Each Chinese New Year brings with it a new Chinese zodiac, and it has quickly become a tradition for watchmakers and jewellers to commemorate this auspicious occasion. Last year, snakes writhed around wrists and slithered up earlobes and, come 31 January 2014, it will be the horse's turn to reign.
Theo Fennell pays homage to the Year of the Horse with two pairs of cufflinks featuring equine scenes, hand-painted in enamel. Annina Vogel, meanwhile, has a selection of jewels featuring antique tiepins turned into one-of-a-kind rings and horseshoes, a recurring motif in her jewels that promises good luck.
The horological world is also paying its equestrian respects with new watches from Vacheron Constantin, Ulysse Nardin, Chopard and Piaget.
Vacheron Constantin's 'The Legend of the Chinese Zodiac' collection is a series of watches based on the 12-year cycle. Following the Year of the Snake, the Swiss watchmaker has created two new horse timepieces in pink gold and platinum, limited to 12 pieces each and available exclusively at Vacheron Constantin boutiques.
The scenes depicted on the watch faces required the combined talents of an engraver and enameller. Engraved on the gold dial is an intricate leaf motif, based on traditional Chinese iconography. The horse engravings are extraordinarily detailed - the mane and coat measure just a fraction of a millimetre - while the Grand Feu enamelling gives the dials their unique glossy depth.
Chopard's intricate and colourful L.U.X XP Urushi Year of the Horse is an ultra-thin work of art. Part of Chopard's exclusive Urushi series of watches, the prancing horse is handcrafted using a technique called Make-e, which derives from the art of ancient Japanese lacquering called Urushi. The striking gold effect is achieved by sprinkling the lacquered coating with powdered gold and using tiny natural-hair brushes to trace the precise fine lines of the horse and lotus flowers - a technique which only a few experienced Urushi specialists have mastered.
In November of last year, Piaget unveiled its latest watch and jewellery collection, 'A Mythical Journey by Piaget', inspired by the exoticism of Asia and India. The 38mm Horse Altiplano painted enamel watch, the latest addition to the collection, depicts the strength and beauty of the world-famous Ferghana horse, much desired by Chinese emperors and one of China's earliest imports. Available in platinum and rose gold models, with diamond-set bezels, each model is limited to 38 pieces.
Ulysse Nardin is also presenting a new Classico Horse watch to celebrate Chinese New Year. Using the champlevé method of enamelling, the spirited horses are brought to bucking life on the face, backdropped by shimmering earthy tones, created using metallic oxides. Available in rose gold and limited to 88 pieces, the Classico Horse captures the elegance and independence of one of the world's most noble creatures.
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