Once a mighty and dreaded horological creature, the dragon has flown back to its lair. It still flies, occasionally, waiting for the right time to make a thunderous come-back.
It was the year 2013. The Chinese Calendar was celebrating the year of the Water Dragon with a thunderfull of them landing on dials everywhere. Then the beast returned slowly and in orderly fashion to its lair, flying, swimming, with or without wings, to a river, a mountainful of gold or its cherished Pearl of Wisdom, depending on the interpretation.
Reine de Naples Cammea Chinese Zodiac © Breguet
Today, the dragon has made itself scarce, but in no way has it lost its flamboyance. A majestic, mighty, complex and prestigious beast, it remains the quintessential symbol of animal power in the realm of watch design. But when it comes to finding one of those great lizards, options are now few and far between. Breguet did revive one in 2019 on a very limited series called Reine de Naples Cammea Chinese Zodiac. Chopard did engrave one on the elaborate case of the L.U.C Perpetual T Spirit of the Dragon and the Pearl. But other than these two fleeting sightings, there are only two go-to brands.
L.U.C Perpetual T Spirit of the Dragon and the Pearl © Chopard
The first one has made the dragon one of its strong suits. Jaquet Droz painted one on their Petite Heure Minute Dragon, and not just any dragon that was. Theirs was painted by John Howe, art director of the Lord of the Rings hexalogy and therefore, father to the infamous Smaug.
Petite Heure Minute Dragon © Jaquet Droz
More recently, the brand refocused itself on unique pieces and created a very advanced and animated thing called Dragon Automaton. Spine, tail, eye, jaw, tongue, crest and claws of this articulated creature are all moving, according to a seemingly random sequence, while a pearl keeps spinning, ever evading its grasp. All of which makes this one of the most sophisticated automata ever placed in a wristwatch.
Dragon Automaton © Jaquet Droz
If there had to be one House of the Dragon, it would be Jacob & Co.. The brand has created over twenty interpretations, mostly unique pieces, all of them greatly sophisticated. Their vehicle of choice for the matter is the Astronomia, whose otherwise rotating movement has been made still to accommodate the long sinuous body of the lizard. It runs intertwined between the vertical movement's various organs. This dragon, Asian in morphology, is long, devoid of wings and has a beard. It's made of cast, sculpted and polished gold, sometimes hand-painted, sometimes blacked out by DLC, always hand-engraved and finely executed. Another type of dragon, also tridimensional, showcases a painted creature ion a stand-off with a tiger. All these scenes are set inside wide cases whose domed crystal and large caseband are made of sapphire, when the entire piece isn't made of the transparent material.
Astronomia Clarity Dragon © Jacob & Co.
The options may seem limited, but they're not poor, not by a long shot. And bear in mind that bespoke unique pieces are always available from the specialists of that particular trade. And let all dragon lovers rest assured that their patience is about to be rewarded. After the Year of the Water Rabbit that's just begun, another Chinese Zodiac sign is coming up and it's mightier by a mile. 2024 shall be the year of the Wooden Dragon, and the creature will soar to celebrate it.
Astronomia Art Dragon © Jacob & Co.
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