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Chinese New Year  - Kung Hei Fat Choy!

Chinese New Year Kung Hei Fat Choy!

Swiss watchmakers once again use the Chinese New Year to show off their innovations in mechanical movements and their mastery of artistic crafts.

The Year of the Goat is upon us. According to everybody’s favourite encyclopaedia, Wikipedia, the goat is peace-loving, kind and popular. According to Chopard, it “cannot bear injustice, which it is always keen to oppose,” and according to Jaquet Droz it is “a symbol of imagination, creativity and a world of pastoral riches”. This year’s crop of Chinese New Year watches offers designs that are as divergent as these interpretations.

Frédérique Constant offers a limited-edition model that focuses not on the goat itself but on the whole system of timekeeping based on the Chinese zodiac. Under this system, a day is divided into 12 periods, each of which is sub-divided into eight quarters, which are in turn equivalent to 15 minutes. Just like the years of the zodiac, each of these periods is named after the twelve signs of the zodiac. The goat represents the period from 1pm to 3pm, when it builds up its strength, suggesting that this should be lunchtime.

In the Frédérique Constant Manufacture Zodiac 24 Hour limited edition, the brand interprets this different time system with a new manufacture calibre FC-724 that has an hour hand which runs over 24 hours and a minute hand that completes one revolution every two hours. The model is available in two versions, either in stainless-steel or rose-gold plated steel with a hinged case back reminiscent of pocket watches. Each is a limited edition of 888 pieces.

Frédérique Constant Manufacture Zodiac 24H

Japanese Urushi lacquer for a Chinese celebration

Urushi lacquer is made from the sap of the Japanese Urushi tree (also found in China), which is harvested only once a year and in small quantities. It is therefore very rare and the maki-e technique used to apply it is only mastered by a handful of artisans in Switzerland.

Chopard is no stranger to this technique and chose it for the decoration of its “L.U.C XP Urushi – Year of the Goat” model.  The colourful goat decoration fills the entire dial of the watch with a vibrant relief effect, underneath which beats the ultra-thin L.U.C Calibre 96.17-L, whose twin barrels are wound by a micro-rotor to ensure a power reserve of 65 hours. Paired with a black alligator leather strap, the L.U.C XP Urushi – Year of the Goat comes with a 39.5mm case in red or white gold.

Chopard - L.U.C XP Urushi « Année de la Chèvre »

From paper cutting to enamel

Both Jaquet Droz and Vacheron Constantin cite the ancient art of Jianzhi, or paper cutting, as the inspiration for the enamel work on their respective Year of the Goat models. The former interprets this through the champlevé enamel technique, where sections of metal in the overall design are removed, then filled with enamel, fired and subsequently polished by hand. Vacheron Constantin, on the other hand, uses grand feu enamel to coat a pattern that has been etched directly on to the metal.

Jaquet Droz Petite Heure Minute Relief Chèvres

On the “Jaquet Droz Petite Heure Minute Relief Goats”, the sculpture of three goats takes pride of place beneath the small hour and minute subdial at 12 o’clock, while in the Vacheron Constantin “Métiers d’Art – The Legend of the Chinese Zodiac” pieces, the absence of hands gives full rein to the artist, with the hours, minutes, day and date, displayed in four separate apertures placed symmetrically around the dial. Both of these collections are powered by self-winding mechanical movements and come in a variety of precious metal cases. Jaquet Droz maintains its tradition of offering limited editions ending with a lucky 8, in this case 28 pieces each in white and red gold, while Vacheron Constantin prefers a more exclusive run of only 12 pieces each in red gold or platinum.

Happy Year of the Goat!

Vacheron Constantin, La Légende du Zodiac Chinois

Click on the image at the top of this article to see a slideshow of all the different models and the techniques used in their decoration.


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