The increasing importance of China to the global luxury market in recent years has seen the rise of limited edition designs across the watch industry aimed directly at the Chinese market, especially models celebrating the Chinese New Year. In the traditional Chinese zodiac, 2021 is the Year of the Ox, traditionally auspicious and associated with stability, positivity, and hard work. To commemorate this, Chopard has released a new limited edition model honoring not only the Year of the Ox, but the traditional Chinese method of timekeeping known as Shí Chen. The limited edition Chopard L.U.C XP Urushi Spirit of Shí Chen combines the brand’s clean modern dress watch base with an array of traditional Asian techniques and motifs, along with a truly unique complication.
The 40mm case of the Chopard L.U.C XP Urushi Spirit of Shí Chen is milled from a block of ethically sourced 18K rose gold. The clean dressy lines are shared with the standard L.U.C XP line, with flowing lugs, vertically brushed case sides, and a wide smooth bezel. Case thickness is a svelte 8.28mm, maintaining the elegantly simple feel through the profile. Chopard finishes the case with a sapphire display caseback.
Like the case, the dial of the Chopard L.U.C XP Urushi Spirit of Shí Chen shares elements with the mainline L.U.C XP series, but injects the design with classical East Asian materials and iconography for a dramatic new style. The distinctive truncated dauphine handset and mix of applied indices and numerals are a staple of the L.U.C XP line, but the rest of the dial elements are completely unique. First among these is the dial surface itself, which is an inky black Urushi lacquer surface hand applied to each dial by Japanese master lacquerer Minori Koizumi. While Urushi lacquer has made its way into several releases from Grand Seiko, the process is still an extreme rarity in the Swiss industry. The decision to use classical Japanese craftsmen and techniques for a Chinese inspired piece is potentially a fraught one, but the process is undeniably striking and distinctive. The surface is made even more distinct with the practice of Maki-e, or spreading miniscule gold flakes between layers of lacquer. The end result looks in images to offer a similar effect to aventurine, with a galaxy of tiny golden stars seemingly shining through the deep black of the dial. At the center of the dial is a massive applied 18K rose gold emblem, the symbol of the Chinese deity Lu Ying, the god of prosperity and wealth. This traditional icon flows directly into a massive display window, stretching from 10 o’clock to 2 o’clock, which functions as a Shí Chen subdial. The traditional system of Shí Chen follows the same pattern as the Chinese zodiac, but rather than each animal being assigned to one year in a 12 year cycle, each day is split into 12 two-hour segments, beginning at 11:00 PM with the hour of the Rat, followed at 1:00 AM with the hour of the Ox, and so on, ending with the hour of the Pig. In practice, this works as a 24 hour display with a wheel instead of a hand, lacquered in gold with motifs of each of the traditional 12 zodiac animals. It’s a dramatic and luxurious look in initial images, with an instantly recognizable Chinese aura, but this specificity may make it a difficult sell with Western audiences.
Inside the Chopard L.U.C XP Urushi Spirit of Shí Chen beats the brand’s in-house L.U.C 96.29-L automatic movement. A variant of the L.U.C 96 movement line, the 96.29-L features a 22K gold microrotor, which allows for a total movement thickness of only 3.97mm. Thanks to a set of twin stacked mainspring barrels, the L.U.C 29-L boasts a hefty 65 hour power reserve at a 28,800 bph beat rate. Decoration is clean and handsome, with Côtes de Genève aross the bridges, perlage for the baseplate, and a fluted finish for the gold microrotor. To finish the package, Chopard opts for a hand stitched strap in classic black alligator leather.
Clean, luxurious, and accented with an array of classical Chinese motifs, the limited edition Chopard L.U.C XP Urushi Spirit of Shí Chen is an intriguing fusion of East and West that pays handsome tribute to the traditions of Chinese timekeeping. Only 88 examples of the Chopard L.U.C XP Urushi Spirit of Shí Chen will be made, available now online and through Chopard boutiques at an MSRP of $38,000. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.