We’ve barely made it through one new year when another thunders into view. And boy, do luxury brands love Lunar New Year! Just slap a bit of red or the new Chinese zodiac animal on to bags, clothes, shoes or whatever, and they are ready. It’s that easy!
Having said that (and here comes my deft pivot), Lunar New Year is taken a bit more seriously in the watch game, with more thought, craft and technical expertise in play. Rather than simply daubing everything in scarlet (although some brands still do that), the zodiac is often incorporated in artisanal finishing on watch dials or cases, a process that falls into the category of workmanship known in the trade as métiers d’art.
The coming lunar year will be the one of the pooch, of course, and Panerai’s new Chinese zodiac watch is the Luminor Sealand – The Year of Dog (ref. PAM00858; below).
While some watchmakers have been subtle about putting a mutt on a watch (Blancpain comes to mind, with adecorative canine motif kept to the back of the watch), Panerai is going big, its latest watch featuring a hinged steel cover meticulously engraved with an image of man’s best friend. The cover is further enhanced by a decorative technique called sparsello, which involves the inlaying of engravings with gold thread.
The watch under the cover is arobust, no-nonsense 44mm Luminor that is light on features but has a P.9000 in-house movement with a three-day power reserve and 100 metres of water resistance. This is the 10th Panerai Chinese zodiac watch, and – limited to 88 pieces (naturally) – it’s only available at the marque’s Canton Road boutique.
Considering the price of previous editions, it’s likely the watch will come in at less than HK$200,000 (full price available upon request), but my suspicion is that it has probably sold out already, with series collectors getting first dibs, but you never know.
Vacheron Constantin also releases a zodiac watch each year (in this case, since 2013), and its latest – the Métiers d’Art Legend of the Chinese Zodiac Year of the Dog – is beautifully made and guaranteed to impress.
As in previous years, there are two versions (one in platinum, one in pink gold), and the design layout is roughly unchanged, with the engraved hound motif in the centre of the dial, and four windows – indicating hours, minutes, day and date – at each corner.
Beneath the intricate grand feu enamelling on the dial lies a 2460 G4 movement with 40 hours of power reserve. The watch also boasts the Geneva Seal, meaning the entire construction – even the bits you will never see – has been finished and polished to the highest standard.
Limited to 12 pieces in each material, the timepiece is priced at HK$1.06 million for the platinum version and HK$865,000 for the pink gold.
Finally, the Chopard L.U.C XP Urushi Year of the Dog is a watch for the hard-core cynophilist. The in-your-face design might not be for everyone, but the techniques used in creating this piece are the real value here, with Chopard again employing Japanese master craftsman Minori Koizumi (designated a “national human treasure” in his own country) to create the urushi lacquering, one of the rarest finishing techniques in watchmaking today, on the dial.
The watch’s urushi elements and highly collectable nature are responsible for the HK$187,000 price tag, but the movement, the L.U.C 96.17-L calibre, is a real gem, too, featuring 65 hours of power reserve. The 39.5mm case is made of rose gold, and the watch is limited, again, to an auspicious 88 pieces.