It has become a tradition in the watchmaking industry to release special edition timepieces every Lunar New Year, to mark the procession of animals in the Chinese zodiac. As the Year of the Dragon draws close, Franck Muller has unveiled the Cintrée Curvex Ryoko Kaneta Dragon Limited Edition, which does just that. In lieu of depicting the mythical creature in its familiar forms, however, the manufacture has opted for a quirkily refreshing take on the subject.
The new timepiece builds on the success of 2023’s #FR2NCK MULLER Vanguard, which ushered in the Year of the Rabbit with an edgy, provocative dial that blended Swiss watchmaking and Japanese street fashion. It also echoes the spirit of its predecessor – to be more than just another “zodiac watch” by serving as a reflection of the wider zeitgeist outside of watchmaking, thus ensuring its relevance in the long run.
Designed in collaboration with its namesake, Japanese artist Ryoko Kaneta, the new timepiece offers a whimsical take on the mythical dragon. While the creature is traditionally portrayed as a regal, authoritative figure that heralds strength, prosperity, and good health, it has been anthropomorphised here as a series of doll-like girls – a trademark of Kaneta. Each interacts with an index on the dial variously, and the interplay between these dial elements gives the watch a previously unseen playfulness that contrasts with the Cintrée Curvex case’s neoclassical elegance.
Kaneta had opted for this depiction of the “dragons” as a response to the aesthetics of the Cintrée Curvex. According to the artist, the Cintrée Curvex most striking feature is its curvilinear elements, which extend in all three dimensions – this was what inspired her to have her figures interact with the dial’s indices.
The quirky interpretation of the dragon also reflects Franck Muller’s watchmaking philosophy: to push creative boundaries by iterating on the familiar in unexpected ways. Other examples abound, from how the Master Banker redefined the dual-time complication to the tri-axial tourbillon’s debut in the Revolution 3.
Of course, the treatment here mirrors Kaneta’s signature style as well. As a leading figure in Japan’s latest generation of artists, Kaneta has developed a unique aesthetic that presents various aspects of nature via anthropomorphic beings. These figures are all rendered in a “chibi” style that echoes Japanese pop culture’s obsession with anything “kawaii”, while exploring traditional Japanese philosophies such as Shinto – the belief that that the divine exists in all things. The same play with opposites can be seen in her works themselves, reminiscent of manga drawings being complemented by intricate shading, for paintings with both depth and dimension.
For her collaboration with Franck Muller, Kaneta drew on traditional East Asian beliefs that revere the dragon as a divine figure blessing the earth with rain for a bountiful harvest. This time, however, she has opted for a simpler, more elegant variant of her style. The figures on the dial are largely in black and white, with hints of aqua blue in their hair to provide a visual link to their role as bringers of rain. The parallels extend to the similarly coloured indices, for yet another subtle nod at the dragon’s ties to the element of water. The visual cues extend to the turquoise dial, which offers a matching palette in lacquer while playing with light via its textured guilloché pattern, as a matching turquoise strap wraps things up to complete the overall package.
Anchoring the above are the familiar features of Franck Muller’s Cintrée Curvex watch, beginning with its 5850 Cintrée Curvex case, which boasts complex curves that make it much more than just a simple tonneau-shaped timepiece. Spade hands and Arabic numeral indices round out the overall look of the watch, while the workhorse MVT FM 2536-SC self-winding movement provides a level of reliability that makes this timepiece the perfect candidate for a daily wearer.
The Cintrée Curvex Ryoko Kaneta Dragon Limited Edition is exclusive to Asia Pacific, and will be available in a limited run of just 500 pieces.