It's fortuitous for the Swiss watch industry that this is the Year of the Rooster. This proud bird, described as the epitome of fidelity and punctuality, confidently salutes the dawn with puffed-out chest. And it’s a happier new year, as 2017 presents a new dawn for the luxury industry, especially, haute horlogerie, which has been in the doldrums, due largely to a shift in spending in the Asian markets.

Spirits were turned up a notch at the annual Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH), held in Geneva in January. Despite austerity measures, the industry is accepting of the challenges. Its hope: to appeal to a more diverse audience, through a more “affordable” access point to the luxury market for younger consumers.

The rooster is believed to be a divine messenger that crows to chase demons away and appears to have made good work of the industry’s demons of the past few years. The Chinese market has rebounded and there was a large contingent of Chinese celebrities and influencers in attendance, invited to spread the Gospel of St Richemont.

But the attention-seeking runs deep and, despite set-backs, brands still rally to outdo each other and impress potential buyers. They flaunt years of research and development through new technologies and materials, more complications, and minutely detailed dials, all shoe-horned so elegantly into the smallest or thinnest — and sometimes the biggest — timepieces.

Three manufacturers stood out with their nod to the animal of the year. The Altiplano Chinese Zodiac has a rooster hand-painted in Grande Feu enamelling on a white mother-of-pearl-dial to increase its luminescence. The 18-karat, white-gold case is set with 78 diamonds. The watch, limited to 38 pieces, houses the 430P ultra-thin movement, with a 43-hour power reserve.

And the classic Piaget Altiplano offered an attractive yet more abstract take with the ultra-thin 38mm watch. It’s also limited to an edition of 38 pieces, with radiant feather marquetry — not the only impressive aspect of this manual-winding mechanical movement, which is a mere 2.1mm thin.

Vacheron Constantin offered two editions in its Métiers d’Art Legend of the Chinese Zodiac collection, with its rooster — sculpted in relief with enamelling and engraving — offered in 18-karat white gold with blue grand feu enamel dial or in 18-karat rose gold and copper enamel dial. These pieces are powered by their in-house Caliber 2460 G4 movement, with four apertures revealing hours, minutes, day, and date; and limited to 12 pieces each.

The Ulysse-Nardin Year of the Rooster Classico 40mm makes use of champlevé enamelling, in which carved-out sections are filled with enamel to render their version of the fowl. This watch, powered by the UN-815 self-winding mechanical movement, is also water resistant to 50m and has a power reserve of 42 hours. It is limited to 88 pieces.

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