Kees Engelbarts perpetuates his long-standing series of unique engraved timepieces inspired by japanese myths with this mokume-gane dragon watch. The dragon is engraved out of one solid piece of mokume-gane in low-relief and the background has been etched to enhance texture and contrast.
Kees Engelbarts is the first known artist to have used mokume-gane in watchmaking and to have engraved it, starting in the 90s. Following him, many other brands have started using composite materials in their watches, such as damast steel, layered carbon fiber, etc.
Mokume-gane is a metalwork technique developped by Denbei Shoami, a master artisan from 17th century Japan. The technique, literally translating to "wood-grain metal", consists of layering multiple different metals, which are then etched to accentuate or change the color of the metals, as well as their texture.
The hand-engraved dial of this unique piece is composed of 19 layers, alternating between silver and white gold, compressed into a 1mm thick plate. In order to engrave the dragon, material was progressively removed from the dial, exposing the different layers of the mokume-gane and revealing the wonderful patterns of the wood-grain. The dragon was then carefully engraved, one scale at a time.
Like much of Kees Engelbarts' earlier work, this watch presents evident asian inspiration, both in material choice and motifs. The front engraving depicts a japanese dragon. These dragons are strongly connected to the element of water, often living in rivers, lakes or seas, and protecting their respective body of water. While occidental dragons are associated with brute force and greed, japanese dragons are highly respected creatures and symbolize wisdom and peace.
The engraving on the back of the watch despicts asian-style clouds, as well as the dragon's claws holding a pearl, representing prosperity, power and immortality. The movement was silver-plated and then blackened to darken the engraving.
The dauphine hands are also made of mokume-gane, with the different layers being clearly visible thanks to the oxidizing.
The case, also made by Mr. Engelbarts, is made of 925 argentium silver, a silver alloy with germanium, known for being tarnish-resistant, and has a matte finish.
Overall, this watch perfectly embodies Kees Engelbarts' craftsmanship and style, being discrete on the wrist, but having plenty of detail when inspected more closely.