As lovers of time and all things time related, we often can’t do without looking down at our watch, but we also can’t do without knowing the time in multiple locations too. It’s just good for business. It is certainly nice to be able to glance down at your timepiece and see the time in London as well as Dubai (or Hong Kong, for that matter) and naturally enough, there is a timepiece that does this very well. It’s called a world timer. Now, world timer wristwatches can actually display all the correct times across 24 different time zones at once and usually feature a rather interesting and artistic dial. Many may think that a GMT or Time Zone timepiece also falls into this category. However, they are different beasts and I shall explain why a little later.
The world timer watch is an invaluable instrument not just for the frequent jet-setter but also for corporate gents who like to do business across multiple time zones. Of course, it wasn’t always that simple. In the late 19th century, Greenwich in England was established as the prime meridian of the world’s 24 main time zones. It was not until the early 1930s, however, that Swiss watchmaker Louis Cottier created a mechanism to display them all on one single dial. By the end of the 1930s, Vacheron Constantin had produced the first world timer pocket watch. Patek Philippe would later be credited with creating the first Cottier-inspired World Time wristwatch. By the 1950s, Rolex further simplified this type of complication by creating the GMT-Master, though that timepiece was created especially for pilots.
Today, Patek still make a world timer watch that looks exceptionally similar to models they created earlier in the 20th century. Many other watch brands have created their own interpretations of the world timer, and pieces from the likes of Jaeger-LeCoultre, who recently released the Geophysic® True Beat Universal Time, are evidence that even when another brand takes on the task, the results will tend to be very similar. But let me address one thing here. There is a big difference between a true world timer and a timepiece that can display the time in multiple time zones. For instance: a Lange 1 Time Zone is just that, it can display the times of different cities (time zones) that are shown in the outer rotating chapter ring but it can only display up to two cities at once. That being your current city and the other designated city on the chapter ring. The same applies to a Rolex GMT-Master. For that reason, such pieces are not considered true world timers.
Nonetheless, there are pieces that can display all of this information on one dial, as mentioned above, and that feature very elegant and intricate maps of the world with each of the 24 time zones listed, as well as the ability to read the time in each city simultaneously. You have the aforementioned Patek Philippe World Time, of course, which is a true world timer and displays cities in all 24 time zones, as well as a 24-hour indicator, alongside a mechanism that allows you to change your desired home city via a push piece located at 11 o’clock. However, Patek also offer the ref. 5131, which features a more elaborate Cloisonné enamel dial showing a map of the world. Probably the more understated pieces that feature world maps are the Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle World Time and the afore-mentioned Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic True Beat Universal Time.
So whether you are the type of person who has to keep a track of the opening and closing of the world’s main stock markets or just someone who likes to keep a track of time in other time zones for business, you will be well-covered by a world timer wristwatch.