Introducing The Blancpain Villeret Calendrier Chinois Traditionnel Watch For Chinese New Year

Blancpain unleashes the beast for Chinese New Year.


As we went over in our recent IWC and Hublot watch articles, now that the regular New Year has been and gone it will soon be time for the Chinese New Year. Coupled with this is the changing of their Zodiac, which comes in many forms but is most recognised by its separation of years using animals and mythical beasts. This year, in particular, is the year of the dragon, and according to, that means that those represented by the dragon (which comes around once every twelve years) will have good fortune and tend to be tenacious and charismatic leaders, if you believe in all that stuff. Even if you don’t, Blancpain makes a watch which tracks the Chinese calendar, and this year they’ve given it a small update.

Interestingly it was 12 years ago, the last year of the dragon, that Blancpain unveiled their unique Villeret Calendrier Chinois Traditionnel (Traditional Chinese Calendar). This watch is most distinguished from its Blancpain brethren by its huge size, at least when looking at it through a window. At 45.2mm x 15.1mm it’s a damn sight bigger than nearly every other Villeret that Blancpain makes. But, it’s when you take a closer look that you see the real reason for its size is it’s got two calendars running within it. The self-winding calibre 3638 is 32mm across, has 464 components within, a 4Hz beat rate, a 7-day power reserve (168 hours) and gorgeous finishing. All of the functions except the time are adjusted by the patented adjusters which are on the caseback and under each lug.

Before I go further, I just wanted to say that Blancpain’s website has an interactive feature that breaks the display down and shows you what each hand does. Unfortunately, this feature is broken at the time I sit here writing this, and as I can’t read Chinese I can’t see what hand does what when it comes to the subdials. Perhaps if I can organise another photoshoot at their London boutique someone can go over it with me. I will endeavour to explain what I can.

The first parts are the easiest; the watch might have a Chinese calendar in it, but it still has the time in hours and minutes as we’ve come to expect. It also has a moon phase display; this is particularly important for the Chinese calendar, as I’ll attempt to explain in a minute. Finally, there’s the wavy hand pointing to the edge of the dial, this is the date in the Gregorian format, the calendar system we use in the West.

The watch also displays the lunar date in Chinese, which is important to the Chinese calendar as the number of days in a month varies somewhere between 29 and 30 days, some of which are consecutive, while in the Gregorian calendar, it is between 28 and 31 days. 

There is also a lunar months indicator. Blancpain says that the Chinese calendar system doesn’t name its months; they are numbered by their order of appearance. Each year also has 12 months as usual, but every 2 or 3 years, a 13th month (called the intercalary) is added. The addition of the intercalary month ensures that the years follow the cycle of the seasons and don’t go out of sync over time; the Gregorian calendar has an intercalary day, which is added to the end of February every four years. Other solar calendars may also add an intercalary as required. Blancpain’s Villeret Calendrier Chinois Traditionnel indicates the presence of an intercalary month using the small cutout window in the 9 O’clock subdial.

The watch also indicates Chinese double hours. While modern China uses 24-hour days like the rest of the world, traditional Chinese astrological days start at 11 PM and are broken down into 12 hours of 120 minutes, each hour of the day has a name, too:

– 1st Hour: Rat (Zi) / 23.00 – 01.00

– 2nd Hour: Ox (Chou) / 01.00 – 03.00

– 3rd Hour: Tiger (Yin) / 03.00 – 05.00

– 4th Hour: Rabbit (Mao) / 05.00 – 07.00

– 5th Hour: Dragon (Chen) / 07.00 – 09.00

– 6th Hour: Snake (Si) / 09.00 – 11.00

– 7th Hour: Horse (Wu) / 11.00 – 13.00

– 8th Hour: Goat (Wei) / 13.00 – 15.00

– 9th Hour: Monkey (Shen) / 15.00 – 17.00

– 10th Hour: Rooster (You) / 17.00 – 19.00

– 11th Hour: Dog (Xu) / 19.00 – 21.00

– 12th Hour: Pig (Hai) / 21.00 – 23.00

The watch indicates the celestial elements, which Blancpain describes thusly:

“The five elements, determined by the Taoists, are vital forces acting on the universe of signs.

In Chinese astrology, the elements reflect our conduct. To gain a deeper insight into the personality type of a zodiac sign, it is important to take account of the animal sign and the element.

The cycle of the elements is as follows:

Wood generates Fire, which generates Earth, which generates Metal, which generates Water, which in turn generates Wood.”

Finally, as if all that wasn’t enough, the watch indicates the year’s zodiac sign via a small cutout. All of this is presented on the enamel grand feu dial which is painted green, it complements the 18k red gold case very well and is matched with a green alligator leather strap.

The watch is limited to just 50 examples, which isn’t surprising, really, given the complexity of making it. The price is around EUR73,000 but it depends on whether you want the watch with a pin buckle or one of Blancpain’s speciality folding clasps, which are super elegant and don’t have a locking mechanism with pushers (instead they have very springy metal band that folds over, it’s hard to describe). This is a very special watch indeed.