When buying gifts for cat lovers, most of us just want the inexpensive or highest value option, in order to get the most bang for our buck. We’re usually not trying to pin down the most exclusive or precious cat collectibles in the world. And with Christmas around the corner but the pandemic still having a hold on society, most of us have a hard time justifying the purchase of any luxury goods at all.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy these masterpieces from afar, and marvel at the techniques, effort and materials used by their artisans. And if you’re one of the few who can actually afford to own these, you’ll get no judgement from me. It’s your right to spend your hard earned money on whatever you choose.

That said, let’s now turn our attention to the three objects I’ve curated for you, and I’ll throw in some budget versions for those who are interested.

1. Namiki Yukari Royale Chinkin Cat Fountain Pen, $3,700

Namiki was founded in 1925 by Ryosuke Namiki to produce high-end fountain pens. The lacquer coating made the pens incredibly durable and their artisans started to experiment with carving and painting intricate designs into the pen bodies. Today, Namiki is more popularly known globally as the behemoth that is the Pilot Corporation of writing instruments. The brand name Namiki is still used for their traditional range of luxury fountain pens which are highly collectible and sought after by those in the know.

The Chinkin range are their pens which use gold inlay carving before lacquering, which is an extremely expensive and time consuming process with little margin for error. The result is an incredibly textured and intricate design when viewed close up.

Contrast that with a regular Namiki Falcon, which is a very popular daily writer for many fountain pen enthusiasts (author Neil Gaiman has also given it a shout-out in podcast appearances). Sans lacquer and artwork, it goes on Amazon for $142. All in, just a difference of $3,558.

To learn more about the maki-e and chinkin techniques, or to buy this pen, check out Goulet Pens website and Youtube channel.

The Budget Option: Online Schreibgeräte Cat Fountain Pen

Online is a well established German brand producing affordably high quality writing instruments since 1991. They are relatively new compared to many of the major brands but are respected by fountain pen collectors. This Fluffy Cat fountain pen comes in an iridium nib that has a five year warranty. It will make a fine daily writer and last a lifetime, all for under $25. I really like the cat design too.

Buy it here on Amazon.

For more info on the company, check out their website here.

2. Hermes Arceau Baobab Cat Wristwatch, $ 91,000

Hermes really needs no introduction, but I’m going to do it anyway. In 1837 Thierry Hermes started the eponymous brand in Paris, in the form of a workshop dedicated to creating high quality harnesses for European noblemen. Hence their horse and carriage logo still unchanged today as a symbol of their heritage. Today, they are listed on Euronext and have annual operating revenues in the region of more than EUR6b. In the world of fine leather goods, they are without peer. Vuitton? Not even close. What is more amazing is that despite the strongarm attempts of a takeover from LVMH, they are still a family owned and controlled business.

And for this ladies timepiece, they have really brought their A-game. Based off a 2018 Hermes scarf designed by Ardmore, this miniaturized masterpiece features a hand engraved mother of pearl applique over an onyx dial. The attention to detail is simply fascinating and the watch production is limited to only 12 pieces worldwide.

The Budget Option: Swatch and Casio
Swatch: GB322 Comicat & LP156 Minou Minou

The only thing these watches have in common with the Hermes are that they are capable of telling the time. In fact, being Quartz, these two are probably more accurate than the Hermes and definitely more legible. A little ironic, but in our modern post-smartphone era, we don’t really rely on watches for accurate timekeeping. Watches have evolved to become more of a fashion and status accessory. In the wristwatch world, the Swatch Group is an absolute giant, owning more than 10,000 patents and is the parent company for Omega, Breguet, Blancpain and Jaquet Droz.

The Swatch brand of watches itself has also produced innovation such as the Sistem51 (first fully robotic assembled automatic movement comprised of only 51 parts). They also feature many collaborations with popular artists that are always sold out due to high collector’s demand. In 2015, Hodinkee reported on the Sotheby’s auction of a superlot of Swatch watches which ended up selling for over $6 million.

As for cat themed watches, Swatch has made many in the past, but you won’t be able to find most of them unless you patiently wait for them to turn up in Ebay or Chrono24. These two are the ones I’ve managed to pin down that you can still purchase off the Swatch website directly, at the time of writing. You might have to change your country location as these models don’t show up on the US site.

GB322 Comicat, $84
LP156 Minou Minou, $79

Over to yet another legendary brand, Casio, who in early 2020 released three watches with maneki-neko (Beckoning Cat) inspired colorways and subtle design elements. As most of you already know, maneki-neko is a popular traditional Japanese figurine said to bring good luck and wealth. And being 2020, we could definitely use some of that. These watches were the result of a collaboration with Japanese streetwear label BlackEyePatch.

Casio G-Shock Maneki-neko DW-5600TMN-7JR & 1JR Limited Editions

These look like regular G-Shocks but looks can be deceiving. For one thing, they are in the maneki-neko colors of green, gold, pink, white and black. Secondly, when the illuminator is activated, the maneki-neko figure appears in the backlight. Pretty cool.

At the time of writing, only the 5600TMN-7JR is still in stock so for the black version, maybe try Ebay or Chrono24. Anyhow, here are the Amazon links:
DW-5600TMN-7JR, $246

Casio G-Shock Maneki-neko GA-100TMN-1AJR Limited Edition

This is the analog digital option, and also features the maneki-neko colors of black, gold and pink. The central subdial hand is a cat for that subtle touch of detail. This is still available on Amazon for only $187.

The links I’ve provided are for the JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) models, which are made in Japan. The same watches are made in Thailand, Malaysia and China as well, so if you need to save a bit of cash, then you can search for these. Bear in mind that there will be a difference in quality, so go JDM wherever possible.

3. My Wife’s Lovers, A 19th Century Painting By Carl Kahler, A Whopping $826,000

What do you do as an artist if in 1891 you are commissioned by an American millionaire Kate Birdsall Johnson to paint as many of her Turkish Angora’s as you could fit into a 6×8.5 foot, 100 pound canvas? If you answered ‘spend three years studying cat personalities and movement’, then you probably googled it before I did. But that’s exactly what Carl Kahler did. And for the record, he fit 42 cats in there, with the center belonging to Sultan, Johnson’s prized cat. This masterpiece kickstarted his fame and at the same time also pigeonholed him into the niche of cat painting legend. Over the decades, this painting made it’s way through a number of owners until it was finally auctioned for a cool $826 grand.

Budget Option: DIY

Of course, you can always get something off Amazon like this set of 3 prints depicting black cats and butterflies.

But it’s a lot more fun if you take photos of your own cats or go online to sites like Pixabay and choose your own image. Just download them in high-res (they are free to use) and have them printed out to your preferred size and then custom-framed. It involves a little bit more work, but short of painting it yourself, you have a ton of options and total control of the operation. This is also a good alternative to typical store-bought gifts for cat lovers.

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