More than just a calendar, the Parmigiani Tonda PF Xiali is an ode to the calendars and civilizations of the world through the Swiss mechanical art so dear to Parmigiani Fleurier since its founding. With all the poetry and culture it represents, Xiali takes its name from the translation of “Chinese Traditional Complete Calendar.”
Throughout history, man has sought to control time, to predict and chart its flow, in order to better organize the rhythm of social, religious and agricultural life. The calendar, which is universal, allows us to identify dates that are inscribed like milestones in the flow of time. Parmigiani Fleurier has long been fascinated by this cultural phenomenon and presents the Tonda PF Xiali Calendar, an extremely complex creation that follows up other special editions devoted to re-creating the Gregorian and Muslim Calendars and which is the third to have been developed by Parmigiani Fleurier in one of its unparalleled areas of expertise.
The calendar functions are among the most fascinating, mirroring civilizations and societies, receptacles of belief, and indefinable phenomena such as the movement of shadows, alternation of seasons, and the mysteries of the lunar cycle. Together, such phenomena play a vital role in human activity.
The Chinese Calendar is complex, as it combines elements of both a solar and a lunar calendar, which are calculated separately and then synchronized. This is accomplished by the addition of an extra lunar or intercalary month. This 13th month, which allows the two cycles to coincide, occurs approximately every three years. Finally, the Chinese calendar divides the solar year into 24 solar terms, or breaths, which symbolize the agricultural calendar.
The New Year appears according to precise rules and takes the name of the month that precedes it. The calculation is complex but allows us to follow the seasons and to set the Chinese New Year at the arrival of spring, which varies between the end of January and the end of February in our calendar — between January 21 and February 19.
Unlike the Gregorian calendar, which names the months and numbers the years, the Chinese calendar names the lunar years and numbers the months. The names of the years are repeated on a 60-year (sexagesimal) cycle, but the calendar including dates, days and months is calculated on the basis of astronomical observations and varies. Because these calculations vary, it is impossible to make a “perpetual” Chinese calendar. However, Parmigiani Fleurier‘s creation goes as far as it is possible to go in creating the most complete, and most precise, Chinese calendar in the form of a timepiece. The numbering system of the time units is based on the combination of a decimal cycle, the ten Celestial Stems, and a duodecimal cycle, the twelve Earthly Branches.
The 10 Celestial Stems serve the function of assigning elements to seasons and the planets — water, wood, metal, fire, and earth. The 12 Earthly Branches correspond to the signs of the zodiac: each is represented by an animal, which designates the years of the sexagesimal cycle and will influence the destiny and character of human beings born in that year.
Multiple Elements and Complex Information
Parmigiani Fleurier has succeeded in condensing all of this complex information on a dial: hours and minutes; the display of the month and its numbering; an additional month when applicable (i.e., every three years); short month (29 days) or long month (30 days); solar terms as corresponding to 24 divisions of 15° of the sun’s path along the ecliptic (the sun’s trajectory as seen from the earth); pointer and name of the year; indication of the animal and the elements with alternating colors, whether Yin or Yang; numbering of the days and moon-phases. All the information and adjustments are made quickly thanks to the various correctors located on both sides of the case middle.
The watch conceals an extremely sophisticated mechanism in the new movement, Calibre PF008, which allows for the display of this information in the classical Chinese characters. As the Chinese calendar is not cyclical, the complication is mechanically programmed and covers a period of 12 years via a cam system. At the end of these twelve years, the watch must be reset for a new equivalent period. During this period, all information remains accurate without any intervention necessary, as long as the watch does not stop. If the watch is stopped, you can make corrections simply by changing the day and month number with a rapid corrector that facilitates adjustments over long periods.
This is not Parmigiani Fleurier‘s first success in replicating the poetic and distinctive calendar complications whose elements have long inspired Michel Parmigiani to reach for new horological heights. First came the Gregorian Annual Calendar, followed in 2019 by the Tonda Hijri Perpetual Calendar, or Muslim calendar, a feat of miniaturization that was awarded the Grand Prix D’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) in the Innovation category in 2020. The Chinese Calendar, which succeeds these previous masterpieces, allows the House to offer an exceptional calendar trilogy.
An imperial purity
In addition to extending the calendar theme so dear to Parmigiani Fleurier, the Tonda PF Xiali Calendar also reinforces the sartorial codes of the Tonda PF collection. The entire development and design process of this timepiece was a balancing act. Complication does not necessarily mean complexity. The challenge of creating such a calendar has been pushed to the very last detail while ensuring that the codes of the Tonda PF collection are respected. The multi-level dial, with rhodium-plated 18ct white gold appliqués and skeletonized hour and minute hands, is executed in Imperial Red with a “barley grain” guilloché pattern enhancing its surface.
The stainless steel case has a knurled bezel in 950 platinum, while the integrated bracelet, in the same material, promises comfort and elegance on the wrist. As is customary at Parmigiani Fleurier, the caseback is open to reveal the movement and its decorations through a sapphire crystal. The Côtes de Genève finish and skeletonized oscillating weight in 18-carat pink gold bring lightness and openness to this exceptional calibre.
All that remains is to prepare for January 22, 2023, the Year of the Rabbit, which marks the Chinese New Year!
“Calendars are a radiography of civilizations. It’s something magical because the calendar comes from the observation of humans as well as of nature. Nature is full of codes that are beautiful to discover. It’s always harder to talk about nature when you are in an urban area. It’s better to immerse oneself in nature and its rhythms in order to create and to stimulate creativity. By observing nature, one can travel through history and trace the development of civilizations. I think of the Maya and the Toltec cultures, which had calendars that were very similar to the Chinese calendar. Calendars were born from a need to understand nature’s seasons, to plan the times for sowing seeds and harvesting crops, to anticipate and manage the winter’s cold and the summer’s heat. The calendar exists because we need to anticipate the phenomena of nature’s nurturing,” says Michel Parmigiani, Founder and Master Watchmaker.
“This year is indeed a very special year. This is a project that I’m very attached to, and it is the nucleus of this year’s collection. The Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF Xiali Calendar is a complete Chinese calendar, born from Michel’s passion for cultural calendars. And it is very dear to me because it is also about respecting and understanding different cultures. What sets civilizations apart is the ways in which they interpret time. The Chinese calendar is among the most difficult calendars to master because it’s both a solar and lunar calendar together. For the first time on the wrist, you will be able to see all the elements of the calendar that are not cyclical. It has been a great challenge to master,” says Guido Terreni, CEO of Parmigiani Fleurier.
- Indication of the day number of the month (1 to 29 or 1 to 30 depending on the length of the month) in the counter at 3 o’clock.
- Indication of the length of the current month (via aperture at 3 o’clock).
- Moon phase indication (synchronised with day number) via counter at 6 o’clock.
- Indication of the month number (1 to 12) in the counter at 9 o’clock.
- Indication of leap month via aperture at 9 o’clock.
- Indication of the name of the year / animal and corresponding element in the counter at 12 o’clock.
BOX 1 – the animals of the Chinese zodiac
The Chinese calendar, which divides time by combining elements and animals, dates back to the Shang dynasty (1570 -1045 BC). The sexagesimal system combines the Ten Heavenly Stems and the Twelve Earthly Branches. The Heavenly Stems, also called the Celestial Stems, are based on the five elements — Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water, all linked to yin/yang principles. The Twelve Earthly Branches are represented by the animals of the Chinese Zodiac, which may vary slightly depending on the East Asian country of origin — China, Japan, Korea or Vietnam.
To give a name to the years, China uses a sixty-year calendrical cycle, the numbering system of which is based on the combination of the Celestial Stems and Earthly Branches, allowing sixty different numerical combinations. The Celestial Stems are associated with the yīn-yáng cycle and with the concept of the five primary elements, also known as the Five Agents, recognized by the Chinese: wood, water, earth, metal and fire. At each change to a new year, the incrementation of 1 on the Celestial Stem and the Earthly Branch will make it possible to cover the sexagesimal cycle, i.e. the name of the years over 60 years. This numbering is most often used to mark the course of the years.
Legend has it that on a New Year’s Day, the Jade Emperor, or Ruler of Heaven, called all the animals of creation to visit him with the promise of a reward. Only twelve animals went to this heavenly meeting, arriving in the order depicted below. To each of them the Emperor offered a year that would bear his name, and in the order of their arrival. For many in Asia, no moves of personal, financial, or political significance are made without consulting them.
The signs in order are:
− The Rat鼠
− The Ox牛
− The Tiger 虎
− The Rabbit兔
− The Dragon龍
− The Snake蛇
− The Horse馬
− The Goat羊
− The Monkey猴
− The Rooster鷄
− The Dog狗
− The Pig豬
Unlike in the West where we celebrate only the day of the New Year, the Chinese New Year celebration spans 15 full days of festivities, ending with the Lantern Festival.
BOX 2 – Solar terms: the laws of nature, determining the agricultural calendar
The 24 solar terms (or periods) are based on the sun’s position in the Chinese zodiac, reflecting changes in climate, agricultural factors, and other phenomena impacting human life. Created by farmers of ancient China, they correspond to 24 divisions of 15° of the sun’s path along the ecliptic, or the path of the sun as seen from the earth.
Each year is divided into four seasons and within each season are six solar terms, two per month. Some of these 24 solar terms correspond with traditional Chinese festivals.
Each solar term has a Chinese name whose meaning is derived from the natural world and its phenomena, mostly relating to the changes of seasons and climates. The names reflect the belief that nature is our teacher and we must learn from her. The 24 solar terms were important in ancient China for farming and getting the best yield from the land according to the climatic changes. Later they were adopted into Chinese medicine and Daoist internal alchemy to better prescribe treatments according to the cycles of nature.
The 24 solar terms of the Chinese calendar are:
- Beginning of spring (lì chun)
- Rain Water (yu shui): Rainfall and temperatures rise. Buds begin to cover the landscape, river ice melts, wild geese migrate from south to north, trees and grass grow greener.
- Awakening of Insects (jing zhé): The burst of spring that brings insects to life and wakes hibernating animals from their slumber marks the peak of spring agricultural activities.
- Spring Equinox (chun fen): The day when the sun is directly over the equator, creating equal lengths of day and night, before it moves north, producing a gradual lengthening of days in the northern hemisphere and nights in the southern hemisphere.
- Pure Brightness (qing míng)
- Grain rain (gu yu) : The early crops begin showing their shoots, according to the proverb that “rain makes hundreds of cereals grow,” making this an important period for the harvest.
- Beginning of Summer (li xia) : Today the sun’s rays are at an angle of 45 degrees to the Earth. Temperatures rise rapidly in southern China, but in northern China the weather remains mild.
- Small Full (Grain) (xiao man) Grain Buds: The grains begin to ripen but have not yet reached maturity.
- Grain in Ear (máng zhong): The ripening of crops such as barley and wheat prompts farmers to begin summer planting.
- Summer Solstice (xià zhì): The longest daytime and shortest nighttime: during this time, much of the northern hemisphere receives many hours of sunshine without the highest temperatures, which will not come until 20 to 30 days later.
- Minor Heat (xiao shu): The hottest period is underway, but the extreme heat has yet to arrive.
- Intense heat: At this time, most areas of China enter the hottest season of the year, with temperatures in many cities reaching over 35 degrees.
- Beginning of autumn (lì qiu): Summer is over and the season of plenty approaches.
- Limit of Heat (chù shu ) End of Heat: Most parts of China bid farewell to the summer heat and enter autumn.
- White Dew (bái lù): The true beginning of autumnal coolness: temperatures gradually drop and the water vapor in the air condenses into a white dew that covers the grass and trees at night.
- Autumn Equinox (qiu fen): After this day of equal length day and night, which divides autumn into two equal parts, the direct radiation of sunlight moves southward; in the northern hemisphere, the days become shorter and the nights longer.
- Cold Dew (hán lù): At this time, temperatures are much lower than during the white dew in most parts of China. The dew is thicker and colder, and rain tapers off.
- Frost’s Descent (shuang jiàng): The last solar term of autumn is marked by the weather becoming much colder and frosts forming in the north.
- Start of Winter (lì dong) Beginning of Winter: Winter arrives, and farmers bring in the autumn harvest.
- Minor Snow (xiao xue): Snow begins to fall, mainly in northern China, and temperatures continue to drop.
- Major Snow (dà xue): Snow becomes deeper and heavier, accumulating on the ground as temperatures drop to near zero in northern China.
- Winter Solstice (dong zhì): The daytime hour of the solstice is the shortest while the night hours are the longest.
- Minor cold (xiao hán): Most of China enters the phase of severe winter cold. The ground and rivers are frozen. The cold air from the north extends to the south.
- Major Cold (dà hán): In the last solar term of the lunar calendar, snow, rain and freezing weather weigh heavily on people’s lives.
Parmigiani Tonda PF Xiali Calendar Technical Specifications
RSP: CHF 59’000.00
- Complete Chinese calendar and precision moon phase
- Calibre PF008 – COMPLETE CHINESE CALENDAR, MOON PHASE INDICATOR
- Power reserve: 54 hours
- Frequency: 28,800 Vph (4 Hz)
- Jewels: 42
- No. of components: 353
- Diameter: 32.6 mm
- Thickness: 6.9 mm
- Decoration: Côtes de Genève, beveled bridges
- Oscillating weight: 22ct rose gold¸ skeletonized, polished and sandblasted
- Polished and satin-finished stainless steel with platinum 950 knurled bezel Diameter: 42 mm
- Thickness: 12.2 mm
- Crown: Ø 6 mm, screwed-in Glass: ARunic anti-reflective sapphire
- Case back: sapphire glass Engraving on case back: serial number – “PARMIGIANI FLEURIER”
- Water resistance: 100 m
- Color: Imperial Red
- Finishing: Grain d’Orge guilloché
- Indices: 18ct gold rhodium-plated appliques
- Moon phase: blue aventurine
- Hours and minutes: 18ct gold rhodium-plated skeleton delta-shaped
- Seconds and calendar: rhodium-plated steel
Strap & Bracelet
- Polished and satin-finished stainless steel
- Closure: stainless steel folding clasp
Taking its name from its founder, watchmaker and restorer Michel Parmigiani, the fine watchmaking brand was founded in 1996 in Fleurier, in the Swiss valley of Val-de-Travers. With its own watchmaking center ensuring its independence, the brand has both full control over the production process and unique creative freedom. For over twenty years, the Parmigiani Fleurier signature has resided within timepieces that command the utmost respect, in harmony with watchmaking traditions. They are the labor of a lifetime – that of Michel Parmigiani, the talented individuals who assist him, and the special relationship between the Manufacture and the masterpieces of the past, enabling it to invent a bold future.
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