Close-up of Hijri Perpetual Calendar wristwatch.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
Parmigiani Fleurier, a prestigious Swiss Haute Horlogerie brand, recently received the Innovation Prize from the Grand Prix D’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG), for creating the first Hijri perpetual calendar wristwatch.
The prize is awarded by a jury on a discretionary basis, to reward the best competing watch offering an innovative and unique vision of time measurement, and for opening new pathways in the art of watchmaking.
The Hijri Perpetual Calendar features a 44.5 mm platinum case, a slate dial and rotor in platinum. It shows the hours and minutes, and date in Arabic numerals, the name and length of the months in Arabic calligraphy, as well as the abundant and the common years.
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It also features a moon phase in an aventurine sky and a power reserve of up to forty eight hours. As in all Parmigiani Fleurier timepieces, each component of the movement, even the hidden parts, have been decorated by in-house specialists.
The original development of the timepiece dates back to 1993, when Michel Parmigiani, master watchmaker and founder of the brand, restored a simple Hijri Calendar and a pocket watch from the end of the 18th or beginning of the 19th Century, that featured a solar calendar, translated into Arabic.
It led him to create the first-ever Hijri Calendar table clock, and now, to the first wristwatch featuring this complication.
The Hijri Perpetual Calendar has been designed in consideration of the most intricate elements of Arabic architecture, culture and religion. It combines centuries’ worth of technical knowledge, culture and high horology.
Parmigiani Fleurier sought the expertise of Stefano Macaluso, from the Swiss Haute Horlogerie company Sowind Group, a historic watchmaking house, to redesign each of the bridges of the new PF009 movement, which follows the Hijri or Islamic calendar.
The bridges are inspired by the typical arches of mosques and adopt the shape of growing and shrinking crescent moons. The Rub el Hizb, an Islamic symbol represented by two overlapping squares which in Arabic calligraphy marks the end of a chapter and used in the Quran, is also represented in the design, to honour the cultural richness of the Arab world through modern watchmaking.
“The decoration inspiration for the Parmigiani Fleurier Hijri Perpetual Calendar was drawn from the architecture of the Arab world, highlighting all of its aesthetic codes, each more beautiful than the next, while keeping in mind an evocative and quickly understandable visual vocabulary,” said Macaluso.
In the Muslim world, the calendar is based on the cycles of the moon. The Hijri or Islamic lunar calendar consists of twelve months of 29 or 30 days, depending on the moon phase, and is used to pinpoint the days for Islamic holidays.
In contrast to the solar calendar, which is used in the West, the months of the lunar calendar change annually by a difference of —10 to —12 days. As a result, each month always falls on a different season and therefore varies from the Gregorian Calendar.
Taking its name from its founder, watchmaker and restorer Michel Parmigiani, Parmigiani Fleurier was founded in 1996 in Fleurier, in the Swiss valley of Val-de-Travers.
Michel Parmigiani had conceived the brand as far back as 1976, through his work restoring watchmaking artifacts, and his knowledge of historical mechanical clocks and watches.
It is said that when the time came for him to choose a career, his heart was torn between watchmaking and architecture — two disciplines as technical as they are creative.
But he was drawn to the mysteries of Swiss haute horlogerie — and his choice was made. After studying at the Val-de-Travers school of watchmaking then at La Chaux-de-Fonds Technicum, he went on to specialise in restoration, often held to be the field reserved for the best and most skilled watchmakers.
He opened his watch workshop even as the quartz crisis was hitting the industry and took the plunge, despite everyone’s advice.
During the day, he restored antique pieces; in his spare time, he gave free reign to his creativity, dreaming up complex horological pieces.
“Working, as I was during this period, on so many wonders from times gone by, made the idea that traditional watchmaking might disappear, absolutely unthinkable to me. Restoration gave me the confidence to pursue my watchmaking dreams, which others claimed were obsolete.
“I embarked on my entrepreneurial adventure in 1976, when the quartz crisis was ravaging the watchmaking industry. I remember feeling a bit like a pariah, starting this adventure against all advice.
“Restoring antique timepieces saved me from nihilism. I have faith in the traditional watchmaker’s art; it is the cornerstone of Parmigiani Fleurier and has been the guiding force throughout my career,” Michel Parmigiani said.
Established in 2001, the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) is a Foundation recognised as a public interest organisation.
It is overseen by the Canton and City of Geneva. Its main purpose is to highlight and yearly award the most remarkable contemporary creations and promote watchmaking art worldwide.
GPHG stages an annual competition involving several hundreds of watches marketed during the year. The GPHG awards ceremony held in November each year, draws elite representatives of the international watchmaking profession.
Often referred to as the watch industry’s Oscars, the GPHG is a highlight of the watchmaking calendar, and one of the sector’s most famous media showcases.
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