This year, a number of watch brands – they tend to be the same ones – pay tribute to the Chinese zodiac with watches dedicated to the animal of the year. They are generally given a métiers d’art treatment, and are often produced in limited series featuring the number 8 – a favourite number of the Chinese. 2018 is the Year of the Dog, the eleventh sign in the Chinese zodiac. Being born under the Sign of the Dog myself, and having two real-life examples at home, I was the obvious choice among the WorldTempus editorial team to draft this article, in which dogs feature almost more than watches.
The most obedient
Métiers d’Art La légende du zodiaque chinois année du chien © Vacheron Constantin
Vacheron Constantin’s dog, with its determined stare and alert posture, embodies loyalty and obedience. Hand-engraved to produce a highly realistic effect, the animal occupies the centre of the blue or bronze grand feu enamel dial decorated with foliage carved in relief to create an illusion of depth. The 40 mm Métiers d’Art La Légende du Zodiaque Chinois Année du Chien comes in red gold or platinum. It is fitted with the automatic manufacture movement 2460 G4, which displays dragging hours and minutes, days of the week and a jumping date, in four windows arranged around the dial.
The most loyal
Classico Dog © Ulysse Nardin
Ulysse Nardin’s Husky, striking a similar pose to Vacheron Constantin’s hound, looks more like a family pet, with his attentive gaze and fluffy coat, against the backdrop of a Chinese landscape. The dial is in grand feu and champlevé enamel. This Classico Dog 40 mm in rose gold, produced in a limited series of 88, houses the COSC-certified automatic UN-815 movement.C.
The most sophisticated
Petite Heure Minute Chien © Jaquet Droz
Looking at the dial of the Graham Geo.Graham Orrery Tourbillon, it’s easy to become confused as to what it is you’re seeing, although in fact the concept is rather straightforward. First would be the off-centered hands for the hours and the minutes that are why the item is well worth toting around on your wrist. Then, there is the tourbillon under the engraved cage which lends “haute horology” cred into the piece. From there, you have the more interesting astronomical acts that want to track the relative movements of the Earth, Moon, and Mars about one another, as well as sunlight. Heaven forbid you let the 72-hour power reserve wind down and need to reset this functionality yourself.One added purpose is a 100-year indicator on the rear of the watch on the movement. Around the periphery of the movement is a year scale to monitor the present year. Graham includes two additional discs together with the watch which may be installed by a watchmaker for two extra hundred year periods. Sometimes I really wish I had a time machine if only to see what is going on with those watches 290 years into the future.
Jaquet Droz has chosen the Pekinese, a lap dog which enjoyed almost sacred status in China’s imperial court, to represent the eleventh sign of the Chinese zodiac. The four Petite Heure Minute Chien and Petite Heure Minute Relief Chien timepieces are each produced in a limited run of 28. The first two rely upon miniature painting to create a naturalistic representation of the animal against a floral background, while the other two focus on relief engraving, and use semi-precious stones including cuprite and onyx, as well as mother-of-pearl. On the back, the oscillating weight of the Jaquet Droz 2653 calibre is decorated with another dog.
The most devoted
Chronofighter Vintage Nose Art Ltd Kelly © Graham
The white dog on the Chronofighter Vintage Nose Art Ltd Kelly by Graham, Kelly’s devoted companion, is somewhat sidelined by the pin-up dressed in a traditional Chinese dress, who casually ignores the begging canine. Its position between 3 and 4 o’clock is deliberate – these are the two lucky numbers (along with 9) of those born under the Sign of the Dog.
Classique 7145 Chow-Chow © Breguet
Breguet has chosen the most iconic Chinese breed for its Classique 7145 Chow-Chow, which features the favourite hunting dog of the emperors. The cuddly chow-chow, with its blue tongue, is engraved by Breguet’s artisans to one side of the delicate guilloché gold dial. The 40 mm white gold watch, just 8 of which will be produced, encloses the ultra-thin automatic Calibre 502.3, numbered and bearing the Breguet signature.
The most colourful
L.U.C XP Urishi Year of the Dog © Chopard
The Akita posing in the centre of the extra-flat L.U.C XP Urushi Year of the Dog by Chopard actually comes from Japan, as does urushi, the traditional lacquer technique used on the dial, which is made in Japan. The lacquer contains minuscule iridescent flecks, which lend a luminosity to the exquisitely delicate relief painting, bringing out the minutest details of the dog’s coat and the surrounding flowers. This 88-piece limited edition in rose gold is driven by the automatic L.U.C 96.17-L movement with twin barrels and an off-centre micro-rotor, providing a power reserve of 65 hours.
The most floral
Luminor 1950 Sealand 3 Days Automatic Acciaio 44mm © Officine Panerai
Panerai’s dog might come as a surprise to anyone not familiar with the previous 9 pieces produced by the Italian watchmaker as a tribute to the Chinese horoscope. Here, realism is discarded in favour of Chinese symbolism, represented by cherry blossom. The polished steel cover protecting the dial of the Luminor 1950 Sealand 3 Days Automatic Acciaio 44 mm is hand-engraved using the ancient technique of sparsello, which involves carving channels into the base material, which are then filled with gold wire. This model, also in a run of 88, is driven by the automatic P.9000 movement, manufactured entirely in-house by Panerai.
The most discreet
Calendrier Chinois Traditionnel © Blancpain
You have to look quite hard to find the dog on the dial of Blancpain’s Calendrier Chinois Traditionnel in white gold, in a limited run of 50. It has been banished to the small window at 12 o’clock, which displays the zodiac sign of the current year. As its name suggests, in addition to hours, minutes and the Gregorian calendar we use in the West, this timepiece also supplies the main indications of the Chinese lunar-solar calendar, in which each month begins with the new moon. The automatic 3638 movement requires no fewer than 464 components to drive the various displays and manage the irregular calendar cycles. Another dog is pictured on the white gold rotor.