Rendering the likeness of animals into decorations can be a tricky thing. There is a high chance that project can go really awry (just take a bus down to Chinatown now). Or you could end up with something quite beautiful. For Swiss watchmakers, though, interpreting animal motifs is more akin to creating a work of art.
That is obvious with the crop of canine-inspired timepieces that has been released in time for the Year of the Dog. The pieces, often produced in limited quantities, employ plenty of artisanal gong fu to achieve a highly refined look. Here, we detail some of the most eye-catching timepieces and the lengths that go into crafting them.
For husky lovers
What: Ulysse Nardin’s Classico Dog, an 18K rose gold automatic watch with a 42-hour power reserve.
Why it matters: This Chinese New Year adaptation of the brand’s elegant Classico model features a husky in the outdoors. The vibrant and energetic image of the dog is a result of melding centuries-old enamelling methods employed by artisans at the maison’s Donze Cadrans workshop. Among them is the Champleve technique (this requires the carving of cells with a chisel directly on the dial, which are then filled up with enamels of various hues and delicately chiseling all the metal parts on the surface). Limited to 88 pieces.
How much: $61,200
For Chow Chow fans
What: Breguet’s Classique 7145 Chow-Chow, an automatic 18K white gold case whose movement measures a slender 2.4mm.
Why it matters: This is one majestic-looking piece, boasting the fluffy breed which is considered one of the most prized dogs in its native China. In this watch, the motif of the Chow Chow is etched line by line onto the white gold plate of the watch dial. It’s a technical feat considering the case measures only 40mm across. Limited to eight pieces.
How much: $61,800
For Spaniel fanatics
What: Vacheron Constantin’s Metiers d’Art The Legend of the Chinese Zodiac, which comes in a choice of an 18K 5N pink gold or platinum case.
Why it matters: Meet the ultra-Oriental horology piece. This watch incorporates the traditional Chinese paper-cutting technique of jianzhi in the design of the dial. That delicate motif is seen in the floral backdrop which is achieved by first engraving the platinum and 18K 5N pink gold dials, and then covering them in enamel. The intensity of the bronze- and blue-tones of the enamel is achieved through a style called Grand Feu which sees the artisans applying multiple layers and baking the dials at temperatures of between 800 and 900 degrees Celsius. The dog zodiac, meanwhile, is hand-engraved to achieve a super three-dimensional effect. Limited to 12 pieces per style.
How much: $157,100 and $190,900 for the 18K pink gold and platinum models respectively.
For Akita admirers
What: Chopard’s L.U.C XP Urushi Year of the Dog, an 18K rose gold automatic watch that comes with two barrels to provide a total power reserve of 65 hours.
Why it matters: The regal motif of the Japanese breed is, simply put, a work of art. The lacquered dial is the masterpiece of an Urushi (FYI: an ancient lacquer technique practiced by a few in Japan today) pro. Chopard turns to the Yamada Heiando company, the official purveyor to the Japanese imperial family for the task. To give the dial design more depth, the artist has depicted a lush setting complete with wild orchids and a dragonfly — a lucky charm and a good omen. Limited to 88 pieces.
How much: $34,220
For Labrador maniacs
What: Piaget’s Altiplano Chinese Zodiac, an 18K white gold piece studded with 78 brilliant-cut diamonds.
Why it matters: Because this piece ticks the trend for ultra-thin watches and features the work of world-renowned enameller guru Anita Porchet. Just like the work of a master painter, Porchet’s deft nuances and touch are evident in the highly textured details and shades of greys. Notice the dog’s life-like fur. Limited to just 38 pieces.
How much: Price upon request.