January 7, 2023
by David Bredan
As is customary for Chopard, and indeed a handful of Swiss luxury watchmakers, the celebration of the Chinese New Year and its respective assigned animal takes place with one or more spectacular limited editions. Doubtless finding their way to some of the most avid collectors of the brand, as well as those well-heeled customers, mainly in Asia, who are looking to wear a watch neatly decorated with their zodiac symbol, these Chopard L.U.C pieces tend to display a high level of artisanship. For the Year Of The Rabbit, the Chopard L.U.C XP sports an urushi lacquer dial, hand-painted with extraordinary care and precision in Japan. It is accompanied by the ever-playful Chopard Happy Sport Year Of The Rabbit with a mother-of-pearl dial.
The celebration and perpetuation of certain métiers d’art runs deep in Chopard, and that includes not only those — mostly decorative — techniques practiced in Switzerland, but sometimes far overseas. In this instance, the Chopard L.U.C XP Urushi Year Of The Rabbit watch features a dial crafted with the ancient art of Urushi lacquer and the Japanese Maki-e technique, crafted in the workshops of Yamada Heiando by master artisan Minori Koizumi, a Maki-e specialist. Maki-e adds gold flakes — flakes so tiny that it appears rather more like gold dust — to the lacquer for a vibrant and spectacular effect.
Made entirely by hand, using a variety of brushes and lacquers and some powerful magnification, the dials, Chopard says, have taken 160 hours to make — that is well over a month of laborious work where uncompromised concentration and dedication must be exercised 100% of the time. In front of a dark background, we see two frolicking rabbits, one gray and one red, dancing beneath a full moon and surrounded by Chinese olive trees, “a fragrant Asian native shrub symbolizing success and achievement, qualities often associated with the rabbit.” In the foundational legends of the zhānxīngshù system, the rabbit inhabits a jade moon, which it keeps company, representing prudence and agility — and with the pair’s sharp eyes and pricked ears, the wearer is reminded that the rabbit is always on the alert.
Needless to say, one must not picture a lacquered dial with some gold just sprinkled on top while it’s still wet and sticky. In accordance with the refined ancestral technique of Maki-e, the gold flakes are applied between different layers of lacquer made from the sap of the Toxicodendron vernicifluum tree, so that the resulting effect brightens up the scene through the illusion of glistening light. A pair of faceted, dauphine-style hands pass over the dial in the L.U.C XP, without any hour markers, let alone a date window, present to ruin the overall effect.
Presented in a 39.5mm-wide case in ethically sourced 18k rose gold, this special edition remains faithful to the dress watch values of the greater L.U.C XP collection. Powered by the L.U.C 96.17-L movement — and in-house caliber of Chopard with a 65-hour power reserve — the entire case measures just 6.80mm-thick, making this, with that dial, an ultimate dress watch, for sure.
The second watch Chopard debuts in celebration of the Year Of The Rabbit is the Chopard Happy Sport Year Of The Rabbit, presented in a 33mm-wide case in stainless steel and ethical 18k rose gold. As is expected from a Happy Sport, it relies on a special double-crystal construction on the front, and sandwiched in between the two are, in this instance, five gold-framed diamonds, all precisely adjusted in their height to create an unpredictable and fun sliding and spinning motion for each when provoked with the tiniest of movements. A diamond-set bezel and a painted mother-of-pearl dial are complemented by a gold crown and gold lug nuts — decorative, of course — and a deep red alligator strap. This compact Happy Sport is powered not by a quartz movement but by Chopard’s 09.01-C self-winding movement, on show through a sapphire crystal caseback.
Limited to just 88 pieces, the Chopard L.U.C XP Urushi Year Of The Rabbit watch (Ref. 161902-5077) is priced at $26,200. The Chopard Happy Sport Year Of The Rabbit watch (Ref. 278608-6011) is priced at $18,900. You can learn more at the brand’s website.