As Nature’s timekeeper, the majestic rooster lets loose his sacred song at every new dawn, hollering at the world to rise and shine. It is therefore the most evocative of the passage of time among all the totemic animals of the Chinese zodiac, giving potency to the watchmakers’ yearly tradition of depicting these beasts in a series of limited timepieces (at least for 2017). With its head held high and feathers puffed out, the fearless fowl even makes the perfect subject to express the array of splendid métiers d’art commonly seen in these watches.
The Chopard L.U.C XP Urushi “Year of the Rooster” captures the cockerel doing his divine duty using Japanese lacquer enriched with mother-of-pearl marquetry. Designed and supervised by Urushi master Kiichiro Masumura — acknowledged as the finest proponent of the art — thin layers of precious lacquer are applied meticulously to paint a picturesque sunrise, upon which the bird stands surrounded by eight gladioli (symbolising good luck), its head arched towards the heavens in mid-caw. Embedded mother-of-pearl fragments add their iridescence to the scene.
Ulysse Nardin brings to life the rooster’s fiery disposition with its in-house mastery of the centuries-old craft of champlevé enamelling. Done at its Donzé Cadrans dial manufacture, the technique involves carving cells directly on the dial, then filling it with enamel and firing it repeatedly until the desired depth of colour is achieved. A brilliantly coloured cock emerges — with blue plumage, a white head and a bold red comb, all outlined in gold — swaggering into a field of golden flowers at flaming daybreak.
Continuing its Métiers d’Art “The legend of the Chinese zodiac” series, Vacheron Constantin once again portrays the prevailing sign through an alliance of artistic crafts. The rooster, sculpted and hand-engraved in platinum or pink gold, takes pride of place at the centre of a blue or bronze-toned grand feu enamel dial, while the surrounding foliage is etched to resemble the Chinese paper-cutting technique Jianzhi. A hands-free time display leaves plenty of space for the decorative mise-en-scène, with four surrounding apertures showing the hours, minutes, days and dates.
Finally, Jaquet Droz offers two rooster renditions on its iconic Petite Heure Minute, whose dial design provides a blank canvas. One is a miniature painting; hand-painted using grand feu enamel in a watercolour style that echoes Chinese calligraphy masterpieces, the animal is caught mid-strut as it enters a copse of bamboo and peonies with a curious aspect. The other is a miniature sculpture of the bird in its calling position, feathers magnificently ruffled in volumes of red gold. The dial is a monochromatic backdrop inlaid with hand-engraved jadeite and mother-of-pearl, to better contrast the creature’s radiance.
‘Cock a Doodle’ written by Yong Wei Jian, published in February 2017 issue