The most sublime artistic watches of 2015 are replete with motifs dear to Asia. Our friends at WOW curated this list of the 10 best examples, featuring a showcase of artisanal techniques in watchmaking such as champlevé enamelling but also incorporating outside crafts such as Aka-e painting.
Travel back in time to ancient Kyoto with the 39.5mm Slim d’Hermès Koma Kurabe watch (pictured above), named after the famous millennial-old horse race at the Kamigamo Shrine. Fine French porcelain is further exalted with the Japanese art of Aka-e painting, under the expert brush of master Buzan Fukushima from Kutani in the Ishikawa Prefecture. One of the rare artisans who still practice this technique, Fukushima deftly paints on subtly graded shades of red and ochre, which he coats with a fine layer of gold before firing it three times. The watch also features the mechanical self-winding H1950 movement.
Honouring the Chinese Year of the Goat is this Petite Heure Minute Relief Goats, which features three goats carved out of white gold springing from the summit of an imaginary mountain. In the backdrop is a stylised dial evoking the motif of the plum blossom through champlevé enamelling of white and Jaquet Droz’s signature blue, with the finished result resembling an exquisite piece of Chinese paper cutting. This 41mm timepiece is endowed with a self-winding mechanical movement.
Also paying homage to the Chinese zodiac, the Altiplano Enamelled Cloisonné Goat watch displays the talent of world-renowned independent enamel artist Anita Porchet, who created this Grand Feu cloisonné enamel dial in soft shades of grey. The tones on the magnificent buck were painstakingly graded from intense to lighter nuances, while the ethereal background brings to mind a cloud-streaked sky over a mountain range. Housed within the 38mm watch is the Piaget 430P mechanical manual-winding movement.
VAN CLEEF & ARPELS
A work of superlative savoir faire and craftsmanship, this Palais de la Chance Carpe Koï high jewelry bracelet watch is a tribute to Japanese culture, of which the koi is a symbol of love, life, and serenity. Requiring 3,450 hours of meticulous work, it is set with 8,000 colored stones that includes diamonds, spessartite garnets, and yellow sapphires for the body; black spinels for eyes; and Paraiba-like tourmalines and diamonds for the water motif. The bracelet of this watch, which is powered by a quartz movement, is unfastened by pressing on the koi’s tail.
Beautifully captured on the dial of the Lumières d’Eau Parure 11 watch is the elegance and grace of the carp, which in Chinese mythology is a symbol of success for its ability to transform into a dragon. It features four fish made of engraved yellow gold with blue sapphires for eyes, gliding across softly swirling water represented by a cream-colored lacquered dial set with brilliant diamonds for ripples. The long tails of the fish extend out over part of the bezel, the rest of which is set with 183 brilliant diamonds. The piece is powered by a Swiss mechanical self-winding movement.
The Hindu god of Ganesh is superbly immortalized on the dial of this Villeret Shakudo watch. Shakudo, which is a historical technique Japanese in origin, refers to an alloy principally composed of copper and gold that acquires a dark patina between blue and black. The 45mm timepiece also features engraving and damascening, which is another old technique that involves inlaying precious metals, in this case gold, into a base metal. It is endowed with the manual-winding Calibre 15B mechanical movement.
Named after an ancient Mesoamerican feathered serpent, which is a deity of the summer winds and a protector of artisans, the DB25 Quetzalcoatl flaunts a solid gold dial sculpted by engraver Michèle Rothen. The head of the coiled snake at the center points to the hour, while its tail indicates the minutes. The hour markers resemble a series of temples viewed from the sky, while a circular guilloché motif makes the watch glow. Beating at the heart of this 44mm watch is the manual-winding Calibre DB2005.
The watchmaker’s legendary linear movement is paired up with a mythical creature, the dragon, to give us the audacious Golden Bridge Dragon. Immaculate hand-engraving work taking more than two weeks transforms a mold-poured piece of white gold into an incredibly detailed, three-dimensional piece of art. The dragon’s sinuous silhouette, which wraps around the movement without actually touching it, is covered with tiny depth-effect scales, and given impressive claws and a pearl-tipped tail. Encased within the 34mm x 51mm watch, with a bezel and lugs adorned with baguette diamonds, is the CO113 manual-winding movement.
The ancestral damascene technique is used on the dial of this Rotonde de Cartier 42mm to depict the amazingly life-like and detailed head of a majestic panther, which represents ferocity and strength to the Chinese. Wires in rose, yellow and white gold were hammered into troughs cut into a gold base, while the feline’s nose and spots were painted with black lacquer. Black onyx forms the background of the watch, which is equipped with the manual-winding mechanical movement 9601 MC.
Text by Yanni Tan
Illustrations by Irene Arifin