Why I Love It: The Vacheron Constantin Metiers d’Art Lunar New Year Watches, Plus a Brief Survey of “Year of the Rabbit” Limited Editions

January 22 of this year marks the Lunar New Year, which is a massively important celebration across many east Asian countries. For as long as I’ve been interested in watches, we’ve seen many large brands release a selection of limited edition watches tied to the Lunar New Year celebration, often exclusively for the Chinese market. The occasion is a natural fit for a limited edition watch on a number of fronts. First, it reinforces the importance of the Chinese and east Asian market to high end, global, luxury watch brands. And it also offers these brands an opportunity to produce watches that are extravagant while also being somewhat playful. Lunar New Year watches are almost tied to the Chinese Zodiac, so as we close in on the year of the rabbit, don’t be surprised if watches fit for Bugs Bunny start to take over your Instagram feed. 


This year, among a handful of Lunar New Year watches, one that stands out for its sheer opulence is a new release from Vacheron Constantin, through their Metiers d’Art line. The Metiers d’Art Legend of the Chinese Zodiac – Year of the Rabbit (a mouthful of a name) finds a rabbit sitting in the center of a dial that displays the time, day, and date within a series of four separate apertures. The rabbit here is very much center stage, which is the whole point of Metiers d’Art watches. 

While handcraft and exceptional finishing are foundational to the Vacheron Constantin story, the Metiers d’Art watches are laser focused on decorative arts. These are beautiful objects that exist for the sake of being beautiful objects, and few brands operate on this level like Vacheron. There are two low production variants of VC’s Year of the Rabbit watch making their debut this year, one in pink gold and the other in platinum. Each features a highly detailed miniature rabbit that has been entirely hand engraved as its focal point, surrounded by an enameled floral motif. The inspiration behind the design and the very technique used to create it is the craft of decoupage, which has historically been used by artisans in both China and Switzerland. Traditional decoupage involves the application of decorative paper to an object. In China, decoupage has been employed in the making of lanterns, windows, and boxes, while in European countries, particularly Italy, decoupage has been used to create Biblical scenes in artwork for hundreds of years. 

Beyond the visual impression of a Metiers d’Art piece, what I’m really fascinated by is the handmade nature of it all. Even on high end watches that feature a lot of handwork, there is sometimes a certain sterility that comes with such a high level of precision. Hand beveled bridges are impressive for sure, but they don’t come alive in the same way as a detailed engraving on the rabbit seen here. I mean, look at the details in the rabbit’s face. The eyes follow you like the Mona Lisa, or, dare I say, like a real rabbit. I also appreciate how the time telling on this watch is truly secondary, literally relegated to the far corners of the dial, even though there’s some complexity to the movement given the unusual dial layout.

If the Vacheron Constantin Metiers d’Art watches represent something approaching the most traditional and craft oriented space in watchmaking, Franck Muller’s #FR2NCK Muller Vanguard watch, made in collaboration with the Japanese streetwear brand #FR2, is way over on the other end of an impossibly wide spectrum. This is a Year of the Rabbit watch that #FR2 was seemingly destined to create, as it allows for the use of their signature image, a pair of rabbits engaged in an activity that wouldn’t make it safely into most PG-13 rated movies. 

This watch, of course, is meant to be somewhat confrontational. You just don’t expect to see rabbits so entwined on a luxury watch dial, and while it would be impossible for most to pull off in polite company (imagine explaining this watch to non-watch people) there’s something appealing about high contrast design. It seems to suit the tonneau shaped Vanguard case rather well, making something that is inherently old fashioned feel ultra contemporary. If the color palette (or lack thereof) didn’t succeed in that area, the liberal use of hashtags on the dial would. Forget explaining the rabbits caught in flagrante delicto, one wonders if our grandchildren will still be using hashtags decades from now. 


Luckily, if the Vacheron is too ostentatious and you’ve decided that the Franck Muller might be in poor taste, IWC has something that lands happily in the middle. For the second year in a row, they’ve created a limited edition with a burgundy dial to celebrate Lunar New Year. The IWC Portugieser Automatic 40 “Chinese New Year” edition is a more subtle, less hare focused watch, instead using a shade of red, the signature color of the Lunar New Year celebration, to commemorate the occasion. The rabbit does get a turn in the spotlight, however, when you flip the watch over. The gold plated, rabbit shaped rotor and a caseback engraving remind the owner of the watch’s origins. 

This is just a small selection of Lunar New Year watches, so if you’re desperate to have a rabbit on your watch, dial side or otherwise, there’s no shortage of opportunities. But nothing that I’ve seen comes close to the wow factor of the Vacheron Metiers d’Art pieces, which frankly transcend the holiday and exist as small works of art that are meant to worn on the wrist. It’s somewhat rare that a watch truly rises to the level of fine art, so it’s always worth celebrating when a brand takes a swing like this. Vacheron Constantin

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Zach is a native of New Hampshire, and he has been interested in watches since the age of 13, when he walked into Macy’s and bought a gaudy, quartz, two-tone Citizen chronograph with his hard earned Bar Mitzvah money. It was lost in a move years ago, but he continues to hunt for a similar piece on eBay. Zach loves a wide variety of watches, but leans toward classic designs and proportions that have stood the test of time. He is currently obsessed with Grand Seiko.