The Serpent and the Stars: Vacheron Constantin Presents the Metiers d’Art Legend of the Chinese Zodiac Year of the Snake

2013 is the Year of the Snake in the Chinese Zodiac, in which –unlike Western astrology, where the symbolic animal changes every month –an animal reigns for an entire year. The Snake personality is calm and unruffled on the surface, but just as with an actual snake, someone born under this sign can strike without warning if provoked; they are considered individuals with hidden depths and resources.

It’s fitting, therefore, that to celebrate the Year of the Snake, Vacheron Constantin has created a watch with many layers of beauty and meaning as well –the Legend of the Chinese Zodiac “Year of the Snake” watch, from the Metiers d’Art collection. As the name implies, the Metiers d’Art collection consists of watches that integrate classic watchmaking decorative arts –including but not limited to engraving, guilloché, enameling, and unusual complications and designs –with decorative motifs taken from European, Asian, and other world cultures.

The “Year of the Snake” watch, in order to give full scope and maximum visual impact to the design, uses a system of four windows to show the hours, minutes, day of the week, and the date. The use of this type of display makes for a watch in which the decorative motif takes center stage, but which also maintains that most essential aspect of the functional integrity of a watch –that it show the time clearly.

The design of the watch was inspired by the art of decorative paper cutting, according to Vacheron Constantin –an art with a long history in China, where it is known as jianzhi; the art is also practiced in Europe and one of the principle forms is scherenschnitte (literally, “scissor cuts”) which was developed in Germany and Switzerland in the 16th century. As a bridge between East and West, it’s an apt source of inspiration; though paper is a material too fragile and transient for a watch dial, it did strongly influence the use of positive and negative space –volumes and voids –in the “Year of the Snake” timepiece.

The two decorative arts given prominence in the “Year of the Snake” watches are engraving and enameling. The first step in the creation of the dial is the engraving directly into the metal of the floral motif that will eventually form the background for the coiled serpent. The next step is the enamel artists’ –enamel is placed in the depressions in the dial between the stems and leaves, and the dial is then fired. This creates a light and dark contrast very reminiscent of the source of the works of paper-cut art that inspired the timepiece.

The final step is the creation and placement of the snake, which is located at the center of the dial. Tongue flicking the air, the coiled snake expresses both the harmony and energy that the serpent represents in the Chinese zodiac.

The “Year of the Snake” watch is the first in a series of timepieces that will be created by Vacheron Constantin in the Metiers d’Art collection. Fittingly, it’s a beautiful inside as out; it’s powered by the Vacheron calibre 2460 G4 (for the four guichets, or windows) which fulfills all the requirements of the Geneva Seal.

The Metiers d’Art “Year of the Snake” limited edition watch is available in platinum or 18k pink gold, with a matching clasp. Case, 40mm, sapphire crystal caseback. Only 12 of each will be made; available exclusively through Vacheron Constantin boutiques. Price available upon request from Vacheron Constantin.

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