In 2012, Blancpain introduced the Villeret Traditional Chinese Calendar, an extremely complex watch fusing the Chinese and Gregorian calendars, complete with a moon phase complication that coincided with the Year of the Dragon. Twelve years have passed, and the dragon is back in the limelight again. To mark this twelve-year cycle, Blancpain’s latest interpretation of its complex calendar watch appears for the first time in red gold with an attractive green enamel dial.
Blancpain’s Villeret family is home to several sophisticated calendar complications like the Quantième Perpétuel and the Quantième Complet. However, the Traditional Chinese Calendar upped the ante by combining two different calendars in one watch, a task that took Blancpain five years of R&D to perfect. The reason for incorporating both calendars responds to the fact that in China, the lunisolar calendar, based on exact astronomical observations of the Sun’s longitude and the Moon’s phases, is used to determine festival dates like the Lunar New Year, while the Gregorian calendar is used for civil purposes. The challenge posed by a Chinese calendar resides in the difference between the number of days in a solar year (365.2) and the lunar year, which can vary between 353, 354 or 355 days. To compensate for the difference between lunar and solar years, the calendar adds in an extra ‘intercalary’ month.
When Blancpain introduced its Traditional Chinese Calendar in 2012, it was the Year of the Dragon. According to legend, the Jade Emperor summoned twelve different animals to the gates of his palace, and the order of each animal’s arrival was immortalised in the twelve-year Chinese Zodiac. Following this order, each animal rules the calendar once every twelve years, meaning that 2024 marks the return of the dragon. Having seen several editions of the watch in platinum and red gold with white dials, the latest Chinese Calendar combines a warm red gold case with a rich green enamel dial.
Using Grand Feu enamel, the rich shade of green offsets the functions with even greater clarity than the white dial editions. Despite the complexity and abundance of information relayed on the dial, it retains a pleasing symmetry. The date is placed on the periphery and indicated by a serpentine gold hand. Indicated by elegant openworked sage hands, the hours are represented by applied red gold Roman numerals and dots at 12, 3 and 9 o’clock. At 6 o’clock, there is a moon phase aperture with a smiling golden moon face and stars.
The three sub-dials with silver enamel inscriptions in Mandarin relay the Chinese calendar information. Another novelty is the refreshed portrait of the golden dragon (and the eleven other zodiac animals) in the aperture at noon. Beneath the dragon is a small sub-dial with double hours in figures and symbols. The sub-dial at 9 o’clock is dedicated to the lunar months and days, and the small circular aperture turns red when the year has a 13th intercalary month. At 3 o’clock, the third sub-dial with a yin and yang symbol in its centre indicates the five elements – wood, earth, fire, water and metal – and the ten heavenly stems. Incidentally, it is the Year of the Wood Dragon, so the gold hand should be pointing to the correct symbol. As with previous editions, the polished 45.20mm case has a height of 15.10mm and features five patented correctors hidden under the lugs to adjust the calendar.
The watch is powered by Blancpain’s exceptionally complex calibre 3638. Comprised of 464 components and capable of delivering a mighty 7-day power reserve thanks to three series-coupled barrels, the automatic movement beats at 4 Hz and is equipped with a silicon balance spring. Traditional finishings decorate the movement, and the red gold rotor features a beautifully engraved figure of the Wood Dragon flanked by a red ruby.
Availability & Price
Blancpain’s 2024 Villeret Traditional Chinese Calendar is limited to 50 pieces. Price is upon request, but expect it to be in the region of EUR 73,000. For more information, please visit Blancpain.com.