This year, Oris collaborated with a fellow pioneer – the maverick Japanese brand, Momotaro Jeans and the result was coolness personified…
The new watch is a steel and bronze version of the iconic Oris Divers Sixty-Five,and comes on an indigo Momotaro denim strap with two white ‘battle stripes’, the denim manufacturer’s famous signature. Named after a Japanese folklore hero, Momotaro was launched in 2006 by Mr Hisao Manabe. Its roots lie in his textile company, which he established in 1992 with just three employees in the small coastal town of Kojima in Okayama.
From the outset, Mr Manabe’s vision was clear: no compromise on quality. His denim would use only the finest long-staple cotton, and only deep indigo rope dye to achieve the best possible fade. His workshops would use vintage shuttle looms to create a handmade feel to the weave, and every detail would be hand-sewn. Mr Manabe wanted to set a new international denim standard.
Nearly 30 years later, Mr Manabe’s company employs 140 people in factories, stores and offices in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Okayama. Okayama, once depressed, is now a denim capital, revived by enterprises that grew up around Mr Manabe’s businesses.
Momotaro today is known by its mantra: ‘Made by hand without compromise’.
For Oris, this new partnership just makes sense. The independent Swiss watch company combines precision manufacturing with traditional hand-craftsmanship to make beautiful, high-quality watches. The Oris x Momotaro collaboration celebrates a shared spirit.
Earn your stripes
Momotaro’s signature ‘battle stripes’ are more than a style reference point – they’re a hard-won quality symbol, as the company’s Mr Katsu Manabe explains
Mr Manabe, tell us a bit about yourself and your role with Momotaro Jeans.
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.
What’s the story behind the company?
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?
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?
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 denimheads 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?
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.
What defines Japanese craftsmanship?
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?
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 handsewn. In short, no compromise on quality. We always exceed global standards.
Do you train people to work in your factories and learn the Momotaro way?
Yes. But not just in factories. 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?
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 fewermechanics 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?
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!
Finally, tell us what your role is in the Oris x Momotaro watch?
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. I love it, and I definitely want the watch!