Blancpain celebrates Chinese New Year with a limited series of 50 watches dedicated to this tradition and its festivities. The Year of the Metal Ox begins on February 12th 2021 and ends on January 31st 2022. Housed in a precious platinum case, the Traditional Chinese Calendar bearing the emblem of the ox features an exclusive complication appearing on an elegant Grand Feu enamel dial.
Press release with commentary in italics
Blancpain Villeret Calendrier Chinois Traditionnel
Retail price is SGD 121,500 inclusive of GST.
Blancpain continues in its tradition of the Chinese Calendar with the celebration of the Year of the Ox – a 50 piece limited edition in platinum and grand feu enamel, and a red gold edition which will remain in the regular catalog.
While it is clear that Blancpain originally set out to woo Chinese collectors, the watch ably demonstrates Blancpain’s expertise in calendar complications with the world premiere in 2012 for the Year of the Yang Water Dragon. This is the first and currently still the only watch of its kind in the world, combining basic time-telling functions with elements of the Chinese calendar, including cycles of the zodiac and five elements with 10 celestial stems
The Chinese zodiac is based on a cycle of 60 years, where 12 animal zodiacs complete 5 cycles, each assigned to an element with a Ying/Yang status. 2021 will be the Year of the Ox in the Yin Metal cycle.
In addition to the Gregorian date and timekeeping functions, the Chinese calendar adds complexity from the irregular nature of the cycles. The hours, minutes and the Gregorian calendar are presented in the center. The counter at 12 o’clock indicates the double-hour numerals and symbols (24-hour cycle). So far, this is a rather standard calendar. But from here, the complication begins. The sub-dial at 3 o’clock shows the elements and the celestial stems, which is a 10-year cycle. The month of the Chinese calendar (12-month cycle), its date (30-day cycle) and the leap month indicator appear at 9 o’clock, while a 12 o’clock aperture reveals the zodiac sign of the year in progress (12-year cycle); and the moon phases are displayed at 6 o’clock.
Months are defined by the time between new moons, which averages approximately 29 17⁄32 days. There is no specified length of any particular Chinese month, so the first month could have 29 days (short month, 小月) in some years and 30 days (long month, 大月) in other years.
A 12-month-year using this system has 354 days, which would drift significantly from the tropical year. To fix this, traditional Chinese years have a 13-month year approximately once every three years. The 13-month version has the same alternation of long and short months, but adds a 30-day leap month (閏月; rùnyuè) at the end of the year. Years with 12 months are called common years, and 13-month years are known as long years.
The new Ref. 00888I-3431-55B
Forged in noble platinum, the 50-piece limited-edition Traditional Chinese Calendar watch pays homage to the age-old culture of the Middle Kingdom. The Grand Feu enamel dial of this exceptional timepiece reveals the complexity of a display combining Chinese calendar indications with those of the Gregorian calendar and moon phases – all specialities of the Manufacture Blancpain.
Unlike the Gregorian calendar, whose unit of measurement is based on the solar day, the traditional lunisolar Chinese calendar is based on the lunar cycle as well as exact astronomical observations of the sun’s longitude. Thus, in addition to the hours and minutes, date and moon phases, Blancpain’s Traditional Chinese Calendar watch offers the main indications of the traditional Chinese calendar: double hours, days, months and leap months, zodiac signs, five elements and ten heavenly stems. The latter, combined with the 12 earthly branches – symbolised by the animals of the zodiac – produce 60 different pairs forming the sexagesimal cycle of the Chinese time measurement system.
Despite their complex combination, these functions are clearly displayed on a dial with Roman gold numerals and hollowed-out sage leaf-shaped hands. The ox, the animal of the year 2021, appears in an aperture at 12 o’clock above the double-hour counter. Symmetrically positioned at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock, two subdials respectively indicate the celestial stems and the five elements, as well as pointer-type month and date indications and leap months through a round aperture. In a manner typical of Blancpain’s Complete Calendar watches, the moon phases that determine the months of the Chinese calendar can be read off at 6 o’clock, while a blued serpentine hand sweeps over the date numerals around the dial circumference.
This innovative complication, a genuine mechanical challenge whose development required five full years to master, is incorporated into the self-winding 3638 calibre. Endowed with a seven-day power reserve, this Haute Horlogerie movement is housed in a 45 mm case featuring a crown set with a cabochon-cut ruby. It is equipped with Blancpain’s patented under-lug corrector system allowing easy function adjustments. The sapphire crystal case back enables one to admire the finishing of the movement and its white gold oscillating weight, engraved with the Chinese zodiac sign of the year.
On long years, one of the month is repeated, and carries the number of the preceeding month. The months are numbered 1 through 12, and the leap month is between 2nd and 11th. During this, an extra marker with the Chinese character ‘闰’ is shown in an aperture, to indicate a repeat month.
The Chinese day is divided into 24 hours, and shown on the subdial, with indicators for the traditional astrological hours which is equal to 120minutes, and marked accordingly.
Blancpain’s Traditional Chinese Calendar is also available in a non-limited version in red gold with a finely guilloché oscillating weight.
The movement – Caliber 3638
The self-winding Calibre 3638 is endowed with a 7-day power reserve, despite the presence of 434 parts including 39 jewels. Its complexity stems as much from the number of indications to be displayed as from the irregular nature of their cycles.
The hours, minutes and the Gregorian calendar are presented in the center. The counter at 12 o’clock indicates the double-hour numerals and symbols (24-hour cycle); while the one at 3 o’clock shows the elements and the celestial stems (10-year cycle). The month of the Chinese calendar (12-month cycle), its date (30-day cycle) and the leap month indicator appear at 9 o’clock, while a 12 o’clock aperture reveals the zodiac sign of the year in progress (12-year cycle); and the moon phases are displayed at 6 o’clock.