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By Alex Martin | January 28 2020
China accounts for almost 20 percent of the global population, making the Chinese New Year one of the world’s biggest annual celebrations. This week, we entered the Year of the Rat, the first of the 12 zodiac animals on the calendar.
The Rat is a renowned symbol of wealth in ancient Chinese tradition, so what better way to celebrate than with a luxury watch made especially for this year? Here, we round up some of the beautifully-crafted models associated with the Rat.
This limited-edition watch is available in two different creations, platinum with a blue dial or rose gold with a brown dial. Both versions are limited to just 12 models, a symbol of the Chinese zodiac calendar which has a 12-year cycle. Vacheron Constantin has combined both engraving and enameling to highlight the art of Scherenschnitte paper-cutting, which has close associations with the Chinese equivalent, Jianzhi. The pattern is semi-embedded and stands out from the base, giving the effect of floating over the dial. The hands-free time display is achieved through four apertures showing the hours, minutes, days and dates.
Price on request, vacheron-constantin.com
Jaquet Droz has thrown down the gauntlet by producing a small collection of Year of the Rat watches, but the most stunning is a three-dimensional scene showing a rat enjoying a ruby-set pomegranate. A basket of smaller pomegranates, made with smaller rubies, sits close by. The scene is set on an onyx dial through a mix of painting and engraving. The 41mm case is available in rose gold or a white gold case.
Price on request, jaquet-droz.com
Chopard releases a Chinese Zodiac watch every year and this year has used the ancient Japanese art of Urushi lacquer. The ancient technique sees an craftsman hand-paint a mix of natural varnish and gold flecks onto the dial to achieve a flawless shimmering effect. The golden rat is seen on top of an ear of corn against a starry midnight blue background. The addition of a khaki fruit is meant to symbolize longevity. Made entirely by hand, the 18-karat rose gold watch is limited to just 88 pieces.
Blancpain has broken new ground in its celebration of the Year of the Rat, producing its first-ever porcelain dial. Limited to just eight pieces, this beautiful watch is hand-crafted in Blancpain’s Métiers d’Art workshops. Porcelain is, of course, a treasure of Chinese culture. The watch combines the art of porcelain with enamel painting. The rat is painted freehand with an extremely fine brush before a lengthy 2,200°F firing stage fixes the colors on the porcelain. Such temperatures would be impossible with an enamel dial on a gold base. The watch features a 33 mm diameter white gold case, a bezel set with 48 brilliant-cut diamonds, and a sapphire case-back.
Price on request, blancpain.com
Panerai is celebrating the Year of the Rat with a special edition Luminor Seland 44m of 88 units. The watchmaker has gone left of field in using the ancient Italian technique of sparsello. The technique requires the steadiest of hands to make incisions with a scalpel that are then filled with gold. This is the 12th Chinese New Year watch that Panerai has produced, meaning it has now completed the 12-year cycle of the zodiac calendar.
Price on request, panerai.com
Limited to just eight pieces, the brand-new Reine de Naples watch is crafted in rose gold and is set with 40 diamonds totalling 2.24 carats. The cameo engraved rat is seen perched on top of the planet Venus in front of a white and brown shaded background. Cameo engraving is an ancient technique that uses hand-engraved conch shells to lift the design.
Price on request,breguet.com