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The Art of Zodiac Shines upon Wrist

Johnny 2018-04-11 09:26

Watch dials are like miniature stages showing the vicissitudes of art and craftsmanship. This tiny, tiny world encapsulates the infinite wonders of the world and in the New Year, when the stage of watch dials welcomes the new “host” – the dog zodiac, a show of vividness will begin.



Of the painting techniques, Chinese painting has a say in the various methods of presenting characters and objects. In terms of the delicacy and elegance of visual effects, line drawing is the most refined technique. However, it is difficult to realize the same aesthetic effect on a tiny watch dial. Here we have a successful case presented by Panerai. On this watch the dog zodiac emerges in a gentle and elegant image, with black, white, and gold colours combined to express a simple but interesting taste, and resembles traditional Chinese year paintings. The dog on the dial is expertly created through the special “Sparsello” carving technique. This ingenious technique has a long history and prides itself with its extreme complexity. First, ditches are carved on the steel watchcase, then gold wires are implanted in a parallel manner; next the gold wires inlaid into the ditch. These gold wires vividly portrait the pattern of the dog zodiac and along with the decorative lines presents a spectacular scene of art. Since the Sparsello procedures must be finished after moderation and burnishing procedures of the watchcase, any minor mistakes would damage the whole case. Hence only the experienced expert masters are able to handle the job.



Japanese Maki-e

Zodiacs are also celebrated in traditional Japanese culture. As with China, dogs are also the symbol of justice, agility, and loyalty in Japan. These abstract features are fully interpreted in traditional Japanese Maki-e decoration. Maki-e refers to an ancient lacquer technique that gained its name from the Maki tree. This type of tree has a very limited yearly field of resin. After the resin is collected, three to five years later, it will be made into durable raw lacquer through maturation and processing. Multiple thin layers are then applied. Afterwards, Maki-e artisans would place shiny particles into the painting, giving the whole lacquer surface a magical glowing stereoscopic effect. Only a very limited number of Maki-e artisans are capable of this throughout the globe.


Chopard’s L.U.C XP Maki-e Wrist Watch is supervised and designed by the prestigious Japanese Maki-e expert– Kiichiro Masumara. Minori Koizumi, the lacquer master, is responsible for the painting procedure. Chopard also cooperated with Yamada Heiando, the Japanese Royal lacquer provider, to ensure the excellence of every single piece of their work.

Champleve Enamel

The dog is regarded as a tough, persevering, diligent, and brave animal and often impresses the world with their intelligence. Meanwhile, dogs are born to be loyal, reliable, and possess strong leadership. They are also kind to human beings and befriend us all their life. And to bring these characters vividly onto the watch, Ulysse Nardin adopted the special enamel technique.


The dial lively portrays a Husky running freely outdoors. The 100-year old enamel technique infuses the whole imagery with extraordinary details and vividness. The enamel is actually combined by two separate techniques – Grand Feu enamel and Champlevé enamel: the former fuses the melted enamel powder, while the latter first carves ditches on the metal dial, then paints with different colours of enamel mixture. The enamel, after heating and burnishing, will go through the last and the most complicated procedure. The carver will re-carve all the metal split lines to enhance the stereoscopic visual effect of the patterns.



Everyone says that art is a common language throughout the world. Well in the Métiers d’Art the Legend of Chinese Zodiac – Year of the Dog by Vacheron Constantin, the marvellous traits of the Swiss art of Scherenschnitt are given full attention. The gold dial carved with leaf patterns originated from traditional Chinese floral decorations, while the uneven cameos are carefully matched with semi-embedded design, resulting in a layered effect as if the carved plants are floating above the dial. With the aid of Grand Feu enamel technique, craftsmen spread several layers of enamel onto the dial, which vivifies the intensity of colours. In the 800 – 900 ℃ heating process, craftsmen are required to show their professional judgement in controlling the colour of enamel and the chemical reactions in the heating.


All these marvellous techniques enrich the dog zodiac with the charisma from different cultures. It’s not an exaggeration to say it’s a grand feast of art in the New Year. As they please our appreciating eyes, they also infuse hope to the coming year of the dog.

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