Celebrating Culture and Technique
One and a half Gregorian years after launching the Tonda Hijri Perpetual Calendar, Parmigiani Fleurier revisits its groundbreaking world premiere in a limited series of three gem-set models. In line with the intention of the original Tonda Hijri Perpetual Calendar to respect the Muslim community’s adherence to dress codes that counsel men against wearing gold ornaments, the three new Tonda Hijri Perpetual Calendar models are housed in platinum cases, and gold is not used for any of the movement components.
The new models come in cases set either with diamonds, rubies or emeralds, with the exact shade of rubies and emeralds selected specifically to pay tribute to the national colors of the countries in the Middle East region. Each gem-set variation of the Tonda Hijri Perpetual Calendar is limited to 10 pieces only, a true horological exclusivity.
When it debuted in Rabi Al-Akhar, the fourth month of the Islamic calendar, in the Hijri year 1441, the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda Hijri Perpetual Calendar was the first wristwatch to feature its unique eponymous complication. Perpetual calendars are sophisticated watch mechanisms that can keep track of various calendrical irregularities such as the fluctuating number of days in a month, displaying the date accurately despite these irregularities.
Traditionally considered one of the most prestigious watchmaking complications, and featuring among the three horological functions that constitute a Grande Complication, the perpetual calendar is almost without exception configured to represent the Gregorian system.
Creating the automatic in-house PF009 caliber of the Tonda Hijri Perpetual Calendar was therefore a drastic departure from watchmaking convention. It required a completely reworked calendar mechanism that was only possible to develop through the extensive experience and skill of master watchmaker, restorer, historian and brand founder Michel Parmigiani. The basis of the PF009 calibre was drawn from a Parmigiani Fleurier table clock launched in 2011, which was itself based on an antique pocket watch with an Arabic calendar display that was personally restored by Michel Parmigiani.
In 2020, the watch industry recognized the exceptional work performed in creating the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda Hijri Perpetual Calendar, with a panel of watch experts at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) judging it to be the top watch in the category of Calendar and Astronomy timepieces that year.
A Vibrant Tribute
The three new gem-set variations of the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda Hijri Perpetual Calendar balance exuberance with sobriety. The appreciation of geometric design and a mathematically abstract approach to beauty is deeply embedded in the aesthetics of Arabic culture. This is reflected in the presentation of the gems, which utilize the rectilinear baguette cut, emphasizing clarity and structure. Because the baguette cut imparts comparatively less sparkle, or “fire”, than a round brilliant cut, it is imperative that all the gems used in the Tonda Hijri Perpetual Calendar are as internally flawless as possible and are consistent in hue.
Diamonds, rubies and emeralds — these three gemstones were deliberately chosen to represent the national colors of countries in the Middle East. Green is a shade with particular significance in the Islamic world, while red and white are present in almost every national flag across the region.
Other design elements that pay tribute to the Arab world include two shaped bridges of the movement, resembling the waxing and waning moon, the date bridge in the form of the Arabic symbol known as the Rub el Hizb, and the Arabesque form of the calendar levers. The dial indications are in Arabic script, and the numbers are expressed in the Indo-Arabic numerals commonly used in the region. The guillochage decorating the winding rotor of the PF009 calibre is a signature of Parmigiani Fleurier, and is conventionally referred to as grain d’orge, or barleycorn, but its rippling wave-like pattern across the noble platinum surface of the rotor echoes another precious commodity in the arid landscapes of the Middle East — water.
“The Tonda Hijri Perpetual Calendar was the culmination of the maison’s endeavor to create a timepiece that was inspired by the rich cultural and religious heritage of Arabic and Muslim civilization, while also drawing on the brand’s years of dedication to technical excellence and creativity,” said Guido Terreni, CEO of Parmigiani Fleurier. “These novelties are meant as distinctive collector’s items, a salute to the region’s love for art, culture and fine craftsmanship, while at the same time, acknowledging the region’s immense contributions to human culture and civilization.”
The Simple Complexity Of The Hijri Perpetual Calendar
Every calendar system is different. The Gregorian calendar is a solar calendar, with 12 months of mostly 30 or 31 days (with the exception of February) calculated to fit within the tropical year of 365 days. The Chinese and Hebrew calendars are luni-solar calendars that use 12 lunar months of 29 to 30 days, inserting intercalary months at various intervals in order to stay synchronized within a few weeks of the tropical year. The Hijri calendar operates purely on a lunar system of time reckoning, with 12 months of 29 or 30 days, but with no attempt to reconcile this system with the tropical year.
Because of this, the Hijri calendar year is consistently shorter than the Gregorian year by 10 to 11 days per cycle, resulting in months that have no fixed relationship with the seasons from one year to the next. The advantage of this system, however, is its extreme regularity when compared to the other calendar systems.
In the standardized Hijri calendar, months alternate between 29 and 30 days, with a base year of 354 days, known as a common year. This approximates the lunar cycle to 29.5 days, which is extremely close to the actual lunar cycle of 29.53 days. Because of this discrepancy of 0.03 days in the calculation of the lunar cycle, occasionally there are years with an additional day — 355 instead of 354 — to make up the shortfall. These years are known as abundant years, and in each Hijri 30-year cycle, there are 19 common years and 11 abundant years.
The Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda Hijri Perpetual Calendar takes all this into account, with its innovative mechanism developed entirely in-house as a result of Michel Parmigiani’s work with an antique Arabic calendar pocket watch. The counter at 12 o’clock displays the 30-year cycle, with abundant years indicated in sand-colored script. The counter at 3 o’clock displays, using a hand, the month of the Islamic calendar, with the holy month of Ramadan indicated in red script. At 6 o’clock, an aventurine moon disc with polished moons shows the phase of the moon in the Northern Hemisphere. Finally, the counter at 9 o’clock displays the date, with a circular aperture revealing a white marker if the month has 29 days and a sand-colored marker if the month has 30 days.
The Tonda GT and its more complicated sibling, the Tondagraph GT, derive their case shape and other design cues from 2016’s Tonda Chronor Anniversaire, which not only featured Parmigiani Fleurier’s first-ever in-house integrated chronograph caliber but also famously took home the award for best Chronograph Watch at the 2017 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG). Guided by the same Golden Ratio principles applied to that milestone timepiece, and in fact to all timepieces from the fertile mind of Michel Parmigiani, Tonda GT models feature updated teardrop-shaped lugs for increased ergonomics, an integrated bracelet in the same materials and finishes as the case, and fluted bezels that trace their architectural ancestry to the brand’s very first watch design.