Year of the Rooster Luxury Watches: Something to Crow About


Aaron Sigmond | January 24, 2017

Serious collector pieces or a clever marketing ploy? A watch expert evaluates the craftsmanship and artistry of this year's special-edition Chinese New Year luxury watches.

As the luxury mechanical watch market in China (both mainland and Hong Kong) blossomed and matured over the past decade, Swiss manufactures took note and began to release limited-edition Chinese New Year timepieces depicting the zodiac animal for a given year.

Skeptics might see these novelties as a pandering or disingenuous marketing ploy, but most rightfully see them for what they are: an honor, a sign of respect toward a significant watch market. In 2017, the Year of the Rooster, a number of luxury watchmakersChopard, Jaquet Droz, Panerai, Piaget, Ulysse Nardin and Vacheron Constantin—are paying homage to the famed farm fowl.

What does a mechanical timepiece with this bird on the dial denote? The rooster is the 10th sign in the Chinese zodiac’s 12-year cycle, said to be a divine messenger who heralds the dawn and crows to chase away demons. People born in the year of rooster are honest, punctual, courageous, communicative and ambitious, yet they can be fickle and a bit of a flibbertigibbet. It’s also said that the rooster-born are attractive and well-dressed, but those attributes bring a degree of vanity. (It’s no surprise that roosters are happiest when they’re the center of attention.) Sounds to us, in other words, as though if you buy a rooster timepiece you’ll end up with a good-looking watch that will keep you squarely on time.


INSPIRATION: Chinese Zodiac—Year of the Fire Rooster

MODEL: L.U.C XP Urushi—Year of the Rooster

NUMBER OF CHINESE NEW YEAR EDITIONS: 5 (snake, horse, goat, monkey, and rooster)

NOTES: For a watch built with a decidedly masculine animal in mind, Chopard’s L.U.C XP Urushi is, to the Western eye, rather feminine, sporting a preponderance of plumage. None of which diminishes the artistic merit of this 39.5mm timepiece with an 18-karat gold case and an ultra-thin L.U.C 96.17-L calibre. Its style is a mashup: The symbol is Chinese, the Urushi lacquer dials were overseen by Japanese Living National Treasure Master Kiichiro Masumura and executed by Urushi Master Minori Koizumi, and the rest, of course, is Swiss haute horlogerie. Limited to 88 examples.


INSPIRATION: Chinese Zodiac—Year of the Fire Rooster

MODEL: Petite Heure Minute

NUMBER OF CHINESE NEW YEAR EDITIONS: 6 (dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, and rooster)

NOTES: There are four limited-edition Jaquet Droz Petite Heure Minute models (28 examples each) that pay tribute to the Fire Rooster—none of them are particularly compelling. The rooster with peonies here, painted on Grand Feu enamel dials, would be far more at home in a country kitchen than on one’s wrist, and the two miniature sculpture models are dreadfully tin-soldier-like despite having been carved in gold. All are powered by the Jaquet Droz 2653 self-winding mechanical calibre with a 22-karat red-gold oscillating weight with hand-engraved rooster appliqué—certainly the best bit of a disappointing collection.



INSPIRATION: Chinese Zodiac—Year of the Fire Rooster

MODEL: Luminor 1950 Sealand 3 Days Automatic Acciaio (Special Rooster Edition)

NUMBER OF CHINESE NEW YEAR EDITIONS: 9 (ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, and rooster)

NOTES: This special-edition (99 examples) Panerai Luminor 1950 Sealand is two things: one, the most hypermasculine watch in this entire guide; and two, the hands-down favorite. Why? Panerai didn’t try to make it something it’s not. This is an oversized (44mm) Italian/Swiss watch, hand-craved by Italian master engravers using the ancient technique sparsello, named after the special tool used here to decorate the cover. Nor is it some Jiangxi-come-lately; it’s Panerai’s ninth Chinese zodiac timepiece, meaning the company has just three more to go. This one’s powered by the in-house P.9000 automatic.


INSPIRATION: Chinese Zodiac—Year of the Fire Rooster

MODEL: Altiplano Chinese Zodiac

NUMBER OF CHINESE NEW YEAR EDITIONS: 6 (dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, and rooster)

NOTES: The Altiplano is yet another timepiece that exemplifies the métiers d’art of enameling (in this case, the cloisonné technique). This limited-edition watch (38 pieces)—in 18-karat white gold with a 38mm case and an ultra-thin manual-winding Piaget 430P movement and 78 brilliant-cut diamonds—offers perhaps the finest artistic interpretation of the rooster motif on its dial, executed in cloisonné enamel by Anita Porchet, a renowned enameller who frequently works with Piaget. For the appropriate wrist, this is a lovely piece.


INSPIRATION: Chinese Zodiac

MODEL: Piaget Polo Tourbillon Relatif


NOTES: This timepiece is a rare and remarkable thing: a one-of-a-kind (“unique” in watch parlance), crafted to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Tourbillon Relatif movement. The dial depicts all the animals of the Chinese zodiac by combining two decorative arts: champlevé Grand Feu enameling and hand engraving. On the case back, the Chinese symbol for longevity is engraved and then delicately enameled; inside is the 608P Tourbillon Relatif calibre. The hours are indicated by the central disc, the seconds by the carriage of the tourbillon, suspended above the dial on the minute hand. A true work of art that celebrates the rooster and his 11 zodiac brethren.

WATCHMAKER: Ulysse Nardin

INSPIRATION: Chinese Zodiac/Sheng Xiao—Year of the Rooster

MODEL: Classico Year of the Rooster

NUMBER OF CHINESE NEW YEAR EDITIONS: 6 (dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, and rooster)

NOTES: Another rooster watch with an enameled dial? Afraid so, but fret not: This one has personality, which, it is said, goes a long way. There’s just something about this limited-edition (88 examples) 18-karat rose-gold Ulysse Nardin, with a 40mm case and a COSC-certified, house-made, self-winding UN-815 movement. Its rooster motif, in champlevé enamel, is highly stylized and more interpretive than the others here. The gold strokes on the dial complements the shape of the case. There’s a wonderful symmetry at play here, and it all just works.

Zodiac coq platine cadran bleu

WATCHMAKER: Vacheron Constantin

INSPIRATION: Chinese Zodiac—Year of the Fire Rooster

MODEL: Métiers d’Art Legend of the Chinese Zodiac Year of the Rooster

NUMBER OF CHINESE NEW YEAR EDITIONS: 5 (snake, horse, goat, monkey, and rooster)

NOTES: If the sculptural Jaquet Droz was your cup of oolong, you’ll be fond of this as well. There are two, in 12 examples each—one with a 40mm case in rose gold, the other in platinum. On a mechanical level, this, like most Vacherons, is exceptional, far superior to most reviewed here. It boasts a Hallmark of Geneva house-manufactured movement: the fine finished automatic Calibre 2460 G4, with a hands-free display that presents minutes, hours, day and date through four apertures. The dial is rendered in Grand Feu enameling and engraving. It’s beautiful on the inside for sure; the rest is in the eye of the beholder.

All photos courtesy of watch brands.

This article was originally published in Jing Daily.

China | Jewellery | Watches