The Story of Plating 5 Going for the Ultimate in Plating
“Japanese consumers are bound to get bored of plain old gold plating.”
Trends and tastes tend to come and go very quickly in Japan, and we were convinced that sooner or later our market would tire of gold-only. Abe felt quite strongly about this, and so he decided to go ahead and try making a variety of plating colors. Because plating is fused to ionized metals, only metallic finish colors are possible with this process. We created and stored a variety of metallic-tone samples, including black and red.
In 2004, we were poised to launch the new Beres band. This was a huge shift away from the Twin Marks clubs, and as a company we were really taking our chances. We set our sights on the challenge of creating a never-before-seen kind of plating: we wanted to vary the plating tones of the 1S to the 5S. The development team at Sakata Plant began the task of surveying something that couldn’t be further removed from them: women’s fashion magazine and high-fashion brand shops!
They looked into popular colors of popular brand items, including bag decorations, belts, earrings, and rings. And what did they find? Pink, gold, black, and sliver! The craftsmen proceeded to hit the beakers, preparing some 10-plus different kinds of plating solutions appropriate to these four colors. The copper-based platinum solution produced a gorgeous pink, but like a penny it changed color over time. When we tried a topcoat to prevent the color change, we lost the much-sought-after metallic luster.
Three months passed working with the beakers. We decided to make the gold finish with the 24 carat gold, the pink with 14 carat gold, and the black and silver ones with nickel alloys. When it came to mass production, however, we had a problem with color inconsistency on the Beres cavity, which had a complicated two-piece structure and a broad surface area.
Immediately we tried sounding out the reason, altering the plating solution density, electric current, temperature, churning process, orientation of the metal parts, and so on.
Abe compared the results of the various tests. He found that the alloys other than the 24-carat gold were plagued with color inconsistency. In combining different metals for the alloyed platings, the problem came from slight discrepancies in solution concentration. The idea was to minimize these differences to the greatest extent possible.
The answer was actually quite simple.
We had to analyze the components of the solution each time we did the plating and adjust it slightly, which meant that mass production would be virtually impossible. Abe and his team compiled data whenever they did a plating, amassing vast amounts of it. To their great surprise, the more they measured, the more they found that even the slightest change in concentration would cause the dreaded color inconsistency. They proceeded to improve the plating equipment accordingly.
As a finishing touch, they etched the “B” mark onto the back of the face. This concluded the plating development process. The entire battery of techniques that Abe had amassed over half of his lifetime was now incorporated into the Beres.
Holding each of the grades of Beres clubs in your hand, take a moment to get a sense of the difference in color and beauty between them: the life blood of the Sakata craftsmen behind that gorgeous color is palpable.