Fratello’s Top 5 Chinese New Year Watches — Featuring Jaeger-LeCoultre, Breguet, Blancpain, And More
Another Friday, another Top 5! This week, we’ll focus on watches that celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year. Tomorrow is the start of the Year of the Dragon, which prompted many watch brands to release amazing limited-edition pieces depicting the animal that symbolizes luck, prosperity, and wisdom. The dragon is also an imperial icon that embodies life and immortality, and this majestic creature’s flowing form provides a perfect opportunity for watch brands to show their incredible skills and craftsmanship. It has led to a stream of dragon-themed watches in the past few weeks. We have selected our five favorites that are the perfect watches to celebrate the Chinese New Year in style.
If we were to compile a list of all the different Chinese New Year releases, it would be quite an undertaking. A quick search reveals that roughly 20 brands graced us with a new release celebrating the occasion this year. Equivalent to the year 4722 in the Chinese calendar, 2024 marks the Year of the Wood Dragon. It’s a great chance to go all out and make the dragon the focus of some dazzling horological creations. As a result, in this list, you will see several richly decorated, impressive timepieces with high-end materials, striking colors, and incredible craftsmanship. Now, without further ado, let’s get into this Top 5!
Breguet Classique Double Tourbillon Dragon 5345PT Special Edition
To celebrate the Year of the Dragon, Breguet created two different timepieces. Both of them are mindblowing, but we picked the Classique Double Tourbillon Dragon 5345PT Special Edition as the first watch on this list. Many of us will know that Abraham-Loius Breguet invented the tourbillon to compensate for the effects of gravity on the movement, and it has gone on to become the brand’s most illustrious “complication” or mechanism. In 2006, Breguet introduced a stunner with the Classique Grande Complication ref. 5347. The watch featured two rotating tourbillon cages, a first for the brand, and it inspired the stunning Classique Double Tourbillon 5345 Quai De L’Horloge that came out in 2020.
The new Classique Double Tourbillon Dragon 5345PT Special Edition is the same model but has a different theme. This watch features a rotating central plate with two tourbillon cages mounted on it. The plate simultaneously sets the hour hand into motion. The hour hand is the upper bridge for one of the two tourbillons. Additionally, its extension serves as the bridge for the second. Connecting the two tourbillons are differential gears that determine the mean rate and drive the rotation of the entire mechanism. The tourbillons, however, rotate independently, with each one making a full rotation every minute thanks to its gear train and barrel.
Extraordinary levels of craftsmanship
A fully hand-engraved gold dragon secured to the two barrel bridges gracefully flows between the two tourbillons. Looking closely, we see that the dragon is clutching a pearl made of mother-of-pearl in its talons. According to the legend, this pearl possesses the sacred essence that powers the dragon. The different elements of the movement that are on display on the front and the back boast meticulous finishing. They include the rhodium-plated gold rotating plate with a hand-guilloché fan motif and the gold bridge below the mainplate, which received an anthracite galvanic treatment and Clous de Paris guilloché.
The stunningly detailed execution continues with the Roman numerals and minute track on an outer sapphire disc. These laser-engraved indicators have received a black varnish treatment to make them stand out and cast a shadow on the metal ring below. The caliber at the center of this technical wizardry is the 749-component Breguet 588N1. This hand-wound movement operates at 2.5Hz or 18,000vph and offers a 60-hour power reserve. Breguet has placed it inside a 46mm platinum case that measures 16.8mm thick. If you pay the €819,000 price for this piece, you can change the shape and color of the dragon to your wishes. On top of that, you can also change the color of the Roman numerals, the hands, and the leather strap to personalize this impressive piece.
Blancpain Villeret Traditional Chinese Calendar 2024
Blancpain is a brand that has made a tradition of releasing a timepiece for every Chinese New Year. The brand debuted its first piece in this now-annual series in 2012. It combined a complex Chinese calendar and a Gregorian date and moonphase indicator. The animals of the Chinese zodiac cycle make up a 12-year cycle, so we have now seen all the animals in a Blancpain limited edition. To commemorate the start of the second 12-year cycle, the dragon returns to the Villeret Traditional Chinese Calendar. This time, the 2024 edition has a 45mm red gold case and a beautiful dark green Grand Feu enamel dial.
On the dial, you will find the Chinese calendar displayed via the three sub-dials with four dedicated hands, a zodiac window, and a leap-month window. The elements indicate the Chinese hours (120 minutes), the 60-year cycle of the elements, and Yin/Yang, the 12-year cycle of the zodiac, the Chinese days, months, and leap months. The centrally mounted hands display the Gregorian time and date. Additionally, the watch offers a moonphase indicator at 6 o’clock with Blancpain’s traditional smiling rendition of the celestial body.
A movement five years in the making
Turning the watch around will give you a good view of the automatic caliber 3638. The movement consists of 464 parts and, thanks to three mainspring barrels, features a seven-day power reserve. Prominently visible is the dragon engraved in relief on the red gold rotor. Flanking it is a red ruby on the left and the Chinese characters for “wood dragon” (甲辰 jiǎ chén) on the right. On the case back, you will also find correctors for the calendar functions. They are placed on the underside of the lugs and can be operated with your fingertips. Blancpain will produce this special watch in a 50-piece limited series, with each example priced at a little over €70,000.
Jaquet Droz Imperial Dragon Automaton Red Gold
Jaquet Droz has a special historical connection to the dragon. Specifically, the brand’s founder was one of the earliest official suppliers to the Imperial Court of China 280 years ago. With this new Jaquet Droz Imperial Dragon Automaton Red Gold, the brand celebrates that special connection in style. This special timepiece features an animated dragon on the dial. Responsible for this unique display are John Howe, conceptual designer for the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the master sculptors, painters, and engravers at Jaquet Droz. The result is stunning, featuring a dragon animated with nine different movements. On top of that, the level of detailing is simply stellar.
The watch features a 43mm rose gold case with a heavily domed sapphire. It protects a hand-painted cuprite dial. Cuprite is a bright red stone that represents the fire of the dragon. However, the dignified beast is also associated with rain, which is why the artisans at Jaquet Droz manually painted a series of clouds around the dragon’s head and tail in gold and ocher. The 18K gold dragon is beautifully detailed, with two mustache tendrils pointing upwards, a full beard, and gently rounded teeth. Every scale on the animal’s body is shaped and patinated by hand for stunning results.
The animated dragon steals the show
The dragon’s claws hold a ball of red jasper. This stone is thought to attract success and abundance, and it perfectly suits the dial’s color. In a brilliant twist, the dragon is animated thanks to the mechanical automaton movement. The series of nine different animations is activated with a button on the side of the case and lasts roughly 15 seconds. The claws that hold the constantly rotating red jasper ball, the tongue, spine, tip of the tail, eyes, and lower jaw of the dragon all move. They create a wonderful display of mechanical wizardry.
You can see the 19 moving parts that make it possible thanks to cutouts just above the ball and at 3 o’clock. To make it even more impressive, the automatic caliber 6150 that powers the watch will change the sequence of the animation every time it is activated. This ensures that the owner of this one-off piece will witness the magic of the dragon differently almost every time. The future owner will have to pay CHF 363,000 for this piece but will receive a wonderful display of mechanical magic.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Enamel “Dragon”
If you didn’t know any better, you’d probably think that our next pick is a normal Reverso. But this special Reverso Tribute Enamel “Dragon” has a wonderful surprise in store. The watch features a pink gold case that measures 27.4mm wide, 45.6mm long, and 9.73mm thick. Jaeger-LeCoultre has paired it with an opaque black Grand Feu enamel dial with pink gold markers and hands. The result is super stylish and probably my favorite execution of the Reverso Tribute models.
When you flip the case around, you are in for a treat. Following the example on the front, the rear also has an opaque black Grand Feu enamel rectangle. Leaping out of the black background, however, is a majestic dragon surrounded by clouds, beautifully engraved into the pink gold case. The engraving shows a high level of detail and features a mix of finishes. For example, the dragon’s body is polished, its scales are drawn by hand with black rhodium, and the clouds feature a sandblasted texture. As a result, the beautiful image comes to life when the light reflects off of it.
A beautiful celebration of enameling and engraving
Powering this watch is the in-house-produced caliber 822. This hand-winding movement operates at 21,600vph and has a 42-hour power reserve. It is a nice movement, but that is not what the watch is about. This follow-up to 2022’s Reverso Tribute Enamel “Tiger” is a beautiful piece that stands out in this list because it isn’t obvious. It celebrates the upcoming Year of the Dragon subtly with a beautiful engraving on the backside rather than making it part of the dial.
For this reason, I love this piece a lot. Unfortunately for me but also understandably, this magnificent made-to-order Reverso Tribute Enamel Dragon is not cheap, coming in at US$107,000.
Vacheron Constantin Métiers d’Art The Legend of the Chinese Zodiac – Year of the Dragon
Without a doubt, our last pick for this list has the longest name of them all. But the timepieces that bear that long name are at least as impressive. That’s right; the Vacheron Constantin Métiers d’Art The Legend of the Chinese Zodiac – Year of the Dragon is not one but two timepieces. They were unveiled at Watches and Wonders Shanghai in September, so some might have forgotten about them already. Following the previous four pieces, these two watches combine the arts of enameling and engraving for spectacular results.
In the first step, the enameled gold dials are created with decorations of clouds and air flows inspired by traditional Chinese motifs. Next, the hand-engraved and incredibly detailed dragon, which measures only 1mm thin, is placed on top of the dial. This helps to give these 40mm watches a reasonable 12.72mm thickness, keeping the proportions nice. The first of the two 25-piece limited editions is a 950 platinum version with a blue Grand Feu enamel dial. The second features a pink gold case and a brown Grand Feu enamel dial. The dragons on both pieces match the case color, ensuring the overall color scheme looks super classy.
An exclusive movement that gives the dragon room to shine
Both pieces utilize Vacheron Constantin’s in-house self-winding caliber 2460 G4. The brand uses this special movement exclusively in its Métiers d’Art models. It displays the hours and minutes in two apertures on the top half of the dial and the day and date in two other windows on the bottom half. The unique construction of this caliber allows the dragon to take center stage without any obstruction.
If you turn the watches around, you will be greeted by the 22K gold winding rotor decorated with a motif inspired by Vacheron Constantin’s Maltese Cross emblem. Lastly, as with all the other picks on this list, the prices for these impressive timepieces are steep. The pink gold version costs US$112,000, while the price of the platinum version is available on request.
Final thoughts on the top five Chinese New Year watches
There you have it — five stunning pieces celebrating the Year of the Dragon in style. And these five watches are just the tip of the iceberg. As I mentioned, there have been many different models from various brands. Most of them are super expensive and display fantastic decorative skills combined with horological wizardry. But I would like to turn it over to you. What are your thoughts on these watches, and which is your favorite of the five models mentioned? Or perhaps we forgot a brilliant piece that should have made the list. Let us know in the comments section what your top pick would be, and we will see you again for a new list next week!