Whether you’re a frequent traveler, a bi-coastal office worker, or someone with friends and/or family scattered around the grobe, there are few complications around that remain as practical to own as a world time watch. Sure, your smartphone has that section in it for the world clock, but aside from being interesting visually, there’s something nice about being able to glance down at your wrist and instantly knowing the current time in LA, Singapore, and Geneva without having to give it a second thought.
Due to their inherent complexity not every brand has a world timer in their repertoire, but thankfully throughout the pricing spectrum there are still some solid options to choose from. Looking at the current marketplace, here are some of our favorite options both at the entry level and in the upper register of fine watchmaking.
Frederique Constant Classic Worldtimer Manufacture
At the more approachable end of the spectrum, Frederique Constant offers one of the coolest bang-for-your-buck world time watches around. Fitted with an in-house manufacture automatic caliber, the piece features a sleek world map dial (available in a range of colors), with a radial guilloche subdial displaying a date indication at 6 o’clock. Its 42mm case wears surprisingly compact–more like a 40mm than a 42–and unlike many world timers in the category all of its setting functions are controlled via its crown. As a minor gripe, the addition of the date subdial means that the three cities at 11, 12, and 13h ahead are harder to read than the rest, but I would by no means consider that to be a dealbreaker in any respect.
Montblanc 1858 Geosphere
Switching from dressy to vastly more casual, the Geosphere from Montblanc is available in steel, as well as in a limited edition bronze version (limited to 1858 pieces), but whichever metal you opt for you will not be disappointed. It’s overall design is very dive watch inspired, though a compass bezel is fitted rather than one for timing, and it is fitted with a supple leather strap rather than the usual rubber strap or metal bracelet. Slightly domed globe cross-sections (northern and southern hemispheres) are used for world time indication, which definitely takes some getting used to. That said, it’s a very slick design detail, and the Geosphere easily stands out from the pack in the sub-$10 price range (starting at $6,800 in steel).
IWC Timezoner Spitfire Edition “The Longest Flight”
It’s rare with any complication so see outside-the-box means of operation in watchmaking, as so many tricks of the trade have been around for ages. This particular world timer is so cleverly engineered from a functional use standpoint it’s hard not to love–even at its rather large 46mm case size. Basically once home time is set, you simply grab the bezel and rotate it to the city that you’ve landed in (or whose time you’re looking to verify). As the bezel clicks forwards or backwards, the hour hand jumps ahead or back accordingly until it lands on the time in the city now indicated at 12 o’clock on the bezel. To aid in determining am/pm, you’ll notice a 24h scale digital display window below the 12 o’clock marker. IWC says the piece was engineered with a pilot duo in mind who were soon to circumnavigate the globe in a Spitfire, which would explain the larger casing as well as the ease of operation of the bezel–something that could quite easily be adjusted while wearing heavy flight gloved while piloting a vintage craft.
Jaeger LeCoultre Polaris Chronograph World Timer
Last year’s overhaul of the JLC Polaris into a comprehensive collection proved incredibly well received overall, but personally the Polaris Chronograph World Timer was the hands-down favorite. Its 44mm titanium case is just shy of overpowering on the wrist thanks to short case lugs, its dial has a unique texture to it that stands out from the pack, and at a functional level it is one of few two-register hour and minute chronographs on the market these days. Though some would prefer a running seconds subdial, the practicality if having a 12h counter to the chronograph (or even just something more than a 30-minute register) makes a huge difference in terms of practicality.
Patek Philippe ref. 5131/1P World Time
If we’re scaling up to the ultimate no-limit world timer, the buck stops here. And of discussion, and no, this isn’t a debate either. Patek is the king of the world timer, having effectively been the revenue stream behind the creation of the complication in the first place. With the ref. 5131/1P, you’re getting the ultimate example–a platinum case and bracelet, and a fantastic cloisonne enamel dial by one of the leading masters of the craft. Easily the most compact of our pack, the self-winding caliber 240 HU is significantly more compact than others on the market, allowing for a 39.5mm case diameter with a thickness of only 10.61mm. Given the dramatic heft of platinum, this conservative sizing is in everyone’s best interest.