Blancpain Calendrier Chinois Traditionnel
As the Chinese New Year approaches and over a billion people prepare to celebrate the Year of the Ox, Blancpain has chosen to celebrate the milestone by unveiling a remarkable timepiece, the Calendrier Chinois Traditionnel. The model is limited to just 50 pieces and combines a platinum case with a grand feu enamel dial. However, beyond its prepossessing features, this watch houses much mechanical complexity and technical know-how.
In the world of horology, calendar watches are hugely popular. There is a hierarchy in terms of complexity and desirability, ranging from the complete calendar to the ultimate ownership proposition, the perpetual calendar. With this latter complication, assuming the mainspring remains wound, the watch will display the correct date irrespective of each month’s length. In fact, the mechanism even makes an allowance for leap years. The only occasion when the indications require adjustment are in 2100, 2200 and 2300 which are not leap years in the Gregorian calendar despite being divisible by four.
However, while the perpetual calendar is widely considered the pinnacle of calendar watch ownership, Blancpain sets aside this notion. The Blancpain Calendrier Chinois Traditionnel is a limited-edition watch, produced to mark the forthcoming Chinese Year of the Ox. The watch displays the Chinese calendar, a technical challenge that surpasses even the aforementioned perpetual calendar.
The Gregorian calendar, favoured by western nations, displays units of time based on the solar day, whereas the traditional lunisolar Chinese calendar is based on the calendar year divided according to the phases of the moon, but adjusted in average length to fit the length of the solar cycle.
An aperture, positioned below noon, reveals the Chinese zodiac, the ox. This is positioned above a double-hour counter. Two subdials are positioned at 3 and 9 o’clock, conferring a harmonious sense of equilibrium and symmetry. Ten celestial pillars and five elements are shown at 3 o’clock, while the month, date and leap year are displayed at 9 o’clock. A crescent shaped aperture, positioned at 6 o’clock reveals the moon phase. Lastly, a blue serpentine hand points to the date values located around the periphery of the dial.
While the Blancpain Calendrier Chinois Traditionnel is incredibly complicated, the Swiss marque has managed to present the indications in discrete, simple to interpret doses of information. Moreover, there is a welcome sense of familiarity, courtesy of the openworked leaf-shaped hour and minute hands, and the use of stylised Roman numerals for the hour values.
Such complexity requires a large dial canvas in order to breathe. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Manufacture has endowed the model with a generously proportioned case, measuring 45mm in diameter. The brand’s patented under-lug corrector system provides a user-friendly means of adjusting the indications without cluttering the sides of the case with numerous correctors.
To the rear of the case is an exhibition caseback which affords views of the self-winding movement, the Calibre 3638. The oscillating weight, presented in white gold, is engraved with an ox and sports a Madagascan ruby. Beyond the oscillating weight, the wearer can see ultra-refined finishing, including Côtes de Genève motif, Sunray motif on the ratchet wheel, circular graining, polished jewel and screw sinks and numerous gleaming bevels. Indeed, one glance at the movement justifies why Blancpain is considered to be one of the finest exponents of Haute Horlogerie.
This limited-edition version of the Blancpain Calendrier Chinois Traditionnel is available as part of the Year of the Ox celebrations. The case is formed of platinum and features a stepped bezel. Furthermore, the specification includes a white grand feu dial. A non-limited version of the watch is also available in red gold with an alternative oscillating weight featuring guilloché decoration.
The brand’s press release
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.
Blancpain’s Traditional Chinese Calendar is also available in a non-limited version in red gold with a finely guilloché oscillating weight.