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.
updated 11:50 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
The beheading of American journalist James Foley by ISIS militants brings into focus once again the risks faced by reporters in modern conflicts.
updated 1:20 PM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
When war reporter James Foley wasn't writing for GlobalPost or recording video for AFP, he occasionally shared stories on his own blog, aptly titled "A World of Troubles."
updated 11:17 AM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
A video released by ISIS shows the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley and threatens the life of another American if President Obama doesn't end military operations in Iraq.
updated 5:34 PM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
"May God help you," the speaker of Iraq's parliament told Haider al-Abadi the day he was nominated prime minister.
updated 10:19 PM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
The answers to this question lie in some clear differences in the two conflicts.
updated 6:27 PM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Framing the intervention in religious terms bolsters theories of U.S. bias, says Fahad Nazer.
updated 9:14 AM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
They are the faces of an entire community on the run.
updated 4:54 AM EDT, Sun August 17, 2014
In an exodus of almost biblical proportions, thousands trudge across a river to escape killers belonging to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.
updated 9:13 AM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Theirs were the faces that stood out in the chaotic helicopter evacuation off the Sinjar Mountains.
updated 8:13 PM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
Browse through photos of thousands of refugees trudging across a river to escape ISIS.
updated 11:41 AM EDT, Sat August 16, 2014
The face of 15-year-old Aziza -- rescued from Mount Sinjar in Iraq -- says it all.
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Mon August 11, 2014
CNN's Ivan Watson flies along with the Iraqi military as they drop emergency supplies.
Why do the militant Islamists have the Yazidis in their cross hairs?
updated 1:50 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
Images illustrate the ongoing violence in Iraq.
updated 12:08 PM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
The message from a growing number of actors inside and outside Iraq is the same: Maliki must go if the country is to be saved.
updated 11:23 AM EDT, Mon August 11, 2014
ISIS gives young men "cars to drive, guns, cell phones and cash money."
updated 6:15 AM EDT, Sat August 16, 2014
Which is worse: Running desperately for your life, or seeing others' lives end without enough to eat or drink?
updated 1:01 PM EDT, Tue August 12, 2014
The Sinjar Mountains have always been a special place of refuge for the Yazidis.
updated 3:10 PM EDT, Sat August 9, 2014
Will the U.S. air strikes increase the terrorist threat in the U.S. and Europe?
updated 10:51 PM EDT, Fri August 8, 2014
Which religious and ethnic groups are under threat from ISIS militants?
ISIS has spread from Syria into Iraq. Learn where the militant strongholds are.
updated 9:56 PM EDT, Tue July 8, 2014
'Why do these people kill other people?" For Iraq's youngest residents, the tragedy is almost incomprehensible.
Even those who aren't in the line of fire feel the effects of the chaos that has engulfed Iraq since extremists attacked.