Five years in the making, Blancpain’s Traditional Chinese Calendar wristwatch is equipped with an extraordinary mechanism that allows for the display of both Chinese and Gregorian calendar elements.
More complicated than a perpetual calendar, the self-winding 3638 movement’s ingenious combination of two radically different interpretations of time is a remarkable technical accomplishment. While the Gregorian calendar is based on the solar day, the Chinese calendar relies on the lunar cycle; a solar year is about 11 days longer than a year of 12 lunar months. Plus, the Chinese calendar gets a leap year every two to three years to bring consistency to the seasonal cycle. That explains why the date of the Chinese New Year varies.
Making a mechanical watch that reconciles all of this complexity is one reason why Blancpain’s Traditional Chinese Calendar stands out from the (rat)pack of new Year-of-the-Rat timepieces. The other reason is far simpler: It does not prominently feature a rodent on its dial.
Instead, the Grand Feu enamel dial of the timepiece contains a harmonious quintet of time displays, with a rat positioned, subtly, inside a window at 12 o’clock. Directly beneath it appears a counter of double hours showing both numbers and symbols, in deference to the Chinese system of subdividing the day into 12 double hours. At 3 o’clock, the 10 celestial pillars and five elements are displayed—across the dial, at 9 o’clock, hands indicate the month and date.
Just above 6 o’clock, a window reveals Blancpain’s emblematic moon phase display, which, in this instance, indicates the current month of the Chinese calendar. Last but not least, sticklers for punctuality may want to consult the rim around the chapter ring, where a blued steel serpentine hand points to the date according to the Gregorian calendar.
The Traditional Chinese Calendar corrals all of this into a mechanical movement bearing a seven-day power reserve and housed inside a 45 mm platinum Villeret case.
Available in a limited edition of 50 pieces, the model retails for $87,800.