Chopard has recently released not one but two Chinese New Year timepieces: the L.U.C XP Urushi Year of the Pig and the L.U.C Perpetual T Spirit. The latter is more likely appeal to a broader range of connoisseurs. The pig, after all, is not the most beautiful creature in the Chinese zodiac to grace a watch dial.
For the L.U.C Perpetual T Spirit, it’s the case that’s the star of the show. Every surface is hand-engraved using a champlevé engraving and polishing technique that takes 210 hours. Tiny cavities are painstakingly hollowed out of the gold to create motifs on the 18-karat Fairmined gold case sides and lugs. Volutes (delicate scroll and leaf patterns) surround carved depictions of not just the 2019 zodiac sign but all 12.
They are lined up in order as if marching across the frieze of an ancient stone portal: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. The bezel is also hand-engraved, in a pattern inspired by traditional Chinese ornamental scrolling. The dial is hand-engraved in a pattern resembling those engraved on the stones of Chinese temples. Case machining, finishing, engraving and even gold casting are done in-house by Chopard.
The inside is also meticulously finished. The L.U.C caliber 01.15-L bears the Poinçon de Genève hallmark, which means that every component of the movement – even the parts that will only be seen by a watchmaker – are given a fine finish. The hand-wound movement is a perpetual calendar with a tourbillon escapement and a nine-day power reserve. It is a unique piece, and its price is, naturally, available upon request.
But for those who are still going hog wild over this year’s Chinese zodiac theme, the Year of the Pig is a special piece, limited to just 88 models. Its dial was created by the master artisan Masumura Kiichiro, who is regarded as a living national treasure in Japan and considered one of the world’s finest practitioners of urushi. The technique, which is used for dials in watchmaking thanks to its golden sparkle, is made from urushi lacquer, which is harvested once a year in small quantities from East Asia’s native urushi tree.
Urushi is extremely durable (it was once used to coat the tips of spears), and it derives its shiny appearance when it absorbs moisture as it hardens. The colours are highly saturated and never fade. It is usually applied in 20 to 50 layers, which makes it an extremely time-consuming process. The L.U.C XP Urushi Year of the Pig’s urushi dial features a portly pig romping around in a colourful forest – if you’re into wearing that kind of thing on your wrist. The pig, on the other hand, is a respected symbol of generosity and abundance in Chinese culture – always enjoying the rewards of his hard work.