The passage of time is one of humanity’s greatest obsessions. We have technology dating back as far as our most ancient recorded history, starting with the simplest of sundials. Our lives revolve around time, days, months and years, and we use the definitions of these units of time to mark the most memorable of our experiences. However, we haven’t always agreed on what those definitions are. There have been many different types of calendars created and used by different civilizations to track seasons for planting and harvesting, and they can be broken down into three broad categories: solar, lunar and luni-solar.
Parmigiani Fleurier, under the expertise of Michel Parmigiani, has been manufacturing complicated calendars for some time, and their perpetual calendar complications make some of the most fascinating and irresistible timepieces.
These days, most of the world subscribes to the Gregorian calendar introduced in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII that replaced the Julian calendar. This is a solar calendar that includes leap years to keep the average calendar year around 365 days to match the revolution of Earth around the Sun. This calendar was adopted quickly in the West and since then, it has been used all over the world for business and civil purposes.
The Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF Annual Calendar was released as part of their 25th anniversary collection in 2021. This luxury sports watch was available in two colorways of either warm gray or rose gold. At 42mm, the case allows for plenty of real estate to showcase the amazing capabilities of the caliber PF339. The dial includes three subdials: one for day, one for month and one for the moonphase as seen in both hemispheres. The subdials are the same warm gray as the dial, but are subtly recessed to create a clean separation for legibility that is surprisingly effective.
The retrograde date is indicated by a moon-tipped central hand and a track around the periphery of the dial. As with any complication of this complexity, there will need to be some adjustment made. In this case, it means a correction of the date once a year to account for the non-leap years and to the moonphase mechanism every 122 years, assuming uninterrupted running time.
Finished with a coordinating integrated bracelet and the updated Parmigiani Fleurier’s “PF” logo at 12 o’clock, this is a watch that proves its worth in both functionality and form.
The Hijri calendar, known in English as the Muslim calendar or Islamic calendar, is a lunar based calendar consisting of 12 lunar months with a year that has 354 or 355 days.. It dates back to 622 C.E. when Muhammad emigrated from Mecca to Medina to establish the first Muslim community. The Hijri calendar has a cycle of 12 months, with the beginning of the month coinciding with the beginning of a new lunar cycle, which results in a 29- or 30-day month.
The Hijri calendar includes a leap day every three years to account for 24 hours lost over time due to the calculations. With this schedule, the months shift through the seasons over time, and because the month is based on the lunar cycle, different communities begin on a variety of days. Due to this complexity, many Muslim countries will observe the Gregorian calendar for commerce and the agricultural season, and the Hijri calendar for religious purposes such as determining holy days, rituals and holidays.
Parmigiani Fleurier began working with the Hijri calendar in 2011 when they created an exclusive table clock inspired by an Arabic calendar pocket watch. With the Hijri Perpetual Calendar timepiece, they have created their very first wristwatch to calculate and track the Muslim calendar. The latest version is a limited edition of 25 pieces, a 42mm case crafted from stainless steel with platinum knurled bezel, an ice blue guilloche dial and platinum rotor.
The watch is driven by the PF009 automatic movement. The hours, minutes and dates are indicated in Arabic numerals, while the name and length of the months are marked in Arabic calligraphy. There is also a gorgeous example of a moonphase complication with an aventurine sky. The entire piece pays homage to its inspiration with elements inspired by Arabic architecture and the Rub-el-Hizb — an Islamic symbol represented by two overlapping squares.
From the intricately decorated components and Côtes de Genève to the polished and satin-finished stainless steel bracelet, the Hijri Perpetual Calendar is a stunning watch that exemplifies what makes a Parmigiani Fleurier piece so infinitely captivating.
The first version secured the prestigious Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève Innovation Prize in 2020.
The traditional Chinese calendar is a luni-solar calendar and it identifies years, months and days based on the observation of astronomical phenomena. One of the earliest calendars was created during the Xia dynasty (2070–1600 B.C.E.), giving rise to the term Xiali or “Xia calendar.” Subsequent dynasties improved on the calendar system, which was used to guide agricultural activities in ancient China. Since 1912, the Gregorian calendar has been adopted for civil and business use in China, but the traditional calendar is still used to determine important dates, such as that for Chinese New Year and the Lantern Festival. The calendar is also consulted to select auspicious days for important events such as weddings, funerals or other life milestones.
The Chinese calendar uses the cycle of the Moon to determine the start of months and years, but solar terms, calculated based on the position of the Sun, are used in the course of each month. There are 24 solar terms in each year and each term corresponds with an astronomical phenomenon, such as the equinoxes or solstices, or a natural phenomenon, such as the awakening of insects or crop growth. Once again, leap months are used to adjust calculations to the course of the Earth around the Sun. There are many variations across Asia and throughout the years, but the contemporary Chinese calendar has been standardized by the Standardization Administration of China in a published national standard in 2017 to create an official calendar.
This incredibly complex calendar seems like an impossible thing to automate, but Parmigiani Fleurier has managed to do just that with their brand new model, the Tonda PF Xiali Calendar, a complete traditional Chinese calendar that celebrates the rich history of timekeeping in China over the millennia.
The new movement, caliber PF008, successfully displays the year, the 12 Chinese zodiac animal and elements (Fire, Wood, Earth, Water and Metal) as well as the month and its numbering with an additional month applied every three years. It also uses the aforementioned solar terms for the 24 divisions of the Sun’s path. Various correctors on both sides of the case make it possible to quickly and easily make adjustments as needed. The watch covers 12 years of continuous timekeeping before it needs to be reset for a new cycle.
The display is special in another way as it displays the information in classical Chinese characters. The case and integrated bracelet are stainless steel, while the knurled bezel is made of 950 platinum. The Imperial Red dial with beautiful grain d’orge guilloché and 18K gold rhodium- plated appliques is multi-level for the display of the 24 solar terms, the central time hands, and the various subdials, including the moonphase displayed on a blue aventurine backdrop.
Masters of Time
While calculating the days, months and years is a matter of observation of the Sun and Moon for humans, one can imagine the difficulty of creating a mechanical tool complex enough to manage the job. This is precisely the purpose of the calendar complications used in horology, and it’s no inconsiderable task to undertake to create such a marvel.
“The calendar is an eminently fascinating watchmaking complication, as it really is the mirror of civilization,” says Michel Parmigiani of these complications. Parmigiani Fleurier has not just accomplished the feat in one of these complicated date calculations, but has successfully accomplished a version for each of the Gregorian, Hijri and Chinese calendars. In that sense, the brand’s efforts can be regarded as a true homage to the richness of timekeeping traditions around the world.
Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF Xiali Calendar
Movement: Self-winding caliber PF008; 54-hour power reserve
Functions: Hours, minutes, and Chinese traditional complete calendar with moonphase
Case: 42mm; stainless steel; water resistant to 100m
Dial: Imperial Red with grain d’orge guilloché; 18K gold rhodium-plated appliques
Strap: Polished and satin-finished stainless steel bracelet
Price: USD 65,300