In 2012, Blancpain presented the first wristwatch
ever to feature a traditional Chinese calendar.
This extraordinary useful and symbolic achievement
is based on fundamental principles established for
millennia and profoundly rooted in Chinese tradition.
In addition to the hours, the minutes and the Gregorian calendar, its dial displays the main features of the Chinese calendar: the double-hour indication, date, month with indication of intercalary months, the signs of the zodiac, as well as the five elements and the celestial stems. The moon phases, which serve to determine the months of the Chinese calendar and are an integral part of all Blancpain complete calendars, are also presented and symbolise the parallels connecting Chinese culture to the world’s oldest watch brand.
For most other complications, whether tourbillons, minute repeaters or perpetual calendars, watchmaking history provides movement constructors with useful indications as to the means to be employed and the manner in which to attain a desired objective. No such prior knowledge was available for the traditional Chinese calendar. This horological complication had never been previously attempted, which meant that the Blancpain watchmakers were keenly aware of the immensity of the challenge awaiting them when they embarked upon this project. The sheer complexity of the result exceeds that implied in making a perpetual calendar and, on the scale of watchmaking achievements, ranks only second to the creation of a minute repeater. It is thus entirely natural that each part is entirely assembled and meticulously hand-adjusted by a single specialised watchmaker in the spacious complications workshop of the Manufacture in Le Brassus.
Contrary to the Gregorian solar calendar based on the solar day, the traditional Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar founded on the lunar cycle (29.53059 days) as its base unit, and on complex calculations used to determine the position of the sun and the moon. According to the established system by which each month of the Chinese calendar begins on the day of the new moon, its length is either 29 or 30 days. Since a year comprising 12 lunar months (354.36707 days) is approximately 11 days too short compared with the tropical or solar year (365.242374 days), an intermediate month is added every two to three years to preserve the match with the cycle of the seasons. This distinctive feature is the reason behind the variable date of the Chinese New Year.