In 2012, the Year of the Dragon, Blancpain presented a Traditional Chinese Calendar watch. It featured not just the Chinese but also a Gregorian calendar date indication. There is a practical reason for including both calendars; the Gregorian calendar is used for universal (civil) purposes, and the lunisolar determines when it’s (Chinese) party time. Since then, limited editions of the Chinese zodiac-themed watches have followed each year. On 22 January 2023, the Chinese zodiac welcomes the year of the Water Rabbit. To anyone wishing to celebrate this symbol of longevity, peace, and prosperity in Chinese culture, the manufacture from Le Brassus has prepared a limited edition of 50 pieces of the Villeret Traditional Chinese Calendar “Year of the Water Rabbit”.
For 2023, the rotor of the automatic calibre 3638 with a 7-day power reserve is decorated with a pair of bunnies, and the small aperture below the dot at 12 o’clock reveals a picture of a rabbit (one of the crown’s functions allows you to choose a different animal from the Chinese zodiac, should you wish). The new watch does not differ much from the “Year of the Tiger” we saw last year. Still, a few good points are worth repeating. The white gold Roman hour numerals are applied to the dial, making time easy to read. The Gregorian calendar dates are also easy to spot on the periphery of the white enamel dial, and the blued-steel snake-shaped central hand points to the correct indicator. The three sub-dials with the black enamel-painted Chinese hieroglyphs can only be deciphered by Mandarin speakers.
Directly beneath the zodiac animals window at noon is a small sub-dial with double hours in figures and symbols over 24 hours. The sub-dial at 9 o’clock is for the lunar months and days with a small hole that turns red when the year has a 13th intercalary month. At 3 o’clock, the third sub-dial indicates the five elements – wood, earth, fire, water and metal – and the ten heavenly stems, with a yin and yang symbol in the centre.
Those familiar with mechanical programming of movements will appreciate the challenge presented by a Chinese calendar with the difference between the number of days in a solar year (365.2) and the lunar year, which can be 353, 354 or 355 days. The calendar adds in an extra month known as an intercalary month. Blancpain engineers presented their solution after five years of development, and calibre 3638 is very much a technical feat, no matter which zodiac symbol decorates the rotor. It is built using over 450 components and uses three barrels to provide the week-long unstoppable operation of the Blancpain Villeret Traditional Chinese Calendar.
As with previous Chinese Year specials, the new Blancpain Villeret Traditional Chinese Calendar “Year of the Water Rabbit” comes in a 45mm polished platinum case with a transparent caseback, and the crown is set with a Madagascar pink ruby cabochon. The watch is 30m water-resistant and will be sold on a black alligator strap with a folding clasp through Blancpain boutiques exclusively. The price is set at EUR 89,360. For more, please visit www.blancpain.com.