As Asian, and more specifically Chinese, consumers continue to grow in their affluence, luxury brands are likewise increasingly searching for inspiration for creations that will cater specifically to these markets. One tried and tested source is the animals of the Chinese Zodiac. 2013 marks the year of the Snake and so in the coming months you can expect to see a bevy of limited edition serpent-inspired timepieces hitting the market.
Of course they are going to have to be pretty amazing if they are to compete with Vacheron Constantin, who once again have set the bar impossibly high with the latest addition to their superb Métiers d’Art ‘the Legend of the Chinese Zodiac’ collection, simply called the Year of the Snake. Crafted in pink gold or platinum and issued in two 12-piece limited series exclusively available through the brand’s own-name Boutiques, these new creations will undoubtedly be in hot demand come the New Year.
A Magnificent Dial
The Year of the Snake is not overly complicated from a mechanical point of view – more on that later – however, it more than makes up for this with its superbly crafted dial. The delicately engraved leaf motif inspired by classic Chinese iconography has been etched directly into the metal of the dial however the subtle use of variously accentuated reliefs ensures that it still stands out from its gold base, giving the overall design more of a three-dimensional feel.
Of course, it’s not just the intricate engraving that makes this dial so special. After that exhaustive process has been completed it is time for the Grand Feu enameling stage to begin. The technique, invented in Geneva and perfected by an exclusive few, involves applying the enamel in successive layers, further enhancing the visual intensity of the blue or bronze-toned dial.
It is a painstaking process that demands constant vigilance as the enamel is fired in a kiln at around 800 to 900°C, leaving little room for error. Once the initial stages have been successfully completed a final layer of enamel is then applied before a final firing operation that vitrifies the dial and produces a shiny glazed effect that gives added definition to the floral motif.
As attractive as this leaf motif is however, the crowning glory is undeniably the coiled serpent waiting to strike from the center of the dial. According to the brand the crafting of the scales alone represents at least 30 hours of work by one of their skilled artisans. Once the enameling of the dial is complete this lifelike creature is delicately placed in its final resting place, angrily glaring out from beneath the sapphire crystal.
A Unique Display
The superb craftsmanship is not the only thing that stands out on the dial however. Another rather noticeable characteristic is the complete lack of hands. This is because the time and date indications are actually shown through four apertures arranged around the central dial motif. Starting from 11 o’clock and moving in a clockwise fashion the windows reveal the hour, the minutes, the day and the date. The first two indications are of the wandering kind, whilst the latter two are of the jumping type.
Powered by the Calibre 2460 G4, each component has been finished to a high standard, as reflected by the fact that the timepiece bears the Hallmark of Geneva, which thanks to recent updates now applies to the quality of the watch as a whole, as opposed to just the movement.
Pricing will be made available closer to the official launch date early next year.
The Final Word
Another superb creation from Vacheron Constantin that will undoubtedly be cherished by the chosen few who are lucky enough to call themselves owners, the Year of the Snake represents a meeting of East and West cultures. Sublime European craftsmanship has combined with Chinese astrology, resulting in the creation of something truly beautiful.