In 2012, Blancpain presented a world-premiere with the first wristwatch to feature a traditional Chinese calendar. Included under Blancpain's Villeret collection, the 'Calendrier Chinois Traditionnel' a.k.a. Traditional Chinese Calendar ref. 00888-3631-55B is fitted with an 18K red gold case measuring 45mm in diameter and 15mm thick. The case is not only beautiful and very nicely finished but it's also the perfect housing for one of the most fascinating and complex horological complications ever created.
to telling the hours and minutes, the watch features a Gregorian calendar, a Chinese
calendar that includes all the animals in the Chinese zodiac in a small aperture right above the double-hour
indicator at 12,
a date and month indicator at 9 with a red dot that indicates the intercalary months as necessary, a moon phase indicator at 6 and an indicator for the five elements and its corresponding ten celestial stems with yin-yang phase at 3 o'clock.
For those of you that don't know how the Chinese calendar works, here's a quick overview. The most important thing to remember is that the traditional Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar where months begin with a new moon, months are 29 or 30 days long and a year could have 12 or 13 months depending on the need of inserting what is called an intercalary or leap month.
The months are numbered from 1 thru 12 and when an intercalary month is needed, the number of the preceding month is repeated —typically between the second and eleventh month— with an extra marker that in Chinese is ‘闰’. In the case of this watch, it is marked with a small red dot on the date and month register. The years are named using a
60-year cycle and each name is formed by combining a celestial stem
from a 10-year cycle and an earthly branch from a 12-year cycle. The 12
earthly branches are directly correlated to the
12 zodiac animals but have different names. Every 60-year cycle is composed of the five elements and the 12 zodiac animals.
This amazing complication features a white 'grand feu' enamel dial with all numbers in Chinese with the exception of the 31 days —located on the outer part of the dial— of the Gregorian calendar and the red gold chapter ring applied Roman numerals that mark the hours. The Gregorian calendar features a gorgeous blued steel serpentine shaped hand that provides a nice contrast and that is very elegant.
All twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac are displayed via a small aperture located above the double-hours indicator at 12, while the moon phase indicator is right under the center pinion at 6 o'clock. As you can appreciate in the pictures, the animals are flawlessly represented.
This is perhaps one of the most amazing and fascinating horological complications ever attempted and it clearly exceeds the complication of a perpetual calendar and ranks only second to a minute repeater. The watch is fitted with a brown alligator strap that is very comfortable thanks to its double-folding clasp with tang buckle. Wearing this watch will add a touch of elegance and distinction to anyone's wrist.
The beating heart inside this complication is Blancpain's automatic calibre 3638 composed of 463 components, 39 jewels and a 7-day power reserve. The rotor is nicely decorated with the yin-yang symbol and the calibre is fully visible through the display case back.
Also on the back of the case, you will find the five exclusive and patented under-lug correctors to make all the necessary adjustments to the different features of the calendar —four of them located by each lug and one around the middle part of the back of the case. The crown allows direct adjustment of the zodiac and elements according to the 60-year cycle. This is a very clever and convenient system that only someone like Blancpain could've thought of in the first place. Kudos to Blancpain!
Even though the watch wears slightly bigger than its size —perhaps more like a 47mm watch—, it is extremely comfortable and with a wrist presence that is unparalleled.
This watch is also available every year in a 20-piece limited edition in platinum with a Madagascar ruby on the crown and the oscillating weight. If you are Chinese or of Chinese descent, the 宝珀中华年历表 Blancpain Traditional Chinese Calendar is a must have in your collection. If you are ready to buy one, stop by the Tourbillon Boutique in Chicago.