A couple of months out from a new Chinese (lunar) year and we have another new watch for the Chinese market. This time it’s Vacheron Constantin’s Métiers d’ Art collection, which is being expanded to include a new “The Legend of the Chinese Zodiac” series. These new watches will begin with a model to commemorate the year of the snake, which begins on February 10, 2013.
The incredibly detailed hand-engraved snake fixed in the middle of this watch’s gold enamelled dial is made using Grand Feu techniques, and it takes over thirty hours to create each snake. The leaf motif on the dial is etched directly into the metal and remains semi-embedded.
Grand Feu (high temperature) enamelling is done by applying enamel in successive layers, with firing in a kiln at around 800 to 900°C. It allows the achievement of a very pure and resistant enamel, and the use of high temperatures means that it is possible to show very precise details. A final firing operation that vitrifies the dial and results a shiny glazed effect.
As is the case with its new Métiers d’ Art collection older siblings, this watch looks stunning, and the artistry is gorgeous. In comparing it to the other ‘Métiers’, it almost seems as though Vacheron is getting more and more complex in terms of dial aesthetics.
How you feel about the actual designs of the ever increasing numbers of ‘Chinese market’ oriented watches is, of course, another issue, as are your thoughts on how watches aimed at this dominant geographical market segment should be designed in terms of how to incorporate the cultural reference in question. Some of the models that have come out in the last few years make little sense to me – putting an ‘8’, a lucky character or selecting some sort of historical iconography may work, but it also may be just a little too blatant.
But I digress. Inside the Snake is the automatic Calibre 2460 G4 movement with a 22 carat gold oscillating weight, and which is visible through the sapphire caseback.
Vacheron Constantin states that their relationship with China dates back to 1845, though there has obviously been the odd period during the intervening years when they haven’t been that active in China.
Although described by Vacheron as “hands-free, ” the watch’s use of digital window displays is not uncommon to the Manufacture. Being a fan of digital displays, this particularly appeals to me. The four windows which tell the hour, minutes, day and date.
The 40mm sized watch (12.74mm thick) is a nice unisex size, and available in two versions, 18-carat rose gold or platinum, and in two 12 piece limited editions available through the brand boutiques. Each zodiac year model will be similarly available in a limited edition of 12, and all of them will have ‘2013’ engraved on the back. The “Legend of Chinese Zodiac” series will be available exclusively at Vacheron Constantin boutiques.