Along with every other luxury industry, the watch world has played its part in cosying up to the mighty Chinese market in the past few years. Dragon imagery was ubiquitous in 2012, appearing on watch dials from almost every major brand, and this year in celebration of the Year of the Snake, the serpent takes centre stage. The latest incarnation comes in the form of the L.U.C XP Urushi Snake by Chopard. Housing the ultra-thin, mechanical self-winding L.U.C Calibre 96.17-L, the new watch showcases the Japanese art of Urushi with a hand-painted dial featuring a flowering bush, a symbol of good luck, with a golden snake coiled around it.
Urushi refers to paintings created with coloured lacquers, produced by mixing pigments with clear lacquer, a craft popularised in the 8th-century Nara period and refined during the 19th century. The lacquer is made from the sap of the Urushi tree or 'lacquer tree'. The resin can only be harvested once a year, and it then takes three to five years before it is ready to use.
The dial is created using Maki-e, a technique involving sprinkling a lacquered coating with metal powder - recently showcased by Vacheron Constantin in its Metier d'Art collection. The gold dust is applied using bamboo tubes and small natural-hair brushes - a very rare art and today few specialists still practise it.
The 39.5mm rose-gold case is just 6.8mm thick, but clever design of the L.U.C Calibre 96.17-L, involving an off-centred micro-rotor, means that is equipped with two barrels that give a 65-hour power reserve.
And the good news for lovers of all things Eastern is that the Chinese zodiac comprises 12 symbols in total - all of them animals - so there's still a long way to go before Switzerland's finest run out of ideas!
Further information: www.chopard.com