You’re flying New York to London, have a phone call with a client in Paris two hours after you land and need to Skype your mother in Minneapolis before you go to bed. Think you can keep it all straight with a jet-lagged brain?
Some people travel a lot and need to keep tabs on different time zones at different hours of the day. And while doing the mental math isn’t that difficult, staying synced with different areas of the earth can be as easy as a glance at your really cool watch.
A world time watch accomplishes a similar task to the GMT or dual timezone; it shows the wearer a time zone in an area of the world other than home. The difference is that whereas the GMT can only monitor one other selected time zone, the world timer shows the time for the main 24 time zones at once.
A world timer features an internal bezel displaying 24 world cities, each representing a different time zone. Next to this is a 24-hour ring (or hand) that makes one full revolution a day. The user sets the time-zone bezel to align their home time zone with the correct hour of the day on the 24-hour ring. As time passes, the 24-hour ring or hand rotates. The point where the 24-hour ring lines up with the time zone you’re looking for shows you the hour of the day.
The complication was developed by independent watchmaker Louis Cottier in the early 1930s, and was quickly adopted by brands like Patek Philippe, Rolex and Vacheron Constantin. It was and remains a fairly complex movement, and as such commands a higher price tag than the similar GMT (developed a couple decades after the world timer), and is harder to find today.
But for the watchmakers who have mastered the world time watch, the results are often stunning. The watch inherently requires a busy dial, but designers and watchmakers manage to organize the business into a beautiful, legible gauge that is particularly useful for jet-setters and adventurers everywhere.
Guaranteed, this is one of the most affordable true world time watches you'll find — because strong value propositions are what British watchmaker Christopher Ward is all about. And you've got to hand it to them, they've done a great job making this complication accessible as well as taking a potentially busy dial and keeping it clean and elegant.
Water Resistance: 30m
World time movements are complicated and expensive to manufacture. However, Nomos manages to combine an in-house movement with a gorgeous dial and a case that’s just 41mm wide by 11mm tall. The Zürich World Timer’s caliber DUW 5201 is self-winding and allows the user to keep track of 24 time zones for less than the cost of a flagship dive watch from Rolex.
Water Resistance: 30m
The best part about the Orbis Terrarum: a transparent Lambert Projection map in the center of the dial that rotates as the day passes, which conveys day transitioning into night across the globe with a rotating white and dark-blue disc underneath, all powered by an automatic movement.
Water Resistance: 50m
A unique take on the travel watch in which the local hour hand jumps as one rotates the bezel, the Timezoner is simply one of the coolest world timers around. Done up in the livery of a Pilot's Watch Chronograph, it features an in-house IWC movement that goes a step further by also offering a flyback function for the chronograph. Now, that's a lot of watch.
Water Resistance: 60m
For $37k you get 37 time zones (including ones offset by 15 or 30 minutes), plus water resistance to 150 meters, an antimagnetic case, and two possible dial colors. Not to mention the Overseas has an incredibly convenient and easy-to-use strap changing system and a gorgeous in-house movement.
Water Resistance: 150m
If you’re going to splurge on a world timer, why not go all out and nab one housed in the case of one of the coolest watches of the last quarter-century, the Lange 1. A limited edition of 25 pieces made in white gold featuring featuring a blue-printed argenté-coloured dial and blued hands, this is the world timer you get when you want to fly under the radar — but the watch guys will know, of course.
Water Resistance: N/A
Patek Philippe is renown for their complicated watches, and has been manufacturing world timers since the mid-20th century — it’s even possible to discern the same design through-lines in their ref. 5231J and their 1940s-era ref. 1415. With its striking coisonné enamel dial and yellow gold case, a world timer doesn’t get much classier than this.
Water Resistance: 30m