In haute horology’s Hall of Fame, a special place is reserved for the perpetual calendar complication. While the tourbillon escapement has a flashy, exhibitionist quality to it; the perpetual calendar is considered the trickiest to make by watchmakers. A perpetual calendar launch is still major flex by a watchmaker and Parmigiani Fleurier has flexed hard by unveiling the first wristwatch using the Islamic Hijri Perpetual Calendar.
The seeds of this perpetual calendar were sown in 1993 when Michel Parmigiani, the founder of the eponymous brand restored an oval-shaped pocketwatch with an Islamic calendar indicating the hour, day, date and month in Arabic calligraphy, and the phases of the moon. He used this as the inspiration to create a table clock featuring a Hijri Calendar in 2011, the world’s first such calendar. In 2016, he restored another pocketwatch dating back to the end of the 18th or beginning of the 19th Century, which featured a solar calendar translated into Arabic.
The starting point of Islamic time calculations is the 'Hijri' or journey of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), from Mecca to Medina in present-day Saudi Arabia in the year 622, which was also the year the first Muslim community was founded. The current Islamic year is 1441 AH. In the Gregorian calendar, 1441 AH runs from approximately 1 September 2019 to 20 August 2020.
A traditional perpetual calendar’s gears are programmed, when continuously running, to account for the leap month once every four years and different length months in the Gregorian calendar. The Islamic Calendar is based on the lunar calendar with the Hijri Year being made up of 12 months of 29 or 30 days – depending on the moon phase. The lunar calendar uses the phases of the moon to measure time, usually measuring the time from new moon to new moon as one month.
This wristwatch is presented as a 44.5 mm timepiece with a platinum case and a slate dial. The dial displays the hours and minutes, date in Arabic numerals, the name and length of the months in Arabic calligraphy, the abundant and the common years. It also features a moon phase in an aventurine sky and a power reserve of up to 48 hours. As you would expect from a watch from the Fleurier brand, every single component of the movement, even the hidden parts, is expertly finished. The self-winding movement is fitted with a platinum rotor. There are nods to Arabic traditions - the bridges adopt the shape of the waxing and waning crescent moons and the Rub al Hizb, an Islamic symbol represented by two overlapping squares.
The case has the teardrop-shaped lugs that are part of the brand's design aesthetic and has been conceived to be ergonomic and comfortable on the wrist. This timepiece is also fitted with a black Hermès alligator strap with a pin buckle. The watch is priced at CHF85,000 but the brand says it open to customizing the timepiece for future owners.