When you travel abroad, it’s a must you know what time it is, locally and at home. There are many wristwatches that, with a flick of a wrist, allow you to be sure you’re phoning your home or office at the right time. Four-handed GMT watches abound and offer an elegant solution to local and remote timekeeping, but world-timers tell you what time it is all over the globe at once. Should you find yourself traveling across multiple timezones in a short period of time or working with a global team, you’ll be glad you had one.
World-time watches as we know it really hit their stride in the 1930s. The importance of aviation and telecommunication was growing rapidly; people were about to be away from their homes more than ever. Swiss watchmaker Louis Cottier is often considered the grandfather of world-time watches, having developed a particular style of one in 1930 that attracted the attention of major luxury watch houses like Rolex, Vacheron Constantin and Patek Philippe, all of whom eventually commissioned Cottier to design world-time pieces for their brands. These are the watches that incorporate the cities round around the dial with a 24-hour ring that moves counterclockwise as the time advances. For an iconic Cottier-style world-timer, look no further than the Patek Philippe 5130. It’s an undisputed classic, and arguably the most perfect world-timer manufactured today. Perfection, however, costs somewhere in the neighborhood of $50,000.
If you’re in the market for a world-timer but can’t stomach that kind of price tag, then here are four options that you should know about–all with in-house movements:
Seiko 5 World Time Automatic ($435)
In 2013, Seiko launched a world-timer to celebrate 50 years of the Seiko 5 moniker. Featuring an outer ion-plated bidirectional rotating bezel paired with an inner 24-hour ring, figuring the time anywhere in the world is more convenient than most fully crown operated ones. What’s great about this particular watch is that it’s a rugged, sportier alternative to most sophisticated Cottier-style world-timers, but it doesn’t lack details to make it interested. It has applied luminous markers, bright yellow accents and a subtle globe printed on the dial. With a 44mm stainless steel case and bold coloring, it carries that genuine Seiko DNA that collectors love so much. Plus, it’s impossibly affordable (and often discounted), so it’s hard to defend why this wouldn’t be a candidate for your collection.
Frederique Constant Manufacture Worldtimer ($3,800)
Frederique Constant is on the tip of our tongues when collectors ask us about sensibly priced in-house movements. We previously reviewed another piece with a manufacture caliber, the Slimline Moonphase Manufacture, and it’s laudable not only for it price but its design and engineering. Like the Slimline Moonphase, the Worldtimer has a 42mm mirror-polished stainless steel case. Despite the fact that there’s a lot happening here, the dial remains uncluttered with a map of the world in relief in the center. Through the sapphire crystal exhibition case back you can see the caliber FC-718. With minimal color, rich texture and a single crown that operates the entire watch, it’s elegant in both form and function. At this price, it seems too good to be true, but it’s not.
NOMOS Glashutte Zurich World Timer ($5,760)
Not only is this German brand producing top-of-the-line manufacture movements but NOMOS is also presenting collectors with unique Bauhaus-inspired designs that boast a refreshing minimalism and superior legibility you just don’t see in a lot of timepieces today. NOMOS reimagined the world-timer with an in-house caliber and an understated design that might just make this a classic. The “Heimat,” or home time, is always displayed at the 3 o’clock 24-hour wheel while the local time is displayed using the hour hand and the cities ring around the dial. Your local city is always displayed at the 12 o’clock position. Here’s how it works: first you set your home time and then you press the 2 o’clock pusher which advances both the cities ring and the hour hand. Just press the pusher until you get to the city you’re in and the hour hand will display the correct local time. It’s only 40mm wide with a see-through case back to show off this incredibly exclusive movement.
Zenith Doubletimer ($13,200)
Although they make extraordinary timepieces, I don’t write much about Zenith. Most of their watches are out of my reach personally, but even with prices over $10K, the brand often poses the best deal in horology today. The Doubletimer exemplifies the value proposition, offering several complications in a single piece for a price that is less than many brands charge for a watch containing, say, just an alarm. The watch features a world-time complication plus an alarm, big date, and the brand’s in-house El Primero chronograph movement. And the alarm has its own mainspring and power reserve indicator, to boot. Zenith not only manufactured the Swiss Army knife of mechanical travel watches, but also arranged these features wisely to maintain a legible dial. All of this is housed in a 45mm stainless steel case. It’s a sizable watch, but Zenith does large watches fairly well, so expect this to wear more like a 44mm. But, really, when you buy the Doubletimer you’re not going for understatement.