In 2022, Feb 1 marks the beginning of the Chinese lunar year of the Tiger. In Chinese astrology, it is believed that the Tiger represents courage and leadership, and that its year tends to see major changes and plenty of excitement (we’re hoping it’s the good kind). In terms of aesthetics, the tiger is also one of the more glamorous creatures in the Chinese zodiac, lending itself beautifully to different artistic interpretations in the latest streak of Tiger-themed timepieces. Here’s a closer look.
Using two-centuries-old methods of enamelling (champleve and paillonne enamelling), an artist’s sketch is brought to life by way of a meticulous decorative technique done by hand. Powered by the UN-815 movement, the 40mm Classico “Tiger” also has a self-winding movement with a 42-hour power reserve and an open sapphire case back.
The majestic tiger comes to life on the dial of this ultra-thin Classique. Here, the 7145 comes with a combination of bas-relief engraving (a technique that involves carving motifs in super small dimensions) and Breguet’s signature guilloche. The house’s skilled engravers take a week to craft and decorate the tiger on each dial. One thing you need to look out for is the ultra-thin self-winding movement calibre 502.3, which was created in the 1960s is one of the thinnest automatic movements in production, complete with a 45-hour power reserve.
The iconic Carrera replicates the tiger’s stripes on the dial in a texturised blue finish with additional rose gold highlights on the indexes and hands. Aside from that, the back of the watch also showcases a striking figure of a blue tiger on the sapphire crystal. The Carrera Tiger also uses Tag Heuer’s in-house Calibre 5 Automatic movement with a 38-hour power reserve.
Piaget’s ultra-thin Altiplano zodiac timepiece features the work of renowned enamel artist Anita Porchet, who has depicted the majestic beast in cloisonne grand feu enamel on the dials of the 38-piece limited edition. It is housed in a 38mm white gold case.
The 4,000-year-old art of cloisonne involves transferring the design onto the surface using thin gold wires to create tiny partitions known as cloisons, into which different enamel pigments are placed. The dial has to be fired in the kiln multiple times at temperatures at or above 820 degrees Celsius, and is varnished when completed. It’s an image that will never fade or lose its sense of grandeur.
In a 40mm case in platinum or pink gold, Vacheron Constantin’s Chinese zodiac watch features a hand-engraved, applied tiger in platinum or pink gold. With a cut-out style inspired by the Chinese paper-cutting art of jianzhi, the leafy background is engraved on the 18K gold dial.
The blue or brown colour of the dial is created using grand feu enamel, where pigments are applied in careful layers and the dial is repeatedly fired at high temperatures.
For its tiger-themed timepiece, Harry Winston has taken the soft-power route. Taking centre stage are two playful tiger cubs crafted from rose gold, with cut-outs filled with red mother-of-pearl representing their stripes. The dial also features three gold rosettes with a diamond at their centre — reflecting the patterns on the wrought iron gates leading to the brand’s flagship salon in New York City. It’s all housed in a 36mm rose gold case set with 57 brilliant-cut diamonds.
Housed in a 45mm platinum case, Blancpain’s self-winding Traditional Chinese Calendar features Chinese lunisolar calendar displays on a white grand feu enamel dial. The tiger is present in two no-so-obvious ways.
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Firstly, a discreet motif appears at 12 o’clock, and is one of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac represented on an adjustable disc. The second, larger tiger is engraved on the rotor and can be spotted through the sapphire caseback.
Chopard’s Chinese zodiac timepiece features an evocative tableau, with a majestic tiger standing above a bay surrounded by cliffs on a starlit night. The scene is crafted by master lacquer artist Minori Koizumi using the Japanese art of urushi maki-e, where gold flakes are placed between layers of lacquer made from the sap of the Chinese lacquer tree. The self-winding watch is presented in a 39.5mm, ultra-thin rose gold case.
This article was first published in The Peak Magazine.