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Chinese New Year - Your Kind of New Year Watch

Chinese New Year Your Kind of New Year Watch

Not everyone celebrates the Chinese New Year the same way…

New Year festivities are always a big deal. People party, they stuff themselves with food, they let off fireworks, they allow themselves all sorts of indulgences that they wouldn’t normally permit themselves. Chinese New Year is no different — in fact it’s probably even more extreme, since Chinese people don’t really know how to celebrate in a low-key way. 

There are extravagant street parades and special TV entertainment programmes. Displays of prosperity and excess are positively encouraged during this time, in direct contrast with the Confucian values of humility and discretion that predominate in most East Asian cultures. Perhaps that’s why we tend to go all out during Chinese New Year — it’s the only excuse we have to cut loose in a socially and culturally sanctioned way.

The idea behind all this excess is that Chinese New Year is supposed to represent how your entire year will progress. An abundance of food and wealth during the Chinese New Year period signals a good year ahead, whereas if you’re spending Chinese New Year quietly on your own, eating simple meals and staying home, your year ahead is probably going to be a disaster of bad food and zero social life. You’ll see that as a result, people tend to get dressed up in fancy new clothes and, yes, spanking new watches. (Because who doesn’t want their year ahead to be filled with new clothes and new watches?)

There is practically no end to the beliefs, cultural practices and unspoken rules that surround Chinese New Year, but fear not — we have the right watch all picked out for you whatever the situation, whatever the need! 

Chinese New Year’s Eve (除夕 or 年卅晚)
Blancpain Métiers d’Art Porcelaine Année du Rat

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Métiers d’Art Porcelaine Année du Rat © Blancpain

This evening is normally reserved for intimate family meals, as opposed to the big blowout clan dinners that include random cousins you see only once a year and whose names you occasionally forget. Special food with cultural significance will be served, stuff that usually takes ages to prepare and is always presented in the very best tableware your family owns. The Blancpain Métiers d’Art Porcelaine Année du Rat is the watch for this evening. It depicts three little critters gathered around a jujube tree, underlining the food-and-togetherness aspect of the evening. What’s more, the dial is of porcelain, a refined material used for the most prestigious dining sets in Asian culture.

First Day of Chinese New Year (年初一)
Ulysse Nardin Classico 40mm Year of the Rat

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Ulysse Nardin Classico 40mm Year of the Rat © Ulysse Nardin

Showtime! You’re in your best clothes, all new! You’re driving a flashy new set of wheels, having made do with your old clunker for months just so that you could have a new car exactly in time for Chinese New Year. You’re visiting all your most judgemental relatives and important business associates today so you can impress them with how well you’re doing! The Ulysse Nardin Classico 40mm Year of the Rat is for you. A shiny enamel rat with an upturned face and a perky tail poses in front of an enormous gold coin engraved with the words 招宝, signalling incoming wealth. A little halo of clouds around the periphery of the dial indicates just how sky-high this rat is living in life.

Second Day of Chinese New Year (年初二)
Chopard LUC XP Urushi Year of the Rat

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Chopard LUC XP Urushi Year of the Rat © Chopard

This is the day that young families go around to see those who are slightly lower down on the visiting hierarchy (that is to say, in-laws). Additionally, if you’re important enough of a personage, or senior enough within your own family, you get to stay put and have an open-house day. People less important and less senior than you have to come visit and say nice things to you while you sit in the best chair and eat festive goodies out of traditional lacquer boxes. The Chopard LUC XP Urushi Year of the Rat is the right watch for you today, depicting a sleek, mature-looking rat sitting atop a pile of snack food. Bonus connection — the dial is executed in Japanese lacquer, also known as urushi.

Seventh Day of Chinese New Year (人日)
Panerai Luminor Sealand Année du Rat

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Luminor Sealand Année du Rat © Panerai

The seventh day of the Chinese New Year is rather confusingly explained as Everyone’s Birthday. In Chinese legend, the human race was created on this day, so that’s presumably how it all makes sense. Particularly in the Southern Chinese communities, there is a tradition of eating a particular type of lucky salad, comprising shredded vegetables and raw fish, which is prepared directly at the table. Every single ingredient, including the crackers scattered on top and the salad dressing, has a special meaning, and specific auspicious phrases are ritually recited before each ingredient is added to the salad platter. Everyone around the table is then invited to toss the salad together, with the height of the tossed salad being said to be a measure of how amazing your year ahead is going to be. Kids and pre-teens participating in this tradition generally find it hilarious to toss salad right in your face, so wearing the Panerai Luminor Sealand Année du Rat is a good call, since it has a protective dial cover to keep all that greasy salad off your watch.

Fifteenth Day of Chinese New Year (元宵 or 十五瞑)
Jaquet Droz Petite Heure Minute Rat

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Petite Heure Minute Rat © Jaquet Droz

This used to be the Chinese equivalent of Valentine’s Day, when single young women were allowed out without the supervision of their elders, to mingle with the other villagers and meet prospective suitors. Obviously, none of that really applies anymore, but people still eat the foods associated with the tradition (such as round rice dumplings, served in pairs to symbolize — ahem — fertility) and hang up red lanterns (presumably to cast even the most unmarriageable youths in a more flattering light). The Jaquet Droz Petite Heure Minute Rat makes charming reference to this quaint custom, with a pair of rats looking rather coyly at each other and eating ruby-red pomegranate seeds (coincidentally also symbols of fertility).

Work Reopening (开工)
Vacheron Constantin Métiers d’Art The Legend of the Chinese Zodiac Year of the Rat

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Vacheron Constantin Métiers d’Art The Legend of the Chinese Zodiac Year of the Rat © Vacheron Constantin

If you think Chinese people are superstitious, wait until you come across a Chinese businessman. These guys consult 风水 (feng shui, Chinese geomancy) experts on everything, from office locations to furnishings, when to sign important deals, what to name their companies — I really do mean everything. It’s no surprise that there are particular days that are considered auspicious for reopening the office after the Chinese New Year break. The exact date can vary according to a whole bunch of factors, and it’s super important to get it right. Strap on the Vacheron Constantin Métiers d’Art The Legend of the Chinese Zodiac Year of the Rat on the day your office reopens, since the length of the name portends well for a year ahead of comprehensive abundance. Plus, check out how cheerful and plump that gold rat is! That is what a rat with a successful business looks like.

The Millennial’s Chinese New Year
Piaget Altiplano Motif Rat

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Piaget Altiplano Motif Rat © Piaget

Traditions are all very well and good, but an increasing number of young Chinese people are eschewing what they see as old-fashioned cultural practices and taking the official holiday as an opportunity to travel and get away from nosy relatives asking about their marriage or childbearing plans. With Chinese New Year taking place in the winter months, one of the top festive getaway choices during this time is — drumroll! — ski vacation! The Piaget Altiplano Motif Rat shows two pink-eared rats, clearly in the prime of life, neatly groomed and ready for action, against a snow-white enamel dial. The absence of any conventional lucky colours such as red or gold emphasises the modernity of these young rats, and marks the wearer out as someone who celebrates his or her culture without being constrained by it.

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