Next Monday, February 8, marks the start of the New Year on the traditional Chinese calendar, the Year of the Monkey. As in the past, several luxury watch brands — particularly those with a large following in Asia — have produced special timepieces to commemorate it. Here we look at nine new models from six brands.
The Chopard L.U.C. XP Urushi “Year of the Monkey” features a decorative, Urushi lacquered dial, hand-crafted in Japan by a renowned master of that ancient art. The dial depicts a red-coated monkey perched on a branch gathering peaches, eight of them in all. (Peaches symbolize good health in Chinese culture and the number eight symbolizes luck.) Below the monkey in the tree is a warm scene of a golden valley that echoes the tones of the rose-gold case.
Urushi, which originates from the sap of a certain Japanese tree, is a transparent lacquer that is applied in a series of extremely fine layers that imprison the gold dust used in the Maki-e decoarative technique. To create this dial, Chopard selected master Urushi artist Minori Koizumi; to supervise the extremely small series, the brand enlisted the services of Master Kilchiro Masumura, widely acknowledged as the finest exponent of his art, and the firm Yamada Heiando, official purveyor to the Japanese imperial family.
The watch, at 39.50 mm in diameter and a slender 6.8 mm thick, contains the ultra-thin L.U.C. Caliber 96.17-L, with automatic winding from a 22k gold micro-rotor and a 65-hour power reserve stored in two barrels. It comes on a hand-sewn alligator leather strap, with Alvasel lining and a rose-gold pin buckle, and is presented in a special octagon-shaped box decorated with Urushi and Maki-e techniques.
For its Jaquet Droz Petite Heure Minute Monkey and Petite Heure Minute Relief Monkey models, the brand named for timepiece visionary Pierre Jaquet-Droz turned to the legend of Sun Wakong, the so-called Monkey King. One of the most enduring characters in Chinese culture, Sun Wakong was appointed to watch over the Garden of Celestial Peaches but instead ate the sacred peaches to attain immortality (leading to the Chinese tradition of giving peaches as a symbols of eternal life). Beneath its off-center subdial, the Petite Heure Monkey depicts on its white grand feu enamel dial a monkey leaping onto a branch to pick a peach. This watch, with a rose-gold case, is available in two sizes, 35 mm or 39 mm in diameter (the smaller model has a bezel set with brilliant-cut diamonds). Both are equipped with automatic movements, visible through clear casebacks, with meticulously sculpted rotors also visually depicting the Monkey King legend.