Celebrate the Year of the Ox with these elaborate timepieces honouring the Chinese New Year
The best designs from Piaget, Chopard, Blancpain and more
When it comes to gift-giving, one can rarely go wrong with haute horology. It’s little wonder that, each year, the watch industry honours Chinese New Year with some of its most magnificent novelties.
Yet, the strong link between Chinese New Year and fine Swiss watchmaking is surprising in many ways. While the Chinese watch market has thrived in recent years, the vast majority of its consumers – 70%, in fact – bought their watches outside of China, preferring to shop in tax-friendly cities like London, Dubai and Hong Kong.
This all changed in 2020, with Covid-19 restrictions on international travel forcing brands to refocus on domestic markets. While, globally, Swiss watch exports saw a decline of 28.3% in the first nine months of 2020, mainland China became the first country to see an upturn in sales – shipments increased by 48% in June alone, rising to 78.8% in September. As a result, for the first time in the history of Swiss watch manufacture, mainland China may be the biggest market for domestic watch sales in the world.
Despite Swiss brands’ creative lunar calendar releases, watches are by no means a common gift for Chinese New Year – traditional presents are more likely to include alcohol, tea and fruit baskets, clothing or home supplies – and etiquette suggests giving a timepiece is extremely bad luck. In Mandarin, the phrase ‘giving a clock’ is a close homonym of a phrase for death or funeral, and so such a gift might suggest the recipient’s time is actually running out. These themed wristwatches are more often viewed as a way to mark the year while displaying the skill and expertise of the watchmaker’s rarest techniques.
This year’s selection of novelties represents the second year of the Chinese zodiac, the Year of the Ox, beginning on 12 February. Representing hard work, positivity and honesty, the Ox is the stable yin that will hopefully balance 2020’s tumultuous yang – and these timepieces incorporate luxurious golds, fine enamelling, engraving and other decorative techniques to bring those qualities to life.
BLANCPAIN TRADITIONAL CHINESE CALENDAR
This 50-piece limited-edition Traditional Chinese Calendar watch (above and left) pays homage to the Middle Kingdom through its grand feu enamel dial, complex Chinese calendar indications – including zodiac signs, five elements and ten heavenly stems – and moon phases. The timepiece is housed in a platinum 45mm case, featuring a crown set with a cabochon-cut ruby. Blancpain’s Traditional Chinese Calendar also comes in a non-limited version in red gold with finely guilloché oscillating weight.
JAQUET DROZ PETITE HEURE MINUTE BUFFALO
Jaquet Droz selected two distinctive artisanal techniques to apply to its four spectacular new Petite Heure Minute Buffalo pieces. Two contain miniature paintings depicting a peaceful ox against a background of mist- covered mountains, while the other two designs feature relief engraving, an artisanal technique cherished by Jaquet Droz. Each of these four handcrafted compositions (right and below) is being released in a series of eight.
VACHERON CONSTANTIN MÉTIERS D’ART THE LEGEND OF THE CHINESE ZODIAC YEAR OF THE OX
The Métiers d’Art The Legend of the Chinese Zodiac Year of the Ox is limited to 12 each of two expressions – platinum with blue dial (right) and pink gold with bronze dial. The dials feature a Chinese foliage motif and rare grand feu enamelling to enhance the intensity of the colours.
The hand engraved ox – in platinum or pink gold – is then delicately applied to the centre of the hands-free dial. Powered by the brand’s calibre 2460 G4, four apertures show the hours, minutes, days and dates, and the watch is finished with a Mississippiensis alligator leather strap.
PIAGET ALTIPLANO YEAR OF THE OX
Piaget’s new themed version of its ultra-thin Altiplano model, the 38mm Altiplano Year
of the Ox (right) features a cloisonné dial, skilfully executed by world-renowned master- enameller Anita Porchet, and comes in an 18ct white-gold case adorned with 78 brilliant-cut diamonds (approx. 0.71ct.) The updated model is powered by the brand’s exceptional 430P hand-wound movement that measures a mere 2.1mm thickness. It is paired with an elegant black leather strap fitted with an 18ct white- gold pin buckle.
CHOPARD LUC XP URUSHI YEAR OF THE OX
Chopard’s LUC collection presents its ninth Chinese New Year collector’s edition timepiece with the ultra-thin XP Urushi Year of the Ox (right). Limited to just 88 pieces, the Urushi lacquer dial depicts a scene that Chopard describes as “evocative of ancestral toil, humble prosperity and timeless elegance.” For the glittering dial scene, Chopard turned to Japanese master lacquer artist Minori Koizum, before encasing the work of art in an 18ct rose-gold case.