In a contemporary East meets West representation, Chopard’s L.U.C XP Urushi collection has to rank among the most unique in watchmaking. The Swiss are known for their appreciation of rare arts and crafts realised on their timepieces.
Some of us are familiar with lacquering and enamelling techniques lavished upon dials of the truly luxurious timepieces. Chopard is one such advocate in perpetuating this form of craftsmanship, which is in perils, in a world ruled by automation and streamlined operations. While there is no denying that technology has helped create a new frontier for watch brands, especially in the pursuit of precision and reliability, Chopard has made it its purpose to also preserve artistry, as evident in the Urushi collection.
What renders this collection unique is not only that it appears as we approach Chinese New Year, or Lunar New Year to those who also celebrate their new year around this time, it is a homage the maison pays annually to its clientele whose heritage can be traced to this part of the world. The earnest respect Chopard reserves for Asian watch collectors is materialised in this timepiece that straddles Swiss watchmaking and Asian values. It is a dedicated collection that celebrates our identity.
L.U.C XP Urushi Year of the Ox
The continuation of a narrative Chopard conceived in 2013, the L.U.C XP Urushi Year of the Ox suitably features the ox. The bovine is recognised for its hardworking nature and folks born in the year of the ox are similarly known for their diligent, conscientious characters. It is up to this day still an animal that contributes tremendously to society through agriculture. As a result, much of the fortune of society rests on the ox.
Staying faithful to the collection, Chopard works intimately with the best Japanese lacquer artisans specialising in crafting dials using the traditional Urushi lacquer technique. Produced by the workshops of the century-old Yamada Heiando company, the dial is made by the venerated master lacquer artist Minori Koizumi.
The realisation of the dial calls for dexterity, immersion and of course know-how perfected with time. Captured between the layers of lacquer drawn from the sap of the toxicodendron vernicifluum tree, the Urushi decorative technique of Maki-e brings gold flakes to life where the vivid background depicts a golden ox with straight horns and an abundant coat, harnessed to a wagon. The agricultural symbolism comprises gold, mother-of-pearl and coloured lacquer, and expertly tucks away a subtle imagery of the emperor.
The finesse exhibited on the dial is commensurate with a fine, ultra-thin L.U.C 96.17-L in-house automatic movement boasting a commendable 65 hours of power reserve. The eventuality of which is a 39.5mm timepiece sheathed in 18k ethical rose gold, measuring a mere 6.8mm in thickness, and limited to 88 pieces.
L.U.C XP Urushi Spirit of Shí Chen
What came as a pleasant surprise as I didn’t expect a second Urushi timepiece, happens to be the first L.U.C to display Shí Chen. While the Year of the Ox timepiece walks a delicate balance between an expressive dial and minimal functionality, the Spirit of Shí Chen fully embraces the traditional Chinese timekeeping system.
At the heart resides a golden, embossed emblem of the deity dedicated to prosperity, Lu Ying. Along with Fu Xing and Shou Xing, which respectively exemplify happiness and longevity, the trio sum up the characteristics of a sated life. Lu Ying also refers to fame and influence. It is omnipresent in Chinese culture, where auspices, symbols and representations playing on the nature of ideograms are a way of life.
An idiosyncratic complication, the eye is naturally drawn towards the top arc displaying Shí Chen. It consists of 12 two- hour units, each represented by an animal from the zodiac cycle. The day thus begins at 11pm with the hour of the rat and ends with the hour of the pig, while noon is in the middle of the hour of the horse.
To enable the procession, the L.U.C 96.29-L automatic calibre has to be created by Chopard specifically from the 96 movement family, in order to equip a Shí Chen disc that completes a full rotation in 24 hours. The movement is endowed with 65 hours of power reserve. In addition, the dial and Shí Chen disc are graced with the distinctive Maki-e technique, whereby gold flakes are sprinkled between the layers of lacquer.
Just like other Chopard timepieces, this talismanic number is made of ethical gold, which in this case is 40mm ethical 18k rose gold. The Spirit of Shí Chen is produced in 88 pieces.
Limited editions often resonate with watch collectors, which are now made even more extraordinary as each example arrives once every 12 years due to the cultural tenet the timepiece has to abide. As far as personal opinion goes, I dare to wager both timepieces will equally appeal to gentlemen and ladies alike with its richness in plush details and a size that is undoubtedly evening wear ready. What better way to ring in the year of the ox?
This story is published in Prestige Malaysia’s March 2021 issue. To read the latest issue, pick up a copy from the nearest newsstand or subscribe on Magzter.