While Arken itself is a UK-based brand, its founder Kenneth Lam is of both British and Chinese ancestry, and to celebrate both the lunar new year and the brand’s inaugural trade show, Arken has created its first limited-edition timepiece for British Watchmaker’s Day 2024. Building upon the core platform of the brand’s titanium dual-time travel watch that first introduced Arken’s proprietary dual-time movement module, the new Arken Alterum Year of the Dragon embraces a deep red colorway with a dragon scale textured dial, and it represents one of the more subtle and utilitarian “Year of the Dragon” watches that have been put forward this year.

From a construction and functionality standpoint, the new Arken Alterum Year of the Dragon is the same watch as the standard-production versions of the Alterum that were first announced last year in 2023. What this means is that you get a titanium case with a scratch-resistant coating that measures 40mm in diameter by 13mm thick, with integrated lugs that extend to create an overall lug-to-lug profile of 46mm. A sapphire crystal with anti-reflective treatment on its underside surface sits within the smooth fixed bezel, while a solid screw-down caseback closes up the reverse side of the watch, and both the winding crown and additional pusher on the right-hand side of the case screw down to help guarantee a generous 200 meters of water resistance.

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Where the new limited-edition Arken Alterum Year of the Dragon differs from its standard-catalog siblings is when it comes to its dial, strap, and caseback engravings. Rather than featuring the usual style of grain-textured dial in either black or gray, the Alterum Year of the Dragon is fitted with a deep burnt red dial that has a dramatic dragon scale texture in relief throughout its surface. The hands and hour markers offer the same shape and layout as what can be found on the brand’s standard-production Alterum models, and the secondary hour hand is finished orange to stand out against the dark red surface of the dial. Additionally, while the dial offers a significantly different appearance compared to what you will find on the two standard-production models, the hands and indexes are still finished with Super-LumiNova BGW9 to help aid with low-light visibility.

To match the burnt red surface of its dragon scale dial, the case of the Arken Alterum Year of the Dragon is fitted with a dark red tapered nylon strap that connects to its integrated lugs with a quick-release system to enable tool-free changes. Additionally, unlike the standard-production versions of the Alterum, the caseback of the new Year of the Dragon limited edition is engraved with Chinese characters that read “In time, your luck will turn,” along with each watch’s individual limited-edition number out of a total of 60 pieces. The number of examples for this limited edition was specifically chosen by the brand as a tribute to the individuals who were born during the Year of the Dragon, those who turn 60 this year alongside Arken founder’s mother.

Just like the standard-production Alterum watches, the new Arken Alterum Year of the Dragon is powered by the brand’s Cal. ARK-9015DT automatic dual-time movement, which is based upon the core architecture of the Miyota 9015 and therefore runs at a frequency of 28,800vph (4 Hz) with a power reserve of approximately 42 hours. Unlike the standard Miyota 9015, which is a simple time-and-date movement, the Arken Cal. ARK-9015DT features a proprietary module that provides it with a second independently adjustable 12-hour hand, along with a pair of day/night indicator windows that are dedicated to its two different time zones. GMT functionality is now available from a number of affordable third-party movements, although the Arken Alterum offers something truly different than what you get from anything with an off-the-shelf caliber, and this is especially impressive considering the humble price point of the collection.

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Despite being crafted from titanium and featuring an automatic movement with a proprietary dual-time module, the Arken Alterum series exists firmly on the affordable side of the spectrum. Additionally, even though the new Arken Alterum Year of the Dragon has a unique dragon scale dial and is produced as a small-batch limited edition of just 60 pieces, it only costs a small premium above its standard-catalog counterparts, and it is accompanied by an official retail price of £630 GBP, which works out to approximately $800 USD (at the time of writing). Many “Year of the Dragon” watches end up being a bit too on-the-nose from a design perspective, and even some of the truly beautiful ones ultimately just have some type of a dragon on their dials. The Arken Alterum Year of the Dragon offers a subtle and tasteful take on the familiar dragon-themed concept, and the fact that it can be purchased for a matter of hundreds (rather than thousands) of dollars makes it all the more enjoyable as a way to celebrate the lunar new year. For more information on the Arken Alterum Year of the Dragon watch, please visit the brand’s website.

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