Katherine S. Cunanan

Urushi And The Year Of The Rat

Chopard brings together Asian traditions by honoring a Chinese zodiac sign using a Japanese art form.

Maison Chopard is a master of beauty, elegance, and independence. Each L.U.C. watch is clear evidence that the maison has mastered the gamut of skills required to make show-stopping timepieces, from developing and executing movements, to handcrafting finishing and detailing, and everything in between. For the upcoming Year of the Metal Rat in 2020, Chopard has created a wonderful 88-piece limited edition L.U.C. XP Urushi Year of the Rat timepiece.


The ancestral Japanese art of urushi is also known as traditional lacquer work. The lacquer comes from the sap of the Asian lacquer tree, toxicodendron vernicifluum, and is filtered through several layers of paper. The end result is a translucent lacquer. The sap contains the urushiol oil that dictates the quality of the lacquer. The higher the urushiol oil in the sap means a higher quality of lacquer. The lacquer can be colored by adding different minerals. Black lacquer is created by adding iron, and red lacquer is created by adding ferric oxide and cinnabar. The lacquer is applied in layers, with specific drying time in between each application. The lacquer absorbs moisture from the air, which makes the lacquer seem to glisten perpetually. Being an urushi artisan can be tricky because the urushiol oil can be toxic. Ahh, but what is beauty without a little danger?

Chopard has collaborated with the Yamada Heiando studio, masters of the urushi craft, to create the most beautiful rendition of a rat I’ve ever seen. Rats are known to be cunning and clever, known for the intelligence and perspicacity (shrewdness or penetrating discernment). The Chinese zodiac myth states that the Rat tricked the Ox (or Buffalo, depending on the translation and version you are reading) into letting him ride on its back throughout the race. Upon approaching the finish line, the Rat leapt off the Ox’s back and crossed the finish line first, securing his position as first in the Chinese zodiac.


Imagine all the diligence and patience needed to work in the art of urushi, and how much more complicated this would be on a canvas the size of watch dial. Chopard does this amazingly well. The entirely handcrafted dial uses urushi enhanced by gold dust to bring this precious creature to life. Symbolism abounds in the mini masterpiece. The golden Rat symbolizes wealth and success, and he stands atop an ear of corn, symbolizing abundance. The khaki fruit is also depicted, representing longevity, and a bouquet of flowers in blue, gold, and green symbolize luck and good fortune.

The L.U.C XP Urushi Year of the Rat timepieces are crafted in 18-carat rose gold and have the beautiful urushi dials of 40mm in diameter. Powered by the L.U.C 96.17-L calibre, these watches have a 65-hour power reserve. The watch is an elegant choice for the Asian clientele. There are only 88 of the beauties available at the Chopard boutiques. An auspicious choice indeed.


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