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When it comes to trends in the world of watches, it’s a bit of monkey see, monkey do. That’s why watches inspired by the Chinese New Year never come alone. As a new Chinese year begins – on 8 February 2016 to be precise – it’s the monkey’s turn to shine. Vacheron Constantin, Jaquet Droz, Chopard, Harry Winston and Ulysse Nardin are just a few of the many maison who celebrate the Year of the Monkey by launching a monkey inspired watch.

Jaquet Droz celebrates its historic ties with China by introducing two models for the Year of the Monkey – each available in two versions. Both models are based on the Jaquet Droz Petite Heure Minute. The Petite Heure Minute Monkey has a ivory Grand Feu enamel dial which is used as a white cancas. You can see an Asian monkey – the symbol of intelligence and long life – trying to pick a peach out of the peach tree (Chinese people traditionally give peaches as a welcome gift or a symbol of eternal life, while peach trees signify long life and their branches are used to chase away evil spirits). This painted masterpiece is presented in a red gold case measuring 35 or 39 mm, with the smaller version boasting a setting of brilliant-cut diamonds. The Petite Heure Minute Relief Monkey has a lacquer and mother-of-pearl dial with a monkey sculpted in gold on it, with a peach tree on the background. This little artwork is shown in a red gold case or a white gold case set with diamonds. All four watches boast a self-winding movement with 68-hour power reserve and are available in a limited edition of 28 pieces.

The monkey – one of 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac – also shines on the exceptional Urushi lacquered dial of the Chopard L.U.C XP Urushi Year of the Monkey watch. The red-coated monkey is gathering eight peaches, a traditional Chinese theme which symbolizes good health (peach) and good fortune (number eight) – which you can also see on the dial of the Jaquet Droz ‘Year of the Monkey’ watches. The soft tones on the background make the dial a perfect match with the rose gold of the case. For creating the dial, the maki-e technique is used. Maki-e (meaning: sprinkled picture) is a traditional multi-layered lacquering technique. Herefore, the sap of the rare Rhus Vernicuflua tree (also known as urushi tree or Japanese varnish tree) is used. To create the dial, Chopard has worked with the Japanese firm Yamada Heiando. The exceptional dial is housed in an L.U.C XP case in pink gold. Inside, the limited edition watch is powered by the self-winding L.U.C Calibre 96.17-L.

Jianzhi or Scherenschnitt

Vacheron Constantin enriched its Métiers d’Art ‘La légende du zodiaque chinois’ series with the sign of the monkey. The Swiss brand has cultivated ties with China since 1845. China first introduced the paper-cutting technique Jianzhi, which is echoed in Swiss famous Scherenschnitt paper-cutting. This artistic approach is highlighted in this watch serie with the sign of the monkey. On the Grand Feu enamelled dial (blue or bronze-toned) appears the foliage motif, which is etched directly in the metal. The monkey, made in platinum or gold, is hand engraved and directly applied to the dial centre. The time display is achieved through four apertures showing the hours, minutes, dates and days at 11, 1, 5 and 7 o’clock. A Caliber 2460 G4 makes it possible to give the central motif a starring role. The movement is visible through the sapphire crystal back of the platinum or pink gold case. Each reference is limited to 12 pieces.

The monkey on the Harry Winston Premier Monkey Automatic 36 mm watch is also cut out of gold using the paper-cutting technique Jianzhi. The small marquise-cut openworked monkey with a diamond eye wrapped his tail around an emerald-cut diamond at 12 o’clock. The animal that represents wit and inteligence, is surrounded by a pink mother-of-pearl background with one by one inlaid 24 carat gold flecks, so it makes a dazzling impression. But there is more sparkle added to the watch: the bezel, lugs and buckle are set with 74 brilliant-cut diamonds. This timepiece is driven by a mechanical automatic movement which is visible through the sapphire cystal on the case back. All of this is presented in a rose gold case that measures 36 mm and is secured by a stylish black satin strap. Only 8 pieces are available of this limited edition piece.

Strip-like style

Ulysse Nardin honors the monkey with the Cheerful Year of the Monkey timepiece, the latest addition to its Classico Collection. The dial is designed in a comic book-like style to best capture the lively character of the monkey who appears to leap through a brush of palm fronds. His expression is alert, his body lithe and the early workings of an impish grin begin to emerge. It is the champlevé method of enameling that brings the artist’s sketch to life, which is mastered in-house at Donzé Cadrans. Ulysse Nardin is known for bringing this realism to its dials and this results in a joyful watch. This timepiece, limited to 88 pieces, is manufactured in 18-karat rose gold which features a self-winding UN-815 movement and COSC-certified chronometer.

Tags : ChopardHarry WinstonJaquet DrozUlysse NardinVacheron Constantin
Lex Stolk

The author Lex Stolk

Lex Stolk studied Journalism in Utrecht and it was during his time as a student he developed a passion for mechanical watches. He has spent his entire career in the publishing industry working for a wide range of publications before entering the watch world professionally seven years ago. His work for several watch publications made it possible for him to combine his love for both watches and magazines.