There have been watches made by Swiss and other European brands especially for the Chinese market going back much further than the country's modern economic resurgence, but nowadays there are more than ever — and many are cool creations that anyone can enjoy.
You don't have to be Chinese to be aware of the Chinese New Year — watch brands are certainly aware of it and the nation's power both as a producer and consumer of watches. It's no wonder that each year there are a number of watch companies that take the opportunity to do something special for one of their most important markets.
According to the traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar, 2021 begins the Year of the Ox or Bull — and some watchmakers choose to reference this year's zodiac sign specifically while others more generally celebrate the occasion or Chinese cultural themes. Depending on the contents of your "red envelopes" (红包) you just might be in the spirit to spring for one.
Swatch Ox Rocks 2021 Watch
Many of the watches made for the Chinese New Year are decidedly upscale, but Swatch characteristically offers a fun and affordable option. In the brand's appropriately named Big Bold collection with 47mm-wide cases, the Ox Rocks 2021 watch features an ox motif that forms a yin yang shape in red and gold.
Casio G-Shock Year of the Ox Edition
G-Shock's most iconic models, the squarish 5600 and roundish 6900 series, are here rendered with gold-coated steel bezels and matched to bright red dials and straps. They'd be perfectly appropriate for any zodiac year, but the case backs are engraved with an ox motif by Chinese artist Shan Jiang especially for 2021.
Konstantin Chaykin Wristmon Minotaur
Independent Russian watchmaker Konstantin Chaykin's best-known creations are his series using separate hour and minute dials to form the eyes of a face — in this case, the face of a bull. Always wildly creative and never satisfied with mere aesthetic updates, the bull's nostrils display the day of the week via two separate discs that each shows a single letter to form FR for Friday, SA for Saturday, etc. (see it work here). The bull's eyes look bloodshot with a red Chinese-style lattice motif, and the specially made case has lugs that form horns. Only eight will be made.
Chopard L.U.C Urushi Spirit of Shi Chen
Various cycles can be represented by the 12 Chinese zodiac signs, and for 2021 Chopard uses the concept in an unusual complication: The 12 animals symbolize the hours, and they rotate in tandem with traditional hour hand on the dial. Chopard's L.U.C line is its platform for high-end watchmaking, so alongside a dial is executed in Japanese urushi lacquer you can expect to find a refined in-house movement visible through the case back.
Blancpain Villeret Chinese Traditional Calendar
Blancpain could have simply used an ox motif or Chinese numerals on its existing calendar watch and called it a day, but they didn't: they created a complex mechanism that tracks lunisolar data alongside Gregorian calendar data — which is quite relevant for many Chinese citizens. An aperture at around 12 o'clock even displays a silhouette of the current zodiac animal that'll change each year.
Vacheron Constantin Métiers d'Art Legend of the Chinese Zodiac Year of the Ox Watch
A number of high-end watchmakers have released watches with artistic interpretations of Chinese zodiac animals, which often feature precious metals, lacquer painting and engravings. The ox at the center of this Vacheron Constantin example is hand engraved and set against a grand feu enamel background. The hours, minutes, date and day of the week are all displayed in peripheral windows so the art remains the focus.