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.