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Man’s best friend

Michelle Zhu
Michelle Zhu2/5/2018 10:53 AM GMT+08  • 6 min read
Man’s best friend
Luxury watchmakers pay tribute to the Year of the Dog with these limited-edition collectibles.
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Luxury watchmakers pay tribute to the Year of the Dog with these limited-edition collectibles.

Symbolic of loyalty, bravery and generosity, the dog is the 11th animal in the Chinese zodiac. Those born in its year are often said to possess some of the best personality traits, owing to humanity’s love for the canine and the associations it bears. With the commencement of 2018, some of the world’s most iconic watch manufacturers ring in the Lunar New Year by paying homage to this creature and the Asian culture.

Twin tales

A semi-embedded foliage motif based on classic Chinese iconography is etched directly into the metal to stand out from its gold base, such that the vegetation appears to float over the dial’s surface. They are set against successive layers of enamel applied using the ancestral Grand Feu technique, which calls for expertise that can be acquired only after long years of experience and requires firing at temperatures between 800°C and 900°C to achieve the desired effect.

Lifelong devotion

At the heart of its ultra-thin case beats a mechanical self-winding L.U.C. 96.17-L movement. The calibre, visible through the transparent exhibition back of an 18-carat rose-gold case, is bevelled, engraved and guillochéd — while the bridges are adorned with Côtes de Genève. Such sophisticated movement decoration and finishing is performed at Chopard Manufacture in Fleurier and, together with the art of Urushi, represents a coming together of time-honoured skills bearing testimony to their respective cultures.

Classic luxury

The image of a dog frolicking in the great outdoors is enhanced through a combination of two centuries-old methods, Grand Feu and Champlevé, with the former referring to the incredible heat required to fuse the enamel. Champlevé, on the other hand, involves the carving of cells with a chisel directly onto the dial, which are then filled with different coloured enamels before the motif is enriched by chiselling all of the surface’s metal parts. Such artistry is practised in-house at Donzé Cadrans, a member of the Ulysse Nardin group of companies.

Round the calendar

The 45mm-diameter platinum case is fitted with a crown adorned with a cabochon-cut ruby and comprises five integrated under-lug correctors to adjust the indications. Also featured are the classic signature attributes of Blancpain’s Villeret collection with a double-stepped shape; a Grand Feu enamel dial with a chapter ring composed of gold appliques; and the main hands shaped like slightly hollowed leaves with the blued steel Gregorian date pointer appearing in the traditional serpentine form.

Pride and elegance

It is through this collection that Piaget aims to show the virtuosity of the Métiers d’Art using the Grand Feu cloisonné enamelling technique, which involves creating miniature partitions or “cloisons” between enamel pigments that are subsequently fired at over 800°C in the kiln, before being evened out and finally varnished to result in an ethereal glow. Using infinite shades of grey applied to enamel, Porchet plays with light and shades to make the dog’s coat glisten. The portrait is then framed by a circle of 78 brilliant-cut diamonds set on the watch’s white-gold case, presented with a black alligator leather strap.

Chow for thought

Employing a bas-relief technique in the gold-engraving processes, the engraver uses various types of chisels and engraving tools while observing the components under a microscope — a most delicate phase in the creative process that is followed by cleaning and polishing operations to reveal the artwork’s full splendour. The timepiece’s Caliber 502.3 mechanical self-winding movement is visible through the sapphire-crystal caseback, while the case itself is presented in 18-carat white gold with a delicately fluted caseband.

This article appeared in Issue 815 (Jan 29) of The Edge Singapore.

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