Sometimes, the world of Chinese watches involves watches made elsewhere. I’ve written before about watches of interest to collectors of Chinese watches, and here is another example.
In this case, the watch in question has been manufactured by Ulysse Nardin, a Swiss watch company that was founded in 1846. They make some very nice, and very expensive, watches for those who can afford them. The company was once known for making marine chronometers, but today, they are known as one of the world’s foremost makers of luxury watches.
This is where their maritime history and China fit together. A new limited edition watch from Ulysse Nardin honors Zheng He, a famous seaman from the Ming dynasty. Zheng He made seven famous voyages during the fifteenth century, with a crew of up to 500 men.
The Classico Zheng He depicts one of the navigators boats using a centuries-old technique of enameling that takes the craftsmen at Ulysse Nardin some 50 hours to complete and which involves more than two dozen different processes. The artwork is crafted in fine gold wire and then filled in by hand with enamel, a technique known as cloisonne enameling.
The result is a beautiful watch, measuring 40 mm in diameter and displaying a rose gold case. Powered by an in-house Ulysse Nardin UN-815 automatic movement, the watch reportedly has a 40 hour power reserve.
The Classico Zheng He is certainly a work of art, and is likely to find multiple buyers in Asia. Chinese buyers in particular favor Swiss watches, though the Chinese government has been taking steps to try to get their citizens to buy locally produced timepieces instead.
Though there are certainly some well made watches coming from China, there is no disputing that older companies such as Ulysse Nardin have a rich and long history of craftsmanship that collectors around the world admire. While Chinese companies may eventually develop the same sort of reputation, Swiss companies have that reputation now, and that is what attract Chinese buyers.
Chinese buyers also appreciate quality and finely made watches. If you read the Ulysse Nardin watch reviews, you’ll find that these timepieces are highly regarded.
That, and, of course, the fact that the watches they’re showing off are simply different from those that the average Chinese consumer might own. That’s not a Chinese trait; that is simply the common trait of someone wanting to show off something that they own that other people do not.
Owning something that other people do not is certainly what you will have if you buy the Ulysse Nardin Classico Zheng He as production has reportedly been limited to 30 pieces. Part of that is the desire to keep limited edition watches truly limited, as that will keep interest levels high, along with inspiring would-be buyers to wonder, “What is coming next?”
It’s also a likely assessment of the nature of the marketplace, as there are only so many people who are going to buy any watch with a specific theme. That’s true all the more when one sees the price – the Ulysse Nardin Classico Zheng He has a suggested retail price of U.S. $39,800 and when I write that this is the “suggested” retail price, I mean, “that is the exact price that you will pay, provided that you can find one.”
It’s a beautiful watch, regardless of price.
I try to write about Chinese-made watches and other watches from Asia on this blog, but sometimes other timepieces pop up that are interesting, not only to me, but to other collectors who might be interested in either Chinese watches or Asian culture.
In this case, the watch I’m going to write about today comes not from China, but from Switzerland. In fact, this watch comes from one of the oldest watchmaking companies in the world – Vacheron Constantin.
What does this old Swiss watch company have to do with anything I might write about on this blog? They have introduced two watches that were created specifically to commemorate 2018, which on the Chinese calendar is the Year of the Dog.
The Year of the Dog watches, one of which is available in platinum and one in rose gold, is part of a series of the company’s “Legend of the Chinese Zodiac” series.
What watches they are!
Each watch depicts an incredibly lifelike sculpted dog in the center of the dial, which is either blue or bronze enamel, depending on which of the watches you buy.
The dog will attract attention, because he is right in the center of the dial, which features no hands. Instead, the time is displayed through small windows that appear at the 2 o’clock, 4 o’clock, 8 o’clock and 10 o’clock positions.
These windows depict the hours, the minutes, the day of the week and the date. All of this is operated via Vacheron Constantin’s own in-house Caliber 2460 G4 movement, which features 237 individual parts. You can see these parts through the back of the case, which has sapphire crystal covering the back.
The watch case measures 40mm across, and as I previously mentioned, the cases are available in either platinum (blue dial with a white dog) or rose gold with a bronze dial and a pink gold dog.
Only twelve of each of these watches will be made, making them a rarity as soon as they are completed. Of course, buyers for them will likely be somewhat of a rarity, as well – the price of the watch is quite high: reportedly a bit more than U.S. $100,000 for the gold version. The platinum version will likely be a bit more; perhaps U.S. $125,000 or so.
People do buy such watches, however. Part of the appeal is their scarcity; if you want one, you pretty much have to make the decision to buy it as soon as it has been announced. It’s possible that even then will be too late. Companies such as Vacheron Constantin have a handful of loyal, but well-heeled customers who are likely informed about any new models the company might be producing.
These customers are no doubt informed about these models well in advance, and by the time they are actually done being manufactured, they’re likely already spoken for.
Of course, it’s possible that one or two might be available to the public for actual sale. If you are interested in this beautiful watch (and who wouldn’t be?), you may wish to contact the company directly via their Website.