Blancpain has added Chinese calendar complications to a timepiece based on its classic Villeret design.
The Tradition Chinese Calendar Watch, which was unveiled at Baselworld, manages to combine Gregorian and Chinese date and time complications in a single dial – a hugely complex feat given the irregular nature of their cycles.
The hours, minutes and the Gregorian calendar are presented in the centre of the dial. The counter at 12 o’clock indicates the double-hour numerals and symbols on a 24-hour cycle, while the one at 3 o’clock shows the elements and the 10-year cycle celestial stems.
The 12 months of the Chinese year, the day of the month based on a lunar cycle and the leap month indicator appear at 9 o’clock, while a 12 o’clock aperture reveals the zodiac sign of the year. Villeret’s normal moon phase indicator is displayed at 6 o’clock – the only indication that is common to Eastern and Western timekeeping.
The self-winding Calibre 3638 used to drive these complications is made up of 434 parts including 39 jewels.
The complexity of the timepiece can be fully appreciated when you consider the differences between Gregorian and Chinese calendars and timekeeping. All Gregorian units are based on solar days, while its Chinese equivalent draws on a hard to fathom combination of a solar calendar with the 29.5 day lunar cycle as its base unit.
A year comprising 12 lunar months totals just 354 days, approximately 11 days too short compared with the tropical or solar year of 365 days, so a leap month is sometimes added to realign the months with natural seasons.
The Blancpain timepiece, limited to just 20 pieces, comes with a 45 mm-diameter platinum case fitted with a crown adorned with a cabochon-cut ruby. A gold version is also being created that will have an unlimited production run.