Kennin-ji is one of Japan’s most historic landmarks. Founded in 1202, it’s the oldest Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto and its founding monk, Eisai, is credited with introducing the philosophy of zen to Japan. To celebrate the temple’s 800th anniversary in 2002, a pair of dragons were painted inside the Dharma Hall, with instructions from the Abbott that they be “rampaging across the ceiling”.
The beauty and power of these dragons has inspired an experienced collector to commission a timepiece featuring the very same artwork, calling on the expertise of four of the very best master craftsmen in the business to come together in what’s being called the “Kennin-ji Master’s Project”. Helmed by acclaimed English watchmaker Peter Speake-Marin, experts are saying this is one of the most exquisite and ornate watches ever made in the history of the craft.
Peter-Speake Marin is one of only a small group of members belonging to the Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants, an elite international institution of skilled horologists, who are involved in the science or art of timekeeping. For this project, he created an in-house SM2 movement to beat beneath the dragons.
The underside of the watch shows the extraordinary detail and the engraved precision movement contained within.
Two master engravers were involved in the project: Eddy Jaquet, from Switzerland, who engraved the SM2 movement shown above, and Dutchman Kees Engelbarts, who engraved the dial and case.
In order to have the dragons flow seamlessly from the dial, the original bezel was redesigned to have a rounder profile. This lets the dragons reach out over the bezel and down the sides of the caseband.
The project is unique not only in the minute detail of its complex engravings, but also in the fact that the designs cover almost the entire watch.
The intricate craftsmanship extends to the presentation case. Leather embosser Christophe Seewer embossed the leather lining of the case with a similar dragon motif to compliment the design of the watch.
The price of the watch, with its 42-millimetre (1.65 inches) white gold case, has not been revealed. With hours of intricate handiwork from the best professionals in the business, it’s certainly a priceless (or, at least, a very expensive) timepiece.