When it comes to Astrological symbology, not all Zodiacs are as easily (or elegantly) interpreted for dial aesthetics when it comes to timepieces for the East-Asian markets. Sure, the Chinese zodiac is filled with a bestiary of impressive creatures either magnificent in stature like the Ox, Tiger, Dragon, Horse and Dog or cute in countenance like the Rabbit, Monkey, Rooster or Pig but some animal motifs especially Goat (if not represented as the 羊 or sheep) and the rat (if you’re not Disney and hence not licensed to use Mickey) are difficult to interpret attractively.
Thankfully, astute watchmakers TAG Heuer and Casio have managed to create Rat-themed lunar new year editions which are fairly attractive and more importantly, not too on the nose in terms of overt symbols of the Lunar New Year. For those looking for something not too “on the nose”, Rado, Seiko and Moser have offerings which are a little more universal in appeal beyond the lunar new year festivities.
TAG Heuer Autavua (China Exclusive)
Launched at Baselworld 2019 and drawing inspiration from the original TAG Heuer Autavia designs which were appealing to both drivers and pilots (Autavia is a portmanteau for Automotive – Aviation), the new TAG Heuer Autavia models offer affordable quality, precision (COSC certification) and classic elegance via its fume dial.
Ushering in the Chinese New Year, this TAG Heuer Autavia special edition is no different – for Lunar New Year 2020, the TAG Heuer Autavia with a gorgeous red fumed dial, punctuated with applied Superluminova Arabic numerals, with 1 o’clock replaced with the Chinese character 鼠 for rat replacing the numeral, calling to mind that 2020 sees the Lunar New Year celebrated in January. A special “rat racer” engraving in a style reminiscent of Japanese anime on the case back completes the 42mm bronze, fine-brushed automatic Calibre 5 with COSC-certification. The black ceramic bidirectional turning bezel completes the look of the dressy yet robust timepiece with pioneering roots as an airplane and race-car dashboard instrument.
G-Shock x Jahan Loh Limited Edition
No stranger to G-Shock collaborations, Singaporean contemporary artist Jahan Loh and Casio join their talents once again to create a special G-Shock x Jahan Loh Limited Edition to usher in the lunar year of the Rat.
The street artist plies his craft on a canvas of the game changing octagonal GA-2100, a new favourite mainstay in the G-Shock family of hard wearing, robust watches. The high-strength carbon reinforced material gives Loh a thinner, 11.8 mm thin space to work with but he extends his artistry to the strap as well with patterned renderings of Chinese 寿 Shou(longevity) and the Chinese 福 (auspicious).
“Celebrating the year of the metal rat in auspicious red, the pattern on the strap is derived from the Chinese text of 寿 Shou(longevity) and the Chinese text for 福 Fu (auspicious): Shou (the Chinese character of longevity) and Fu (blessings, auspicious and good fortune) are most popular auspicious symbols in the Lunar New Year season. The calligraphy of good fortune and pattern of longevity is composed of the character of 2 rats and the longevity pattern.” – Jahan Loh
Loh’s artistic flair in contemporary Chinese Arts and Culture combined in the form of a Limited Edition G-Shock watch and its packaging, heralds the year of the Rat with a bold crimson colour palette and Chinese typography: a great choice for starting the year on a note of bold endurance.
Rado Golden Horse 1957 Limited Edition
A popular traditional dial treatment in classic watchmaking, fume dials have enjoyed a resurgence in recent times thanks to H. Moser and Cie (we’ll get round to them in a bit), Rado used fume dials in their original 1957 Golden Horse collection.
True to the 1957 original, the Rado Golden Horse Limited Edition replicates its delectable red fume dial ensconced within a 37 mm case; its domed or curved dial accentuates the “smoked” gradient red to black effect, accented by mirror polished and faceted rhodium plated hour indexes and topped with Rado’s signature moving anchor symbol.
In keeping with the original Rado Golden Horse 1957, a pair of applied gold sea horses mirror the brand motif at 6 o’clock while the date wheel has red font on a white background. Driven by a the brand’s exclusive Powermatic 80, a modified ETA C07.611 providing 80 hours power reserve, the Rado Golden Horse Limited Edition with box sapphire crystal and beautifully inscribed “three sea horses” caseback is that perfect blend of tradition and modernity – a great way to usher in the Chinese New Year.
Seiko Presage Cocktail Time Red Ref. SRRY027
At 33.8 mm proportions, the Seiko Presage Cocktail Time Red Ref. SRRY027 is technically intended as a woman’s timepiece but keeping in mind that classic gents watches used to be 33 to 35mm, we felt that we would be remiss not highlighting this emmeniently affordable yet undeniably svelte, dressy timepiece featuring old-school box hardlex crystal over a resplendent red (a colour rarely used by Seiko) guilloche dial.
Exhibiting faceted polished applied hour markers, aesthetic elements inspired by the stem of a cocktail glass from which the Seiko Presage Cocktail Time takes its name, the Red Ref. SRRY027 enjoys beautiful legibility thanks to the high contrast of silvered markers and dauphine hands.
H. Moser Pioneer Perpetual Calendar MD
Inspired by the world’s most elegantly designed, minimalist perpetual calendar in 2005. Moser took their ultra easy-to-read 2006 GPHG Complicated Watch Award winner and applied their purist watchmaking ethos in a sportive collection, launching the Pioneer Perpetual Calendar MD.
While it might seem a little regressive, apparently the brand’s minimalist approach meant that that legibility of month indication (provided by a small central arrow which pointed at the “hour” matching the month) was a little lacking, hence, Moser introduced a revised edition of that award winning calibre, updated to provide MD or Month-Date indication.
The first featured its signature funky blue colourway but the subsequent burgundy or “Raspberry” edition ticks all the boxes for fine watchmaking and as a matching accessory for Chinese New Year festivities. Stripped of almost all indications except for the dots that mark the hours, the fume “raspberry” treatment is further interspersed with offset small second seconds at 6 o’clock, and a power reserve indicator at 9 o’clock.
Wisely, the leap year cycle indicator is kept concealed on the underside of the movement through the exposed caseback. The partially skeletonised leaf-shaped hands filled with Superluminova allow greater visibility of the gorgeous sunburst effect on the dial’s surface.