It’s become something of a tradition every Lunar New Year for luxury brands to release limited edition creations themed around the zodiac animal of the year. You’ll see it across fashion, accessories, and beauty releases. Timepieces, being especially well-suited to marking special occasions, are naturally no exception. As we enter the year of the dragon—the wood dragon, to be precise about its element—horological houses have come up with a host of dragon watches to celebrate.
Each animal presents its own set of design challenges, but the mythical dragon is especially ripe for creative interpretation. The legendary beast is associated with ferocity and strength, which is a quality that a brand like Breguet has mirrored with a double tourbillon creation that features mind boggling mechanical complexity. Just as complex and powerful a show of its prowesses is something like the grisaille enamel creation by Vacheron Constantin, which takes the art of enamelling to new heights to evince a brutally elegant dragon.
At jewellery houses like Harry Winston and Chopard, meanwhile, the dragon comes a little softer and more beautifully rendered. Artistic crafts like gem setting, engraving and enamelling are deployed to create romantic scenes of a Chinese dragon in flight, clutching its fabled pearl.
And if you enjoy the symbology of the dragon but are looking for a touch of subtlety and something easier to wear on the daily, there are brands too like IWC and Breitling which have come up with watches with scarlet dials—a fortuitous colour—and discreet dragon details.
Here, 8 dragon-themed watches that mark the Lunar New Year with spectacular aplomb.
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Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers Grisaille High Jewellery Dragon
This uniquely beautiful pièce unique comes from Vacheron Constantin’s Les Cabinotiers collection of special, one-off timepieces. The house stretched the limits of artistry, using a green grisaille enamel—a first of its kind for the house—to render a dragon in shades of just one colour on the dial. It’s housed in a slender white gold case that measures just 8.9mm thick, set with 146 baguette-cut diamonds.
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Piaget Altiplano Dragon Zodiac High Jewellery
Piaget enlisted the talents of Anita Porchet, one of Switzerland’s leading and most famous enamel artists, to decorate the dials of their watches for the Lunar New Year. The dragon aside, the brand has also released designs with phoenix motifs. But this particular high jewellery Altiplano watch combines Porchet’s skill—pailloné enamelling to create the vivid night sky background of the dial—with the house’s expertise in gold crafts to engrave the dragon motif, which clutches a black opal ‘fireball’. It’s available as a numbered limited edition of eight pieces.
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Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Enamel 'Dragon'
The famous swivelling case of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso is as ideal a canvas as you can get for artistic flourish. The verso side of this pink gold and made-to-order Tribute model is first layered with glossy black enamel, leaving the silhouette of a dragon surrounded by clouds. That section of gold is then engraved and polished by hand using 10 different tools and 80 hours of work—extra challenging because the enamel can not be disturbed—to create the scaled and textured dragon motif.
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IWC Portugieser Chronograph Year of the Dragon
IWC takes the route of subtlety with its creation for the Lunar New Year. The Portugieser Chronograph Year of the Dragon—limited to 1,000 pieces—comes with a striking burgundy dial, offered with a black calfskin and burgundy rubber strap that play up the colour. On the reverse, the transparent sapphire caseback reveals the gold-plated openwork rotor in the shape of a dragon.
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Harry Winston Chinese New Year Automatic 36mm
It was astute for a jewellery brand like Harry Winston to zoom in on the gemological iconography of the dragon. Namely, the pearl that Chinese dragons are traditionally depicted with, and which represents wisdom and power. Here, the house has depicted a dragon, carved from gold and filled with red lacquer, curled amid billowing clouds of carved mother-of-pearl. At 12 o’clock, a pearl in the dragon’s mouth, and at the top of the case a crown set with a gleaming pearl. It’s limited to just eight pieces, and comes packaged with a special edition octagonal ‘temple’ box.
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Chopard L.U.C XP Urushi Year of the Dragon
The year of the dragon is a full circle moment for Chopard. When the brand began releasing themed creations for Chinese New Year on its L.U.C XP back in 2013, it launched with the snake—the sixth animal in the Chinese zodiac. The dragon, the fifth, completes the first 12-year cycle for the Swiss brand. This year’s edition continues the in-house tradition of working with Japanese artisan Minori Koizumi to create the lacquered dial using the Maki-e technique. The painterly design is crafted by hand, requiring no less than 20 hours of work and limited to 88 pieces.
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Breitling Chronomat B01 42 Year of Dragon
Breitling’s sporty Chronomat model gets the lucky treatment, with a limited edition of 88 pieces exclusive to Southeast Asia, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, that features a burgundy dial. The 9 o’clock seconds subdial hides a little dragon motif, as does the sapphire crystal caseback that features a red dragon insignia.
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Breguet has come up with a mind boggling spectacle of its technical and artistic prowesses that mirrors the mythic stature of the beast: a grand complication Classique with a double tourbillon. A hand-engraved gold dragon curls between two tourbillons, on which the hour and minutes hand are set. The whole setup makes a revolution every 12 hours, while the tourbillons complete their own every minute. So unique are these timepieces that Breguet offers them as one-of-a-kind creations where details like the shape and colour of the dragon, the colour of the Roman numerals and hands, and strap can all be customised.