Originally introduced 12 years ago, Blancpain’s Villeret Chinese Calendar was the first serially-produced wristwatch to feature this specific calendar. To mark the start of the new year, the brand unveils the Villeret Traditional Chinese Calendar “Year of the Wood Dragon“. Featuring both the Chinese and Gregorian calendar, the limited edition is presented in an unusual combination of green enamel and rose gold, a first for the model.
Though it is not longer unique, the Villeret Chinese Calendar was the first of its kind at launch in 2012, making it a landmark for Blancpain. However, the aesthetic went unchanged for all of that time, so a new dial is certainly welcome. While watch brands can often iterate a model too often, Blancpain certainly wasn’t guilty of that here.
The new model is more striking than its predecessors. The dial departs from the white enamel that’s been standard for the model since the beginning. Though green is an unusual choice, it suits the complication well as it evokes the colour of jade, which is also thematically congruent with the theme.
While it is good thing to see this watch with a new dial colour, it would have been even better to see an upgrade to the movement in some way, as the calibre has been unchanged since its introduction. While the movement is still impressive and complicated, it is big. In fact, a significant mechanical upgrade could be retaining the exact same calendar functions, but in a smaller or thinner movement, which would reduce the diameter of the currently large case that’s 45 mm wide.
The Year of the Dragon is the most popular amongst the zodiac symbols for watch brands – Vacheron Constantin and IWC are amongst the recent releases – so this is one of many dragon-themed watches, but it feels more thoughtful than average, because the complication is related to the Chinese zodiac. It is coherent both thematically and mechanically, with functionality that elevates it above other zodiac watches that are just cosmetic tweaks.
Moreover, a classical, complicated watch like this is welcome given that Blancpain has recently been getting more attention for the Fifty Fathoms anniversary models and its collaboration with Swatch. While we have seen H. Moser & Cie. recently release a more modern and slightly more advanced Chinese calendar, the design and layout of the Blancpain Chinese Calendar reflects the traditional styling of the Villeret that is arguably the quintessential modern Blancpain, since it was the collection that the brand began with in the 1980s.
Green and gold
While the Chinese Calendar is one of Blancpain’s longest-running models, past versions have been uniform in having a white enamel dial (and either a gold or platinum case). Here the deep green grand feu enamel dial is a first, and complements the red gold case well.
The dial indicates hours and minutes, as well as the date of the Gregorian calendar on a serpentine central hand. The rest of the indications are for the Chinese calendar, namely the Chinese hours, day, month, moon phase, and leap years, as well was each of the 12 zodiac symbols, the five elements and ten celestial stems. While this is a lot of information to fit on to a dial, the 45 mm case leaves ample space for all the sub-dials. That said, some of the indications are still relatively small.
The watch is powered by the same cal. 3638 found in earlier versions of the model. As is customary for the Chinese Calendar, the year’s zodiac symbol is engraved in relief on the rotor, which is also set with a ruby. To the right of the engraved dragon are the characters for “Wood Dragon” that describe this year’s zodiac symbol and its element.
The cal. 3638 is based on Blancpain’s large-diameter, in-house calibre with an exceptionally long power reserve of seven days, or 168 hours, thanks to three mainsprings. The number of mainsprings explain in part the size of the movement and consequently the case diameter.
The calibre also sports Blancpain’s patented under-lug correctors for the calendar that replace the traditional recessed pushers in the case band. This means the calendar can be conveniently adjusted without tools, while also improving the aesthetics of the case since the flanks are free of buttons.
Key facts and price
Blancpain Villeret Traditional Chinese Calendar “Year of the Dragon”
Diameter: 45.2 mm
Height: 15.1 mm
Material: Red gold
Water resistance: 30 m
Movement: Cal. 3638
Functions: Hours, minutes, date, lunar calendar and Chinese hours
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 168 hours
Strap: Crocodile with folding clasp
Limited edition: 50 pieces
Availability: At Blancpain boutiques
Price: On request but expect it to be in the region of US$70,000
For more information, visit Blancpain.com.
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