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Many people around the world celebrate the Lunar New Year – and we’re also getting involved in this special occasion at Christopher Ward. But why exactly is the Moon so special? And what impact has it had upon timekeeping throughout the ages? Here’s a quick breakdown.

What is the Lunar New Year?

As you may have probably guessed from its name, the Lunar New Year marks the first day of the year for calendars dictated by cycles of the Moon (as opposed to many western cultures who follow the Gregorian calendar). While predominantly celebrated in a number of Asian countries including China, Japan, Vietnam (‘Tết’), Korea (‘Seollal’), its influence can be felt all around the globe.

There are many theories as to how this tradition started and why its celebrations endure to this day. One legend tells the story of the Jade Emperor, who chose 12 animals to become palace guards. The traits of each animals, and their cunning to be first in line at the palace, would soon form the foundations for the Chinese Zodiac. And 2020? That would be the Year of the Rat!

The Chinese Zodiac

The tales don’t end there, where legend also includes a man-eating beast from the mountains. With this threat of evil, people quickly learned that the best way to rid the beast was with fireworks and explosions. These fireworks are now an emblem of celebration every Lunar New Year, scaring away any evil spirits for the coming months.

What’s the significance of Year of the Rat in 2020?

According to the Zodiac, the Rat has traits of saving and collecting, being financially skilled and leading organised lives. If you were born in the Year of the Rat (1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008), you might already be onto a winner! In particular, 2020 also marks the element of metal; the Metal Rat being renowned for turning unfortunate events into good fortune. It also represents the dualist concept of yang, and the beginning of a new day – who knows what this fresh opportunity might hold in store?

How does the Lunar New Year, or more specifically the Moon, impact watchmaking?

Like astrology, horology looks at time and the study of movements. The Moon plays a vital role in the lunar calendar, so it’s not a surprise that brilliant minds would eventually translate its constant passage across the sky into a series of gears, springs and wheels. Initially appearing in larger wall clocks, a notable example of one remains the Astronomical Clock, located upon the side of Old Town Hall in Prague – it remains the oldest operating astronomical clock in existence, having been finished in 1410.

World's oldest astronomical clock in Prague

Some 605 years later, Christopher Ward would reveal its own take on the moonphase complication: Calibre JJ04. Accurate to within a day every 128 years if kept wound, it also displays the true phases of the moon perpetually thanks to some delicate re-engineering of a Sellita SW220 base movement.

C1 Moonglow layers

JJ04 provides the enchanting backbone of our Lunar Collection, featuring two models: the luminescent C1 Moonglow and elegant C1 Grand Malvern Moonphase.

C1 Moonglow by Christopher Ward

C1 Moonphase by Christopher Ward

So in a week that sees many celebrating the start of a new year – and a prosperous one, we hope! – we also pay tribute to the celestial beauty that is the Moon. To our customers celebrating around the world, ‘Kung hei fat choi!’

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