Skip to main content

Is ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's bling timepiece a Rolex or an 'Islamic watch?'

By Ammar Benaziz and Nick Thompson, CNN
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Thu July 10, 2014
This still from a video purports to show Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi delivering a sermon at a mosque in Mosul on July 5.
This still from a video purports to show Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi delivering a sermon at a mosque in Mosul on July 5.
  • Abu-Bakr Baghdadi was purportedly filmed giving a sermon at a mosque in northern Iraq last week
  • Observers claimed on social media that the Arab warlord was wearing an expensive Western watch
  • Others now claim he is wearing an "Islamic watch" that sets prayer reminders and has a Quran bookmark function
  • An employee at Al-Fajr, the Saudi-based watchmaker, tells CNN that al-Baghdadi's watch "appears to be one of ours"

(CNN) -- His black robes and turban may harken back to Arab rulers from 1,500 years ago, but Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's taste in wrist-wear is decidedly more 21st century.

Days after the mysterious leader of the Sunni terror group ISIS was purportedly filmed at a mosque in northern Iraq calling on believers to wage "jihad" against God's enemies, social media is ablaze with speculation on the make of al-Baghdadi's watch.

But while critics claimed that the flashy silver timepiece dangling from the Arab warlord's wrist was a luxury Western watch worth thousands, his supporters say he was actually wearing a relatively more modest $560 "Islamic watch" from Al-Fajr, a Saudi Arabia-based watchmaker.

The deluxe stainless steel WA-10S watch -- the preferred choice of "true Muslims," according to some commentators on social media -- can be programmed with the correct prayer times for hundreds of cities around the world.

The watch can be set to ring before each "azan," or call to prayer, wherever the wearer happens to be, according to the Al-Fajr website. Muslims pray five times a day, and prayer times are based on the movement of the sun, so they can vary in different places within the same city.

In addition to the prayer alarms, the Swiss-made watch has a built-in compass to indicate the direction of Mecca, Islam's holiest site, so believers will know what direction to pray.

The bilingual watch displays in English and Arabic and allows you to choose either the Gregorian or Hijra calendar, which is "based on the astronomical moon sighting at Mecca," according to the watchmaker's website.

The deluxe model also has a Quran bookmark feature which enables you to record the last Sura and Verse number so you can pick up where you left off later.

An employee at the watchmaker told CNN: "We can't be sure 100% that the watch [al-Baghdadi] was wearing was actually ours, but after seeing the picture we can assume it is the Al-Fajr WA-10S Deluxe. Though the Arabic signs were not clear, the watch's shape is identical to ours."

"There is no record about who bought what from the more than 30 branches we run. While we don't have branches in Iraq, we do have them in many other countries, among them 11 Arab countries and even European branches such as the one in the UK," the employee added.

ISIS has not commented on the watch al-Baghdadi was wearing, but observers claimed earlier this week that one of the world's most wanted men was wearing either a Rolex or a $5,000 Omega Seafarer -- the timepiece of choice for James Bond, the world's most famous silver screen spy.

Critics of al-Baghdadi -- the ringleader of the al Qaeda splinter group whose lightning-quick advance has seen them seize large swathes of land in Syria and Iraq in recent months -- say his flashy silver timepiece contradicted with his attempt to strike a pose of pious humility during his sermon at the mosque in Mosul.

"The 'Khalifah' Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi makes his first appearance wearing expensive Omega or Rolex watch," said one observer on Twitter.

"New 'Caliph' spotted with serious bling, maybe he needs that Swiss precision to know it's time for the Caliphate?" joked another.

Regardless of the brand, al-Baghdadi, like Osama bin Laden before him, wore the watch on his right arm in accordance with Salafist tradition dating back nearly 1,500 years to the Prophet Mohammed, who encouraged all Muslims to prioritize the right side of their bodies as they go about their daily lives.

Al-Baghdadi's appearance in Mosul came days after ISIS declared him as the leader of a new state extending from Aleppo in northeastern Syria to the Diyala province in Iraq.

CNN could not independently verify the video's authenticity, but the video did identify the man as Al-Khalifah Ibrahim, the name al-Baghdadi now goes by with his followers since ISIS declared the creation of their so-called caliphate, or "Islamic State."

READ MORE: Pentagon targeting ISIS leader in drone strike?

READ MORE: Is ISIS the first terror group to build a state?

CNN Wires contributed to this report.

Part of complete coverage on
Get all the latest news and updates on Iraq in Arabic by visiting CNN Arabic.
ISIS has spread from Syria into Iraq. Learn where the militant strongholds are.
updated 7:46 AM EDT, Fri July 11, 2014
Staring up at the stained hospital ceiling, Hassan recounts the fierce firefight on the streets of Ramadi that landed him here.
updated 9:56 PM EDT, Tue July 8, 2014
'Why do these people kill other people?" For Iraq's youngest residents, the tragedy in the country is almost incompreensible.
Even those who aren't in the line of fire feel the effects of the chaos that has engulfed Iraq since extremists attacked.
updated 2:04 AM EDT, Tue July 8, 2014
In a palm orchard in Baghdad, women learn how to protect their children and homes, afraid if ISIS penetrates the Iraqi capital.
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Tue July 8, 2014
Joe Biden once argued it was time to split Iraq into three parts: Kurdish, Shia and Sunni. And why not?
updated 4:17 PM EDT, Mon July 7, 2014
CNN's Hala Gorani speaks to terrorism expert Peter Neumann about video that purports to show ISIS' leader in Iraq.
updated 6:58 PM EDT, Sun July 6, 2014
CNN's Arwa Damon gets exclusive access to the front lines of the Iraqi Army's defense against advancing ISIS militants.
updated 10:20 AM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
A Colorado woman was arrested at the Denver airport and charged with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists.
updated 8:21 PM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
CNN's Nima Elbagir rides with police special forces as they attempt to secure Baghdad from enemies within the city.
updated 11:13 AM EDT, Tue July 1, 2014
Faisal Al Yafai: The caliphate is not the answer to Iraq's wars -- but neither is division. For better or worse, the Mideast is stuck with its current borders.
updated 6:17 PM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
Saudi dissident and suspected terrorist leader Osama bin Laden is seen in this undated file photo taken somewhere in Afghanistan.
The creation of a caliphate was Osama bin Laden's dream. ISIS is attempting to make it a reality.
updated 5:21 AM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
Under a sweltering sun, Fallah al Araiby hunched over the hood of a car, scrubbing away the dirt.
updated 12:00 AM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
The extremist group that's taken over a large swath of western and northern Iraq announced on Sunday the establishment of a "caliphate."
updated 12:58 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
CNN's Nic Robertson journeys to the front lines, where old Iraqi tanks are being used to keep ISIS out of Baghdad.
updated 9:19 PM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
CNN's Arwa Damon reports on how Iraqis are living under ISIS control in Mosul.
updated 4:25 PM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
The US isn't doing airstrikes in Iraq. Is there a vacuum for Syria and Iran to step in? CNN's Fareed Zakaria weighs in.
updated 10:29 AM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
T-shirts, hoodies and even toy figurines bearing the ISIS logo are being sold on online and marketed across social media.
updated 9:39 PM EDT, Tue June 24, 2014
CNN's Arwa Damon shares one mixed Sunni-Shiite family's story out of Iraq amid increased worry ISIS is taking over.