The Year of the Snake, then. For the majority of us, or maybe just for me, this year will pan out much like last year: thwarted dreams, frustrated ambition, constant obstacles to success. I'll probably have to wait for 2017, when it's the rooster's turn to shine, but for all the snakes out there, and for those who would like a watch to mark the serpent's year, here's a selection of timepieces that come with a bit more thought and nuance than those from manufacturers who think that going all red is enough to cash in at this time of year.
If you're in the market for something modestly priced but meaningful to celebrate the Spring Festival then look no further than the Fossil 2013 Year of the Snake watch (above right). Priced at an eminently reasonable HK$1,350, this watch is a solid and dependable timepiece with one or two nice design touches. Produced in a limited run, it comes with a chunky 44mm case made of two-tone polished steel. The dial is dominated by a stylised snake design motif at the six o'clock position and there's an even more striking snake motif in red on the case back. Features-wise, the watch is pretty simple, with only hours and minutes, but the whole point is the symbolism, which you can double by buying it in tandem with the equivalent ladies' watch.
A watch that's less overtly linked to the Lunar New Year, but which is distinctly proud of its roots, is the Chinese Timekeeper 08 Small Second Automatic (above left). Chinese Timekeeper (CTK) is based in Hong Kong and the brand's watches, which are all Chinese made, emphasise the nation's heritage and culture. The CTK 08 creates an immediate impression, with its all-black 44mm polished-steel case lending an industrial feel that sits at odds with the heritage-inspired dial design. The dial is also black and features a small seconds sub-dial at the four o'clock position that has Chinese characters instead of numerals. Further detailing includes the CTK logo at the 12 o'clock position and a character instead of the digit at the 10 o'clock position, yet another allusion to Chinese culture. The Chinese Timekeeper 08 Small Second Automatic is priced at HK$19,800 and is limited to 50 pieces.
Finally, we have probably the most skilfully rendered and beautiful Chinese zodiac watch ever created. The Vacheron Constantin Metiers d'Art The Legend of the Chinese Zodiac may have a name that belongs in the video game Zelda and, design-wise, might not appeal to everyone, but the level of craftsmanship that has gone into making this watch must be applauded. Available in either platinum (below right) or pink gold (below left) and limited to 12 pieces in each, the dial of the Legend of the Chinese Zodiac is dominated by a painstakingly etched and engraved snake but also features wonderful leaf motifs inspired by Chinese iconography. The dial face also features Grand Feu enamelling, an art invented and found only in Geneva, Switzerland. With all that space taken up by the snake, this watch indicates hours, minutes, day and date by way of four small windows. The case size is an elegant 40mm and the watch comes with an alligator leather strap. The Vacheron Constantin Metiers d'Art The Legend of the Chinese Zodiac is priced at HK$958,000 for the pink-gold version and HK$1.16 million for the platinum model.