New: Kees Engelbarts 1/3 of Dragon Gate Series: Jumping Carp

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Master engraver Kees Engelbarts announces a new series – the Dragon Gate Collection with the first installment out of a total 3, the Jumping Carp. This collection will be a series of 3 pièce unique watches depicting a carp jumping, and wanting to go through the dragon gate in order to transform itself into a dragon.

Kees Engelbarts

Within the more hallowed halls of high watchmaking, the name of Kees (pronunced as “Case”) Engelbarts is a genius to be exalted. Especially for his live like engravings. We particularly adore his interpretations of the Chinese dragons.

He is also well known for being an exponent of the Japanese technique Mokume-gane (木目金, Mokumegane), which means “wood grain metal”. This is a traditional Japanese metalworking procedure which produces a mixed-metal laminate with distinctive layered patterns, as well as that laminate itself. Mokume gane translates closely to “wood grain metal” or “wood eye metal” and describes the way metal takes on the appearance of natural wood grain. Mokume gane fuses several layers of differently coloured precious metals together to form a sandwich of alloys called a “billet.” The billet is then manipulated in such a way that a pattern resembling wood grain emerges over its surface. He has released several watches featuring this technique. One example is the Platinum Tsuba Watch.

Example of the Mokume Gane in a Kees Engelbarts Tourbillon with an Arabic motif.

Kees is a Dutchman, who began his training as an engraver in Schoonhoven (known to the Dutch as “Silver Town”). He settled in Geneva in the 1990s. He focused mainly on watch dials, attracting commissions from many high end Swiss brands. In 1997, he decided to make his own watches, and offer them as art works, almost exclusively pièce uniques. He also started a brand Cornelius & Cie in 2008, but the brand is now defunct.

Kees Engelbarts 1/3 of Dragon Gate Series

This series is based on Chinese mythology where a carp, swimming upstream and leaping the falls of the Yellow River at Dragon Gate (Longmen). The carp transforms into a dragon, a motif which is used to symbolize success in the civil service examinations.

The Dragon Gate is at the border of Shanxi and Shaanzi where the Yellow River flows through a cleft in the Longmen mountains. According to one account, carps competed at a yearly competition to leap the Longmen falls, those who succeeded were immediately transformed into dragons, and flew off into the sky. Pictures of Carp attempting to leap the Longmen falls have been enduringly popular in China.

The Jumping Carp

The watch is a two hand time only watch with the carp motif engraved on the dial. The case diameter is 39.5 mm and is made out of 935 Argentium, a silver alloy that uses germanium instead of copper and therefore doesn’t oxidize or tarnish like “normal” sterling silver.

The case has first been thermically hardened and then brushed. Kees makes it a point not to polish his cases because polished surface don’t stay polished very long. The watch-cases are frames for the art-work inside the watch – the dial and movement decoration. Overall thickness of the finished watch is 9.5 mm. It has anti-reflection sapphire crystals on both-sides. Winding crown is in 18K yellow gold.

Both the front and the movement visible from the case back feature special techniques with acids and oxidization to produce interesting rainbow like colours. The technique of heat to make the spectrum of colours is also the same as that used to blue hands when used high precision to temperature control, or like the exhaust pipes of motor vehicles where the heat is not as well controlled.

Heat is used on metal to create oxidation colours from light yellow, through blue to pink to brown/black.

The dial is made of white gold/silver mokume gane and hand-engraved in low-relief technique, total thickness of the dial is 1 mm. A total of 19 layers form the mokume gane ingot, and they become visible with the progressive engraving and can be colored differently by using acids and oxidizing techniques. The layers of the mokume gane accentuate the shapes of the waves, creating a very dynamic image.

The movement, a new old stock manual wound Peseux 330, has been hand-engraved in an Asian wave pattern. After engraving the bridges and main-plate have been silver plated and finally oxidized.

Kees told us that he intends to release the watch as a set of three, where the other two is still being developed, and will carry the story of the carp till it becomes the dragon. The second one with be the transformation of the carp into the dragon, and the third watch will be the dragon. Kees intends to use enamel and engraving in various combinations for these two other watches. Price is not set yet, but will depend on the time spent. The trilogy is expected to be completed in the next few months.



  1. David X. Droog on

    Small correction – Schoonhoven is known as the silver town, but the name Schoonhoven is not at all Dutch for Silver Town.