If you’re a discerning watch enthusiast, not any watch would suffice, especially when it comes to an event as major as the Lunar New Year. Happening at the end of the month, the Chinese festival is a celebration of spring and prosperity. This year, the rooster takes over as animal of the year.
As the 10th sign in the Chinese zodiac, the rooster is characterised as being loyal, sociable and punctual (obviously). And so in honour of the occasion — and for many, in keeping with the annual tradition — these horological marques have introduced extremely exclusive timepieces. Blending Swiss craftsmanship with Chinese tradition and métiers d’art, these timepieces are wearable masterpieces that will surely distract nosey relatives from prying questions.
Every year since 2012, Piaget has kicked off the festivities with limited edition zodiac watches. This year, the rooster gets the same love, if not more. This is because the Swiss manufacturer has now enrolled Anita Porchet, one of the most revered enamel artists today. Using the Grand Feu cloisonné enamelling technique, the master artist depicts a rooster puffing out its chest as it readies to start the day with a robust crow. Working on the 38mm Antiplano watch is no easy feat; thin gold wires are first used to outline the rooster, with its luscious plumage applied by using dozens of shades of grey for multiple pigments and visible brush strokes. For a luxe finish, the watch is encased by 18-karat white gold and set with 78 brilliant-cut diamonds, complete with a black alligator strap. The manually-wound Manufacture Piaget 430P ultra-thin movement offers 43 hours of power reserve. Because each is painstakingly painted by hand, only 38 pieces (each costing around S$87,000) will be available, a level of exclusivity only matched by Piaget’s dedication to the ultimate in fine craftsmanship.
Not to be outdone, Ulysse Nardin also released a special edition watch for the occasion. Looking confident and to be honest, slightly aggressive, the rooster is applied to the Classico collection cia the ancient champlevé technique. Only the finest craftsmen are employed for this, where cells are carved directly on the dial and then filled with enamel. Carefully blended metallic oxides give a colour vibrancy that can only be achieved with talent and a well-honed intuition for the art form. The limited edition of 88 pieces sees an 18-karat rose gold case, which also houses the self-winding, COSC-certified Caliber UN-815.
If you were impressed by Vacheron Constantin’s Year of the Monkey tribute, you’ll be equally in awe of this year’s Rooster offering. The latest addition to the Metiers d’Art series sees the 40mm platinum- or 18-karat 5N pink gold-cased watch adorned with oriental motifs. Flowers in the style of Chinese paper-cutting fill up the Grand Feu enamelled dial, above which sits a matching platinum or gold rooster that’s hand-engraved. Despite all these details, legibility remains top notch with the hours, minutes, date and day showcased hands-free through four apertures at its 10, 2, 4 and 8 o’clock respectively. Enabling this is the brand’s Calibre 2460 G4, a self-winding movement that boasts the Geneva Seal, so you know this watch isn’t just a pretty face. Limited to just 24 pieces — 12 in each material — this watch will cost a staggering S$143,500.
Limited to a slightly more generous 99 pieces, Officine Panerai takes on the new zodiac year with a more interesting approach. Its new Luminor 1950 Sealand 3 Days Automatic Acciaio sees a case cover that’s hand-engraved with the ancient technique “sparsello”, which sees layers of gold threads fill grooves in the steel and then beaten until they completely fill them. This creates the rooster’s outline. Flip open the cover and within, a more minimalistic grey dial is revealed. The 44m watch is run by the in-house P.9000 automatic calibre, which has a power reserve of three days and is fitted with a device for quick adjustments of the hour hand. A soft brown leather strap completes the timepiece, perfectly complementing the rustic oriental feel of the rooster engraving.
If Kiichiro Masumura made it, we want it. Proclaimed a “living national treasure” by the Japanese authorities, the artist created another stunning dial for Chopard using his expertise in the ancient lacquering art of Urushi and Maki-e. In the middle of this 88-piece limited edition watch, a handsome rooster stands majestically amongst eight gladioli flowers that symbolise luck. Glowing with iridescence, the rooster is carefully painted within minute mother-of-pearl fragments, bringing it to life amidst a sunset backdrop. The ultra-thin L.U.C. 96.17-L self-winding movement within beats at a rapid frequency of 4Hz and offers a good 65 hours of power reserve. For S$34,700, the watch also comes with an 18-karat rose gold case and a hand-sewn black alligator leather strap.