designs that are highly influenced by Japanese crafts. When it comes to his process, he is very transparent about it to his customers. In the brand’s official website, he runs through the steps – like finding the required measurements and watch type – that result in the final customised piece.
He mentions his very first collaboration in which he worked with the Canadian watch brand Sixofour Life as the one that he holds close to his heart. Another collaboration that is very memorable to him is the watch strap with – rare to find – uniform buttons from the former National Railway Company in Japan on it. Fans can see the brand’s collections in the upcoming 47Ronin Watch Straps Exhibition happening at Duxton Hill, Singapore.
Collaborations help him to connect to different people around the world who think like him. He adds, “they are all Ronins in my eyes.” Therefore, he looks forward to partnering with more intriguing watchmakers in the future as he continues his journey of discovering exotic materials from Japan.
Furthermore, explaining the eponymy of 47Ronin, he adds that it is derived from a historical event involving the samurais called the Ronins who showed their loyalty to their master by taking revenge for his unfair execution. After being impressed by the stories of these 47Ronins who are still celebrated in Japan he says, “I want to dedicate my work to the modern Ronins (Samurai without a master), who do not follow the status quo, but lead a life according to their own philosophy.”
Lastly, he adds that he is an alumnus of NUS Overseas College, a successful entrepreneurship program by NUS Enterprise that gave rise to other success stories like Carousell, Shopback, 99.co. “Perhaps my brand 47Ronin is an extension of my entrepreneurship spirit.”
Article based on an email interview with Tong CF.