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Editorial - Entering A(nother) New Year

Editorial Entering A(nother) New Year

The Chinese Year of the Ox is here, symbolising stability and constancy

A complication, in horological terms, refers to far more than complexity of construction — something that I’ve emphasised numerous times in previous articles. Although a watch complication is also mechanically complex, not all mechanically complex systems result in complications. A complication has to present information that is related to timekeeping. That’s the purist’s definition, anyway.

One of the mainstays of horological complication is calendrical displays, ranging from a simple date (that needs to be corrected every month that falls short of 31 days) to the perpetual calendar (that is mechanically programmed to keep track of all the irregularities in the months, even during leap years). Clearly the most common calendrical format that we see is the Gregorian calendar, but on this occasion — the beginning of the Chinese New Year — we can be reminded that there are other ways of accounting for the large-scale passage of time.

Entering A(nother) New Year

Villeret Traditional Chinese Calendar @ Blancpain

The traditional Chinese calendar is an esoteric system that eludes easy comprehension, due to its use of both the lunar month and the solar cycle. The problem arises when these two units are not mathematically congruent, requiring a frankly headache-inducing compensation of a leap month that is inserted every two or three years in order to reconcile the 12 lunar months (each consisting of 29 or 30 days each) with a solar cycle (the 365-day system that most of us are familiar with). This is why the first day of the Chinese New Year is not a constant, but varies annually.

As they do every year, watch brands have released timepieces commemorating the Chinese New Year. Each year is associated with an animal in the 12-year Chinese zodiac, and this year is the Year of the Ox, a beast associated with stability, endurance, hard work and just rewards. A rather comforting portent for the year ahead, I feel.

Blancpain’s Villeret Traditional Chinese Calendar easily takes the spot of most sophisticated timepiece commemorating the Year of the Ox, with its automatic calendar movement that indicates the Chinese calendar. Its rotor features the engraving of an ox with a prominent set of horns, calling to mind the Wall Street sculpture of a bull symbolising strong financial markets. 

Métiers d’art watches that feature depictions of an ox on the dial are also popular, with brands such as Vacheron Constantin, Piaget, Ulysse Nardin and Jaquet Droz all releasing commemorative watches in this vein. 

Entering A(nother) New Year

Quasar Infrared @ Girard-Perregaux

If you’re after a timepiece that alludes to Chinese New Year or its associated calendar in a more general way, however, the Girard-Perregaux Quasar Infrared is dressed in crimson hues that evoke the auspicious red that characterises Chinese New Year celebrations. For that astronomical touch, the Jacob & Co. Astronomia Tourbillon Chinese Zodiac sets its signature rotating movement above an aventurine dial inset with engravings of the Chinese zodiac animals.

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