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
Two new Vacheron Constantin references realised in 12 models each have been launched with a hand-engraved dog, made in either platinum or pink gold, at the centre of their respective blue or bronze-toned dial. These additions are the latest to join VC’s Métiers d’Art The Legend of the Chinese zodiac, a limited series of Calibre 2460 G4 watches featuring reinterpretations of the Chinese paper-cutting technique known as Jianzhi.

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
Chopard has called upon two masters of Urushi to collectively produce L.U.C. XP Urushi Year of the Dog, a unique endeavour available in only 88 pieces. The ancestral lacquer technique involves “imprisoning” tiny iridescent particles in highly resistant lacquer made with resin from the Urushi tree, which can be harvested only once a year in very small quantities. It is through this -rarely practised technique that Chopard has immortalised the “Akita” breed of canine, together with a dragonfly, regarded as a lucky charm and good omen in Japan.

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
Ulysse Nardin marks the 2018 Lunar New Year with its latest addition to the Classico Collection, the Classico Dog: a limited edition of 88 timepieces in 18-carat rose gold, set in a 40mm case and powered by the self-winding UN-815 movement. Boasting a 42-hour power reserve, along with a COSC certification, the timepiece is water-resistant to 50m and held in place with an alligator strap.

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
Blancpain has released this year’s new limited edition of its Villeret Traditional Chinese Calendar watch, which made its debut in 2012. The latest 50-piece series is equipped with a white-gold oscillating weight, engraved with the image of a dog to celebrate the Chinese New Year. Similar to its predecessor, the 2018 Traditional Chinese Calendar presents a Gregorian calendar in conjunction with the main indications of the Chinese calendar: traditional double-hour indication, month with indication of leap months, signs of the zodiac, as well as the five elements and the 10 celestial stems.

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
Available in just 38 pieces, the Piaget Altiplano 8mm watch in cloisonné enamel honours the Year of the Dog through the eyes of master enameller Anita Porchet, whose technique breathes life into the depicted animal as a proud and loyal companion. This masterpiece is the fifth symbol in Piaget’s Altiplano Chinese Zodiac series. The series was launched by the Maison in 2012 to mark the most important holiday in Chinese culture with its very own celebration of Asian customs: masterfully reimagining the zodiac sign of each year on the dial of an -Altiplano watch.

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
Breguet has released a special eight-piece Chinese New Year 2018 limited-edition model, the Classique 7145 Chow-Chow, in commemoration of Chinese New Year and its respective lunar zodiac sign. A hand-engraved image of a chow-chow is etched onto a silvered gold plate of the watch dial, paying tribute to the art of guilloché as well as one of the most cherished breeds of dog in China.

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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