By Rebecca Doulton
Just about every creature on the planet, both great and small, has had a starring decorative role on the dial or bracelet of the world's most luxurious watch brands. Cartier's iconic Panther, Harry Winston's delicate butterfly dials, and Bulgari's sinuous Serpenti are perennial favourites, but even goats have had their day with the most conservative of watchmakers, such as Vacheron Constantin. Fish motifs are especially fashionable these days, with a particular emphasis on the Koi carp, which symbolises longevity, wealth and fertility in Asian cultures.
Chopard has a soft spot for a menagerie and Caroline Scheufele's whimsical Animal World high jewellery and watch collection delighted animal lovers with a yearning for luxury. This year, Chopard watches presents an enchanting aquatic scene with its Happy Fish timepiece.
The tropical fish on the dial, with its red jasper eye, has been engraved in mother-of-pearl and features applied gold leaf to highlight its contours. During the daytime, the fish swims in a glimmering sea of graded shades of snow-set turquoise sapphires and seven free-floating diamonds. However, the show really begins at night when the fish and the diamonds glow magically in the dark thanks to a blue luminescent material set behind the dial. The 36mm white gold or rose gold case is enhanced with a diamond-set bezel with stones of different sizes for a softer, more organic effect. Inside the case, a mechanical automatic movement keeps the hours, minutes and seconds in perfect time.
Chaumet watches has launched an elegant fish-inspired model that forms part of the Lumières d'Eau high jewellery collection. With a 35mm yellow gold case with 119 brilliant-cut diamonds on the bezel, four carps with blue sapphire eyes and beautifully engraved gold bodies swim at high speed across the dial. Bubbles of oxygen in the shape of diamonds accompany the shoal of carps on their voyage across the white lacquered dial with hand-engraved waves.
Jaquet Droz watches has painted a lovely Asian-inspired scene of Koi carp frolicking in the water with a lotus flower and bulrushes in the background. Once again, the skills of its artisans have been summoned to engrave and enamel the scenery of the Petite Heure Minute Relief Carps watch. The blooming lotus flower is hand-engraved in gold and rises majestically above the waters on both the 41mm white and rose gold versions.
As a purveyor of made-to-measure ladies' watches, DeLaneau always travels with a catalogue of samples to help its clients feel inspired. This unique Koi watch showcases the Maison's enamelling prowess and depicts three vividly rendered Koi carps swimming on a swirling guilloché background. With 6.01 carats of diamonds on the bezel, case, lugs, crown and buckle, this is one aquarium you will never grow tired of admiring.
However, there is no denying the overwhelming beauty and staggering luxury of the unique Carpe Koi secret watch from Van Cleef & Arpels. Laden with 8,000 magnificently set gemstones of different colours and cuts, it's a miracle this fish can swim.