One of Blancpain’s most extraordinary models is also one of their more unknown, at least here in the West. No, I am not talking about their exquisite Le Brassus with tourbillon and carrousel, but rather about their Traditional Chinese Calendar which is part of the Villeret collection.
The first question is of course, why would you buy this watch when you are not Chinese or live in China? The answer to that question is for the love of watchmaking. While the Chinese calendar doesn’t mean much to you, incorporating one in a mechanical movement is quite a feat. But that is not the only thing that Blancpain does because it also integrated the Gregorian used in the West in this watch.
The Chinese calendar is based on 12 lunar months (each 29 or 30 days long) and two separate cycles. The first cycle is that of the Ten Celestial Stems, which Blancpain indicated on a subdial on the right. It shows the five elements of fire, earth, metal, water, and wood in either their Yin or Yang state. The subdial on the left shows the Chinese month. As these are shorter than a regular solar year, they add a leap month to compensate for this when needed, which is also indicated in the subdial, along with the date of the lunar cycle.
At twelve o’clock we see perhaps the best-known aspect of the traditional Chinese calendar, the current sign of the Chinese zodiac. People in the west do not have to worry, as you can just read the correct time by means of the leaf hands, and the date is shown according to the Gregorian calendar. The moon phase display is universal, although it plays a far more important role in the Chinese calendar than in the Gregorian.
This Blancpain also features their patented correctors, which can be found hidden under the lugs, as well as a sapphire case back, which shows manufacture caliber 3638 that powers this watch.
Given this Villeret complexity, it is a watch that should elevate the pulse of any watch enthusiast. Its complication is among the most unique currently available and should, therefore, belong in any refined Haute Horlogerie collection, Chinese or not.