Calendar watches are, by definition, complex creatures; the Chinese calendar, which fuses a solar and a lunar calendar, takes complexity to another level. Luckily, Michel Parmigiani is undaunted by complications and has abundant experience as a restorer and his development of a Gregorian Annual Calendar followed by the world’s first Hijri Perpetual Calendar, or Islamic calendar, in wristwatch format. The name chosen for this Tonda PF calendar watch – Xiali – is a translation of “Chinese Traditional Complete Calendar”. Presented in a 42mm stainless steel case with a knurled platinum bezel and a beautiful Imperial Red barleycorn guilloché pattern on the dial, this complete Chinese calendar fuses millenary calendar traditions with an elegant yet sporty Tonda PF case.
Although China has relied on the Gregorian calendar since 1912, the traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar still governs the dates of important holidays. The complexity of the Chinese calendar derives from its combination of solar and lunar calendars, which are calculated separately and then synchronised using an extra lunar or intercalary month. This 13th month allows the two cycles to coincide and occurs approximately every three years. To get a feeling for the complexity of this system, the solar year is divided into 24 solar terms (breaths), representing the agricultural calendar, and the date established for the New Year can fluctuate anywhere between the end of January and the end of February. This year, the Chinese New Year falls on January 22 and welcomes the Year of the Rabbit.
While the Gregorian calendar gives each month a name and each year a number, the Chinese calendar names the lunar years but numbers the months. The names of the years are repeated on a 60-year cycle, but the date, days and months are calculated on astronomical observations and vary. As you can imagine, these fluctuations make it impossible to make a perpetual Chinese calendar. However, Parmigiani Fleurier’s Tonda PF Xiali Calendar can flaunt its horological credentials as the most complete and precise Chinese calendar in wristwatch format.
Tonda PF family
Introduced in 2021, the Tonda PF collection accomplished two missions: one was to celebrate the brand’s 25th anniversary and the distinguished career of master watchmaker and founder Michel Parmigiani; the second was more long-term and designed to mark the new roadmap for the watch brand under CEO Guido Terreni. Positioned as the brand’s luxury sports watch, the Tonda PF is built around the concepts of refinement and understatement. Shared traits include beautiful grain d’orge (barleycorn) guilloché dials, teardrop-shaped lugs, knurled bezels, seamlessly integrated bracelets, delta-shaped skeletonised hands, and short applied gold indices give the family a unique and strong visual identity.
The stainless steel case of the Tonda PF Xiali Calendar measures 42mm and has a height of 12.2mm. Contrasting polished and satin-brushed areas underscore the elegant architecture with its finely knurled single-piece platinum bezel that draws light towards the dial. What might come as a surprise, and a welcome one, is that despite the intrinsic complexity of this watch, the case is water-resistant to 100 metres.
Deciphering the dial
Like other Tonda PF timepieces, the dial is decorated with a beautiful barleycorn guilloché pattern, picked out in a most appropriate Imperial Red colour. True to its family lineage, the dial has applied gold indices (rhodium plated), skeletonised delta hands and the new applied oval PF cartouche accommodated at 1:30.
What is surprising is how Parmigiani Fleurier has managed to condense such complex information on a dial that still remains legible – if you can read classical Chinese characters. Equipped with four sub-dials, the one at noon indicates the name of the year on the periphery, followed by the corresponding animal and element. The sub-dial at 3 o’clock contains the day number (1 to 29 or 1 to 30) and an aperture indicating whether it is a long or short month. Moving to the sub-dial at 6 o’clock, we recognise a moon phase indicator with a blue aventurine sky, while the counter at 9 o’clock houses the month number (1 to 12) and an aperture to indicate whether or not an additional, intercalary month is being featured. The peripheral area of the dial features the 24 solar terms.
A new automatic in-house movement, calibre PF008, powers the multiple elements of the watch and is mechanically programmed to cover a period of 12 years via a cam system. If the watch does not stop, the information will remain accurate for 12 years; if it does, the day and month indications can be adjusted with a rapid corrector in the caseband. At the end of these twelve years, the watch has to be reset. A sapphire crystal on the caseback reveals the movement with its Côtes de Genève finishings and 22k pink gold openworked rotor. Fitted with 353 components, the movement delivers a very respectable 54h power reserve.
The Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF Xiali Calendar retails for CHF 59,000. For more information, please consult Parmigiani.com.