Chinese New Year commences on the 12th of February and welcomes the Year of the Metal Ox. Blancpain commemorates the occasion with a new version of its Traditional Chinese Calendar, a masterpiece of horological complexity that combines Chinese calendar indications with elements from the Gregorian calendar. Housed in a large 45mm platinum or red gold case with an elegant white Grand Feu enamel dial, this watch steers away from the ongoing trend of including a large depiction of the zodiac animal on the dial. Instead of featuring an artistic rendering of an ox on the dial, Blancpain’s combines the best of two worlds in the most complex and complete calendar watch dedicated to the Chinese New Year.
Calendar watches, in all their different modalities, hold a special place at Blancpain, like the classic Villeret Quantième Perpetual we all know and love. The extraordinarily complex Traditional Chinese Calendar made its debut in 2012 coinciding with the Year of the Dragon. Far more complicated than a traditional perpetual calendar, Blancpain’s calendar watch fuses two dramatically different approaches to quantifying time. The Gregorian calendar is based on a solar day; the traditional Chinese calendar is lunisolar and relies on the cycle of the Moon as well as the Earth’s course around the sun. Although the Gregorian calendar is used for civil purposes, the Chinese calendar is still used to guide agricultural production and determine seasonal holidays like the Chinese New Year. The main snag with the lunisolar calendar is the difference between the number of days in a solar year (365.2) and the lunar year which can last 353, 354 or 355 days. To harmonise the lunar and solar years, the calendar adds in an extra month, also known as an intercalary month.
Deciphering the dial
Given the amount of information relayed on the immaculate white Grand Feu enamel dial, it maintains a pleasing symmetry and does not overwhelm the viewer. Starting with the least complex indications and working our way up, Blancpain’s Traditional Chinese Calendar features applied white or red gold Roman numerals and openworked sage-leaf hour and minute hands. The Gregorian date is placed on the periphery of the dial and indicated by a blued-steel serpentine hand (pointer date), while the traditional phases of the Moon are placed in an aperture above 6 o’clock.
Elements from the lunisolar Chinese calendar commence with the representation of an ox in a small aperture at 12 o’clock. All twelve animals (also referred to as the 12 earthly branches) in the Chinese zodiac are featured on the disc, which can be adjusted by hand via the crown to coincide with the corresponding animal. Below the ox is a small sub-dial indicating the double hours in figures and symbols over a cycle of 24 hours and indicated with a small silver or gold hand. The sub-dial at 9 o’clock houses the lunar months of the Chinese calendar and relies on a short blued-steel hand. The inscription on the periphery of this counter indicates the lunar days and uses the longer blued-steel hand, while a small circular aperture in this counter turns red when the year has a 13th or intercalary month. There is a third sub-dial at 3 o’clock indicating the five elements (wood, earth, fire, water and metal) and the ten celestial stems over a cycle of ten years with a yin and yang design in its centre.
Automatic calibre 3638
As you can imagine, reconciling all these elements in one watch was a phenomenal challenge for Blancpain’s watchmakers and took five years to develop. Inside the 45mm platinum or red gold Villeret case is the automatic 3638 calibre with a phenomenal 7-day (168-hour) power reserve thanks to the use of three series-couple barrels. The movement is comprised of 464 components, beats a frequency of 4Hz and is equipped with a silicon balance spring. The sapphire crystal caseback reveals the large white gold rotor engraved with the figure of an ox and set with a bright pink Madagascar cabochon-cut ruby along with the refined Côtes de Genève decoration and jewels.
Obviously, a movement of this complexity is reflected in the height of the case that measures 15mm. There are five patented Blancpain under-lug correctors to adjust the calendar indications.
The platinum version of the Traditional Chinese Calendar is limited to 50 pieces. The other version in red gold isn’t limited in production. The price of the watch has not yet been revealed, but expect it to be in the region of EUR 80,000.
More information at Blancpain.