The Chinese Lunar calendar is a twelve-year cycle, each year in the cycle being marked by an animal from the Chinese zodiac. 2020 was the year of the rat, making 2021 the year of the ox. To celebrate the new year, many watchmakers produce finely crafted commemorative pieces, often in extremely limited numbers making them some of the most exclusive watches that are made each year.
Here’s a run-down of some of this year’s Lunar New Year offerings.
Chopard L.U.C XP Urushi Shi Chen
Right off the bat we’re presented with a unique fusion of cultures, combining Chinese iconography with traditional Japanese craftsmanship. This piece features a decorative expression of the entire Lunar calendar, with a dial depicting the traditional Chinese 12-hour day, each hour being represented by an animal from the zodiac, from Rat to Pig.
The art is created using urushi and maki-e techniques, forms of Japanese lacquer. The symbols are framed on a black lacquer dial sprinkled with gold dust to give a sense of the cosmos, housed in a solid gold frame. The Shi Chen indicator is clearly the highlight of the face, but does make the Arabic numerals look somewhat out of place in the quarter positions. While it might only be a small detail, we wish they’d got it right because at a stiff £33,200 it’s not a watch you can consider lightly.
Ref: 161980-5001 | Case/dial: 40mm diameter, 18-carat rose gold | Movement: In-house calibre L.U.C 96.29-L, automatic, 29 jewels | Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz) | Power reserve: 65h | Functions: Hours, minutes | Strap: Black alligator leather with hand sewn matching tones | Price: £33,200, limited to 88 pieces, more details at Chopard.
Chopard L.U.C XP Urushi Year Of The Ox
Chopard’s second offering this year focusses more heavily on the animal of the moment. The image of an ox strapped to a cart in the style of the Emperor’s is painted with the same techniques as the Shi Chen above, a combination of urushi and maki-e lacquer.
What makes this watch stand out are its astonishing proportions. The 18-karat gold case is 39.5mm diameter but only 6.8mm thick, thanks to the L.U.C 96.17-L ultra-thin (3.3mm) movement. Due to the time-consuming techniques employed in creating both the Shi Chen and Year Of The Ox models, only 88 pieces of each will be produced, a lucky number in Chinese culture.
Ref: 161902-5071 | Case/dial: 39.5mm diameter, 18-carat rose gold | Movement: In-house calibre L.U.C 96.17-L, automatic, 29 jewels | Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz) | Power reserve: 65h | Functions: Hours, minutes | Strap: Black alligator leather with hand sewn matching tones | Price: £21,500, limited to 88 pieces, more details at Chopard.
Jaquet Droz Petite Heure Minute Buffalo Collection
Jaquet Droz always has something cool to tie-in the Lunar New Year and their capsule collection of four watches depicts the Ox in two different styles, a combination of miniature painting and relief engraving.
Two of the models feature a painted ox in peaceful mountain and field landscapes on ivory grand-feu enamel dials, both is 18-karat red gold, with the smaller 35mm version also featuring a diamond-set bezel.
Ref: J005123206 and J005003228 (diamond-set bezel) | Case/dial: 41mm diameter (J005123206) or 35mm diameter (J005003228), 18-carat red gold | Movement: In-house calibre Jaquet Droz 2653.Si (J005123206), Jaquet Droz 2653.P (J005003228) automatic, 28 jewels | Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz) | Power reserve: 68h | Functions: Off centre hours & minutes | Strap: Rolled-edge hand-made brown alligator leather | Price: €26,700 EUR (approx. £23,693) and €41,600 EUR (approx. £36,915) for diamond-set bezel (ref. J005003228), limited to 8 pieces each, more details at Jaquet Droz.
The two relief engraving models feature a golden ox stepping out of the black onyx dial in front of a gold plum tree with ruby blossoms. The only difference between the two 41mm watches is the case metal: one is in red gold, the other is in white gold.
All four watches have exhibition casebacks where you can see the gold rotor in the shape of an ox’s head. The four watches will only be available in extremely limited numbers. There will be (you guessed it) eight of each.
Ref: J005023295 (red gold) and J005024286 (white gold) | Case/dial: 41mm diameter, 18-karat red gold or 18-karat white gold | Movement: In-house calibre Jaquet Droz 2653.Si, automatic, 28 jewels | Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz) | Power reserve: 68h | Functions: Off centre hours & minutes | Strap: Rolled-edge hand-made black alligator leather | Price: Price on request, limited to 8 pieces each, more details at Jaquet Droz.
Vacheron Constantin Métiers D’art The Legend of the Chinese Zodiac – Year of the Ox
Vacheron Constantin continues its Chinese Zodiac collection with two designs featuring the animal of the hour, with only 12 versions of each being made, one for each year of the cycle. Similar to the Jaquet Droz engraved models above, the two different versions are separated by their use of different metals, one being in platinum the other in pink gold.
The watches feature a delicate floral pattern etched into the dial itself, making the design appear to float above the blue or bronze background. The dial itself is carefully crafted using Grand Feu enamalling to create the rich and intense colours. Of course, front and centre is the animal itself, hand engraved in either of the two metals. In fact, the focus on the ox was so important that Vacheron Constantin decided to do away with the hands of the watch and opt for four windows around the edge that tell the hours, minutes, days and date.
Ref: 86073/000P-B64 (platinum) and 86073/000R-B646 (pink gold) | Case/dial: 40mm diameter x 12.72mm thickness, Platinum 950 or pink gold, 30m water resistance | Movement: In-house calibre 2460 G4, automatic, 27 jewels, Hallmark of Geneva c | Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz) | Power reserve: 40h | Functions: Hours by aperture, minutes by aperture, calendar aperture, day of the week in aperture | Strap: Dark blue or dark brown alligator leather | Price: £130,000 for platinum and £107,000 for pink gold, limited to 12 pieces each, more details at Vacheron Constantin.
Piaget Altiplano Year Of The Ox
Piaget really capture the strength of the ox with the first of their two watches. A dramatic picture of the bovine beast of burden is captured on the grand-feu cloisonné enamel dial, using techniques more than 4000 years old by master enameller Anita Porchet. Housed in an 18-karat white gold case adorned with 78 brilliant-cut diamonds, the piece is finished with a black leather strap and matching white gold pin buckle.
Ref: G0A45540 | Case/dial: 38mm diameter, 18-carat white gold | Movement: In-house calibre Piaget ultra-thin 430P, hand-wound, 18 jewels | Frequency: 21,600 vph (3 Hz) | Power reserve: 43h | Functions: Hours, minutes | Strap: Black alligator leather | Price: Price on request, limited to 38 pieces each, more details at Piaget.
Piaget Limelight Stella
Rather than the animal, the Piaget Limelight Stella focuses on the Lunar part of the Lunar New Year with an impressive moon phase front and centre. The entire watch, as you may have noticed, is also blood red the colour of joy, wealth and courage. The 36mm gold case and mother-of-pearl dial are covered in over 130 diamonds to really bring in the new year with a bang.
Ref: G0A45124 | Case/dial: 36mm diameter, 18-carat rose gold | Movement: In-house calibre Piaget 584P, automatic, 26 jewels | Frequency: 21,600 vph (3 Hz) | Power reserve: 42h | Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, moon-phase’s indicator at 12 o’clock | Strap: Red alligator leather | Price: Price on request, exclusively available in China and Hong Kong as of February and the rest of the world from April, limited to 38 pieces each, more details at Piaget.
Dior Grand Bal Jardin Fleuri
Similar to the Limelight Stella, the Grand Bal Jardin Fleuri is all about red. The dial depicts flowers in gold, diamond, pink sapphire, and ruby to create a garden straight out of Eden, all on a background of sumptuous red mother-of-pearl.
This timepiece is limited to (say it with me) 88 pieces and features the exclusive Dior Inversé 11 1⁄2 calibre automatic movement. It’s ultimately a simple watch, but a beautiful one all the same. Unlike this next watch.
Case/dial: 36mm diameter, pink gold, 50m water resistance | Movement: In-house calibre Dior Inversé 11 1⁄2, automatic | Power reserve: 42h | Functions: Hours, minutes | Strap: Red alligator leather and additional pink satin strap | Price: , limited to 88 pieces, more details at Dior.
Blancpain Villeret Chinese Traditional Calendar
Restrained Blancpain’s entry is not. The maison’s annual Zodiac entry has seven different functions to track time on both the Gregorian and Chinese Lunar calendars, accounting for the differences between the two as well as the Chinese leap year that occurs every two to three years.
The watch breaks down time in multiple symbolic ways via zodiac signs, elements and more. Needless to say, the mechanism behind all these complications is something special. The calibre 3638 took five years to develop, was first used in 2012 and is made up of 464 components housed in a 45mm diameter case 15mm thick.
The platinum edition is limited to just 50 pieces, bucking the rule of 8 at $87,800 (approx. £64,500), while the non-limited red gold edition is £55,000 a hefty price for a hefty piece of kit.
Ref: 00888I-3431-55B (platinum), 00888-3631-55B (red gold) | Case/dial: 45mm diameter, platinum or 18-carat red gold | Movement: In-house calibre Blancpain automatic calibre 3638, automatic, 39 jewels | Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz) | Power reserve: 168h | Functions: Hours, minutes | Strap: Black or brown alligator leather | Price: $87,800 USD (approx. £64,500) for platinum and £55,000 for red gold, platinum edition limited to 50 pieces, more details at Blancpain.
Swatch Ox Rocks 2021
If your budget doesn’t quite stretch to £50,000 or more, Swatch have an accessible alternative – a very, very accessible alternative at a reasonable £108. The enormous 47mm diameter dial of the aptly-named Big Bold features a yin and yang rendition of a pair of oxen, representing balance and harmony. This symbolism is taken further by the two inscriptions “Year of the ox” and “Exist together in harmony” situated on the bezel above and below the face. Equipped with a flame patterned black silicone strap, it looks like the new year is a time to be bold.
Ref: SO27Z109 | Case/dial: 47mm diameter, plastic | Movement: Quartz | Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds | Strap: Silicone | Price: £108, more details at Swatch.
Doraemon x Gucci Dive Watch
Doraemon has been a beloved character in Japanese manga for 50 years and to celebrate, Gucci has collaborated with the blue cat to create a collection of ready to wear clothes and accessories. Amidst the collection is a pair of watches featuring the feline-robot companion, one of them with a twist. Instead of his usual blue, Doraemon has been given an ox disguise, with a brown colouration and tiny horns, to mark the beginning of the Chinese New Year. The depiction of the character sits on a classic GG Supreme canvas 40mm dial with matching strap.
Ref: 656375 ICSA0 8740 (black bezel), 656359 ICTA0 8740 (white bezel) | Case/dial: 40mm diameter, yellow gold PVD, 200m water resistance, GG canvas dial with Doraemon © Fujiko-Pro print | Movement: Swiss Made ETA F04.111, quartz | Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds | Strap: GG canvas and calf leather | Price: £1,150, more details at Gucci.
Arnold & Son Perpetual Moon “Year of the Ox”
It’s a quandary every watchmaker who wants to create a piece for the Chinese Lunar New Year must face, do they focus on the animal or the moon? Arnold & Son say why not both, with a majestic gold sculpture of the beast under a large and imposing moon. The watch’s party piece is that the mother of pearl moon and constellations, as well as the windows in the hand painted pagodas, have been applied with superluminova, so they literally light up in the dark. One of the best uses of lume in decoration we’ve ever seen.
It’s not just a spectacular image either. The moonphase function is so accurate that it will still be correct 122 years from now, at which point it will be one day out of synch. That extreme level of accuracy is made possible by the Calibre A&S1512, hand-wound mechanical movement which is one of Arnold & Son’s in-house produced pieces.
Ref: 1GLAR.Z02A.C161A | Case/dial: 42mm diameter x 12.16mm thickness, 18-carat red gold (5N), 30m water resistance | Movement: In-house calibre A&S1512, hand-wound, 27 jewels | Frequency: 21,600 vph (3 Hz) | Power reserve: 90h | Functions: Hours, minutes, moon-phase indication, second moon-phase indication on caseback | Strap: Black alligator-skin with glittering specks, platinum (Pt950) thread and 18-carat red gold (5N) pin buckle | Price: CHF 49,900 (approx. £41,000), limited to eight pieces, more details at Arnold & Son.
Memorigin Zodiac Series Year of the Ox Tourbillon
Memorigion is a tourbillon specialist so their additions to the line-up of New Year watches feature, you guessed it, a tourbillon, at the six o’clock position. However, they’re more than just pieces of timekeeping technology, as each of the delicate pieces of machinery have intricate coin designs on them to represent new prosperity. In fact, the whole watch is an ode to delicate patterns, with the ribs of the skeletonised case decorated with a dense forest and imperious ox.
The watch is available in a gold and a silver variation, both using the specially chosen flying tourbillon movement with a frequency of 28,000 oscillations per hour, with 40 hour power reserve.
Case/dial: 43mm diameter x 13.5mm thickness, rose gold-plated stainless steel with 12 rubies or stainless steel with 12 sapphires, ox’s embossment on the dial, 50m water resistance | Movement: Flying tourbillon movement, hand-wound, 18 jewels | Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz) | Power reserve: 40h | Functions: Hours, minutes, toubillon at 6 o’clock | Strap: Alligator leather | Price: HKD 42,500 (approx. £4,100), limited to 150 pieces each, more details at Memorigin.