A passion for premium travel is often accompanied with that of haute horology and a world time watch is the ultimate travel companion.
There are inherently three types of analogue wristwatches. The first - the vast majority of pieces - involves the watch being manually reset to tell local time on arrival at your destination. The second type is called GMT – named after the well-known horological zone - Greenwich Mean Time. These watches will give you the time in your primary time-zone, as well as another of your choosing. Often, they would feature bezels that can be rotated to reflect the time in more time zones.
The world time watch is the ultimate timepiece. It will give you the correct time in every major time zone of the planet - at a glance. These world time watches are works of art. They are sophisticated and beautiful with breath-taking and intricate mechanical complications. A popular version is presented with a chapter ring showing the cities related to each time zone listed on it. Others use maps or three-dimensional world globes. Either way, it is a visually alluring way of reading the time in just about anywhere in the world. Every time you glance at your wrist, it will spark that joy of travel - and maybe if you are not on the move, nudge you to book a trip – your next holiday … your next adventure.
The world time watch traces its history to the pocket watches of the late 19th century. From the 1940s and onwards, as global travel boomed, the premier marques – including Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin - brought innovative wrist-versions with these world time complications to a sophisticated and affluent clientele. In recent years, vintage world time watches have repeatedly attained some of the highest auction prices ever, demonstrating the immense attraction of these timepieces that are - simply timeless.
Most, but not all of the timepieces are true world timer watches. The major requirement is that at least the watch should be able to observe all 24 time zones easily and at your request.
The BusinessClass.com guide to the best world timer watches:
Patek Philippe World Time watch - ref. 5231J
The legendary watch marque Patek Philippe launched its first World Time watch in the 1930s, and since then, these timepieces have attained cult status, for collectors and for travellers alike.
Patek Philippe offers an impressive selection of World Timers making it quite difficult to select which one to highlight. However, The Patek Philippe ref. 5231J wins us over for now – and is arguably the most beautiful world time watch on the market. Its cloisonné enamel dial is hand-painted and offers a stunning visual of Europe, Africa, and the Americas. The hands point to the local time, and the inner chapter ring displays daytime and night-time, as well as the full 24-hour indication for 24 time zones. A pusher at 10 o’clock sets the requested time zone. A patented coupling mechanism sees to it so that the hand indicating minutes is not affected by the switching procedure. The hand moves forward with effortless precision.
The case comes in yellow gold, with an alligator leather bracelet – complete with square scales - hand-stitched and shiny chocolate brown. The dial is 18-carat gold plate. The caseback is sapphire-crystal. The Patek Philippe Ref. 5231J is rated for 30 metres depth. The diameter is 38.5 millimetres and the height is 10.23 millimetres. Patek Philippe´s self-winding mechanical movement, the Caliber 240 HU (Heure Universelle), powers the watch.
If money is no object, the Patek Philippe ref. 5531R is for you. This piece is a Grand Complication and its price tag exceeds that of a new Rolls Royce Phantom!
Every Patek Philippe wristwatch is masterpiece of skill, engineering, and design. They are built to stand the test of time. After all, as the Swiss company states - "You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation".
(www.patek.com - Prices start from $52.000 / €45.000 / £38,500 for the 5230G)
Vacheron Constantin Overseas World Time
Vacheron Constantin, along with Patek Philippe, plays an important role in the history of world time watches. This Geneva-based luxury watch maker launched its first world time watch in 1932. It is a popular misconception that the world is divided into 24 time-zones – there are actually 37. Vacheron Constantin goes the extra mile with its Overseas World Time, complete with a patented mechanism, displaying the full 37 time zones - the only watch in this BusinessClass.com guide that actually does that.
Countries such as India and Nepal will also find their correct time setting on the Overseas World Time. An ingenious feat of engineering in the art of haute horology. It looks fantastic too - making the Overseas World Time the perfect travel companion. The map on the Overseas World Time depicts, as seen with some other world timers, the northern hemisphere, and as many as three rings around it feature all of the 37 cities.
Hands in the centre displays hours, minutes, and seconds, as well as daytime/night-time and 24-hour indication on the outer chapter rings. There is an arrow at the bezel´s 6 o’clock that is the reference time zone.
The watch is 43.5 millimetres in diameter and 12.6 millimetres high case is anti-magnetic and water-resistant rated to as much as 150 metres, the deepest in this guide. Its caseback reveals the 22 carat gold decoration, displaying the Vacheron Constantin logo and a few of the 255 parts of the watch. The piece is powered by the 2460 WT/1 self-winding movement that offers 40 hours of power reserve. A welcome touch is the interchangeable straps, allowing for full personalisation - dark blue alligator, dark blue rubber, or steel. The choice is yours …
(www.vacheron-constantin.com - Prices start from $44.000 / €38.000 / £32500)
Girard-Perregaux 1966 WW.TC
The Girard-Perregaux 1966 WW.TC series was launched in the year 2000, and quickly became recognised as among the most convenient world timer available. WW.TC is an anacronym for World-Wide Time Control, and initially, it was a standalone series of watches that were presented along with a chronograph complication. A number of special editions followed, including those that focused on special time zones of major shopping districts, and of international stock markets. The complication and its variations were a huge success, and the brand decided to introduce to other collections. The WW.TC is no longer a collection on its own but holds an important position at Girard-Perregaux.
The Girard-Perregaux 1966 WW.TC is a rendition of the original 1960’s collection. You set the time at the centre to the time in your zone using the crown on the right-hand side, and then you turn the crown on the left to align your time zone to the 12 o’clock position.
Owners can marvel that the time on the 24-hour ring corresponds to their zone, while the other hours on the ring correspond to all the other cities, representing all the other time zones. The 24-hour ring has a day-and-night indicator. Finally, you have a sub-dial at 6 o’clock for the seconds indicator.
This watch comes in steel at 40 millimetres in diameter or, at double the price, a beautiful 18-carat pink gold. On both versions, you can see the intricate automatic movement through the transparent caseback of sapphire crystal. The Girard-Perregaux 1966 WW.TC is water-resistant to 30 metres. The silver opaline dial can be ordered without the 1791 marking – the year the Swiss watchmaker was established.
(girard-perregaux.com - Prices start from $13.500 / €11.700 / £10.000)
Breitling Aviator 8 B35 Automatic Unitime 43
Having long been associated with the world of aviation, Breitling has a history of creating wrist watches for pilots as well as cockpit instruments. With the Breitling Aviator 8, jet-setters can circumnavigate the world without worrying whether their watch will show the correct time.
Breitling had international travellers in mind when designing the Aviator 8. A relative of Breitling's other aviation watch, the Navitimer, the large Arabic numeral hour markers remind connoisseurs that it is definitely an Aviator timepiece.
The Aviator 8 B35 Unitime 43 offers world time via an independent hour hand that is adjustable by the crown. The inner 24-hour ring indicates whether it is day or night-time or in any city marked on the dial. While three hands will ensure keeping the time, the dial also offers a date display, which becomes crucial when switching between time zones.
To proceed, one must rotate the city ring and bring one’s time zone to the 12 o’clock position. Using the crown itself, rotating, without going back past midnight, the date also changes.
Once the time is set, the a.m. / p.m. will appear for one’s own time zone, thanks to the 24-hour scale, which also will display the correct time in the other time zones. There is also a rotatable bezel with a marker that handily acts as a timer. Turn the bezel to have the marker meet the hour, or minute hand, to mark a time for this function.
The mechanical, automatic-calibre B35, features two spring barrels and offers a power reserve of approximately 70 hours. It comes encased in 43 millimetres of steel that is water-resistant to an impressive 100 metres. The caseback is transparent sapphire – providing easy viewing of the movement.
The Aviator 8 B35 Unitime 43 watch comes in two versions. One has a black dial with a blue section on the 24-hour ring to indicate daytime hours. The other is in silver, with a monochrome appearance.
(www.breitling.com - Prices start from $8140 / €7.400 / £6.200)
Frederique Constant Classics Worldtimer Manufacture
The Frederique Constant Classics Worldtimer Manufacture is one of the more accessible world timers available and does not lack in features or beauty. The display offers central timekeeping hands for hours, minutes, and seconds, which tells the time in the local time zone.
The centre of the dial depicts a map of the world, with circular hour markers, while an analogue date display is visible at the 6 o’clock position. The hour markers rule the internal portion of the dial, leaving the periphery to the 24 time zones and the 24-hour scale.
As is the case with many world time watches, one must place the city representing the local time zone at the 12 o’clock position on the dial. This will allow the 24-hour ring to align the time at the centre with it. You can then see that every other city also is aligned with its correct time on the 24-hour ring.
The ring is also coloured making it easy to get a sense if it is day or night-time - in any time zone of interest. The pièce de résistance of this watch is the FC-718 calibre within, which is adjustable, entirely using just the one crown. The automatic movement stores a 38-hour power reserve. Housed in a case that is 42 millimetres in diameter and water-resistant to 50 meters.
The Frederique Constant Classics Worldtimer Manufacture comes in four versions: Steel case with a silver dial and with navy alligator strap, Steel case with a navy dial and with navy alligator strap, Rose gold plated case with dark brown alligator strap and 18-carat rose gold with a navy dial and navy alligator strap with off-white stitches.
(www.frederiqueconstant.com - Prices start from $3.700 / €3.200 / £2.700)
IWC Pilot’s Watch Timezoner Chronograph
IWC has manufactured a Pilot Watch since 1936. While IWC offers a large selection of pilot's watches, only one is a world timer, the IWC Pilot’s Watch Timezoner Chronograph.
Its main bezel is a central part of the mechanical adjustment. When rotating the bezel, one can quickly check the time in the requested time zone and easily switch back to the local time zone. The central hands indicate - by default - the time in the zone that is at the bezel’s 12 o’clock position. In order to change the time zone, one needs to press down the bezel and turn it clockwise or anti-clockwise, selecting the time zone chosen to the 12 o’clock position. This will trigger the central hour hand to show the time in the requested time zone. Even the date at 3 o’clock will move if time passes midnight. A 24-hour hand with a red arrowhead pointing to an inner 24-hour scale will let you know if it is day or night time in your chosen destination. At 6 o’clock you will find the seconds dial, while the sub-dial at 12 o’clock features both the 12-hour and 60-minute counters of the flyback chronograph.
Being a Pilot's Watch, the sapphire glass is secured against displacement by a drop in air pressure. The IWC-manufactured automatic calibre 89760 can store an impressive 68-hour power reserve. The 46 millimetre steel case is water-resistant to 60 metres and its caseback is not transparent.
(www.iwc.com - Prices start from $16.900 / €14.600 / £12.500)
Montblanc Star Legacy Orbis Terrarum
The Montblanc Star Legacy product line finds its origins in the brand´s history of crafting pocket watches during the late 19th and early 20th century. The Latin term Orbis Terrarum translates to “globe”, “earth”, and “world”, inspiring the Montblanc Star Legacy Orbis Terrarum.
Montblanc wanted to create an easy-to-use world timer that is visually appealing. The dial depicts a map of the northern hemisphere as seen from the north pole with the meridians clearly outlined. Surrounding the meridians is the ring depicting 24 major cities chosen for the 24 time zones.
A red arrow at 12 o’clock points toward the city related to the local time zone. The 24-hour ring indicates the daytime and night-time of any time zone. When on a journey, the watch is very easy to set, thanks to a single pusher at 8 o’clock on the case.
The Montblanc Star Legacy Orbis Terrarum is powered by the proprietary MB M29.20 automatic movement, which features 42 hours of power reserve. The timepiece is 43 millimetres in diameter and is rated to 50 metres in depth.
The Montblanc Star Legacy Orbis Terrarum comes in only one version - polished stainless steel with satin-finishing on the sides and a blue bracelet.
(www.montblanc.com - Prices start from $7.200 / €6.300 / €5.300)
Bremont ALT1 WT-Blue
The Bremont ALT1 is the only timepiece in this guide that is not crafted in Switzerland. The British, hand-built to order Bremont ALT1 WT-Blue is worn by the Williams Formula 1 Racing team.
To invoke the spirit of travel, a globe is etched on the blue dial. The Bremont ALT1 WT-Blue looks like a world time watch at the first glance, thanks to the marking of the 24 time zones, but its functionality actually lends more towards a regular GMT.
The company’s proprietary Roto-Click bezel, operated by the crown at 8 o'clock, simplifies the task of switching to a secondary tome zone of your choosing. At 43 millimetres in diameter and with case thickness of 16 millimetres, this is a hefty timepiece. The calibre 13 ¼ inch BE-54AE automatic chronometer offers 42 hours of power reserve and is rated to an impressive depth of 100 metres.
The Bremont ALT1 WT-Blue comes in one version only - steel with a Chalgrove strap.
(www.bremont.com - Prices start from $6,200 / €5.350 / £4.600)
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Geographic
Unlike most world timers, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Geographic will not indicate all 24 time zones simultaneously. It will, however, show you two. While technically not a true world timer, the city indicator disk helps evoke that special world timer feeling.
In 2020, La Grande Maison relaunched the Master Control collection, drawing inspiration from their own classic watches of the 1950s, while adding a dash of 21st-century flair. At 40 millimetres in diameter and less than 11 millimetres thick, Jaeger-LeCoultre has updated its Master Control Geographic to a more wearable everyday watch. The previous edition was slightly smaller and thicker.
This new edition also features Jaeger-LeCoultre's latest movement, calibre 939AA, which increases the power reserve to a respectful 70 hours. The design is a delightful mélange of the classic and contemporary - the sunray brushed dial is modern while the large Arabic numerals help with a vintage look.
The pointer date and the secondary time zone sub dial at 6 o'clock illustrates the dual time as if it were a second watch. The 24-hour/day-night indicator is a nice touch. To really enjoy the travel time feature on the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Geographic, the secondary crown at 10 o'clock can be turned to operate the city disk. One can cycle through each city, and the time in the lower subdial will correspond with the hour changes for each timezone.
The watch comes in two versions – steel and rose gold.
(jaeger-lecoultre.com - Prices start from $13.100 / €12.600 / £10,900)
Arnold & Son Globetrotter
Not a true world time watch - with the ability to observe the 24 time zones simultaneously - the Arnold & Son Globetrotter certainly makes up for it by offering a truly unusual way to admire global time zones.
“The Globetrotter is a timepiece for the modern-day navigator” as described by Arnold & Son. In creating the Globetrotter, the brand found inspiration in the marine chronometers that John Arnold created in the 18th century, instruments of precision and time-telling.
This very special three-dimensional Globetrotter watch takes a completely different approach to world time indication, compared to the other watches of this guide. The watch is dominated by a sapphire crystal dome suspended above the dial, displaying the rotating northern hemisphere on it.
Underneath is a 24-hour disk that one can set the time and locations with – turning the crown at 3 o’clock. Set the time by pulling this crown out to its third position, finding the geolocation on the globe, placing it as though there was a line passing through the dial. Then align the home location on the map with the local time on the 24-hour scale. Local time is set in the same fashion, while using the crown´s second position and can be read off the red hands against the outer Roman numeral ring.
(www.arnoldandson.com - Prices start from $20.700 / €17.900 / 15.400)
Note: While most, but not all of the timepieces are true world timers, the major requirement is that at least the watch should be able to observe all 24 time zones easily and on demand.