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Buying Guides World Time Watches for World Travelers

Whether you have family around the world, or are getting ready to do some traveling yourself, a world time watch is the perfect accessory to keep an eye on the time around the world. There are many different types of multi-timezone watches but today we’re taking a look at World Time watches which feature multiple time zones.

Distinguishing Timezones

These watches are easy to read, and easy to adjust. Similar to a GMT or dual timezone, this complication shows you a hometime and an area around the world. The difference is that unlike the singular timezone, a world time shows the time for the 24 timezones around the world.

This is displayed as a ring around the dial with 24 major world cities representing each timezone. You’ll see cities such as New York, London, Berlin, Moscow and Sydney. This next to this is a 24-hour ring, typically with a day/night indicator that completes one rotation every day that will line up with the timezones around the world. As the wearer, you set the timezone bezel to align with your home time and with the correct hour of the day on the ring. From there, it’s an easy glance to see what time (and time of day) it is anywhere in the world!

Brief History of the Complication

The world time as we know it today, was invented in the 1930s by an independent watchmaker named Louis Cottier. Many brands used his designs. Most famously brands such as Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin were early adopters, but the function can now be found from many different brands. The original function features 29 world cities. Today, most world time watches feature 24 cities aligning with the 24 timezones while some models recognize secondary timezones that have local time varying 15 to 30 minutes from its primary timezone.

With a brief overview and usage out of the way, lets take a look at just a few favorite watches that are perfect examples of this complication.

World Time Watches

Your world time watch will need to be versatile in function and style, you never know what you might do when you’re traveling;  choose carefully when packing for your trip!.

Montblanc Heritage Spirit Orbis Terrarum World Map

In late 2014 for debut at SIHH 2015, the Heritage Spirit Obris Terrarum was released as Montblanc’s in-house World Timer. First glance at the dial, you see that the dial features a map of the world; fitting for a watch featuring 24-timezones. Upon closer look, you’ll see that this is actually a sapphire crystal. The 24-hour dial on the outside of the watch rotates on multiple layers and is visible through the center. As you watch the night hours, in dark blue, rotate around the dial, you can also watch it through the map at the center.

Powering the worldtime watch is the caliber MB29.20 which features an in-house world-time module integrated into the movement. The hometime is set by using the pusher at 8 o’clock and can be read by the city at 6 o’clock. The 41mm case is large enough to allow adequate spacing between the cities, making them easy to read, while not being and overwhelming size on the wrist.

Breitling Galactic Unitime SleekT

The Galactic Unitime is a unique model in the Breitling line-up. The watch doesn’t feature a chronograph like many other Breitling models. The watch also marks the first in-house caliber that has not been a chronograph. The movement to set and adjust the time and world time is designed to be simple. You are able to turn forwards, or backwards, to correct the time easily.

This Sleek watch, fitting in with our theme, is another easy to read world time watch with 24 major global cities. The dial itself is a beautiful white (or black) and features a contrasting, crosshatch printed, world map. The watch is both sporty yet sophisticated for various occasions when traveling. There is a tungsten carbide bezel surrounding the dial, creating an ultra-resistant high tech material complementing the dial and case color.

IWC Pilot’s Watch Worldtimer IW3262

This Worldtimer IW3262 is a part of one of IWC’s most iconic lineup, launched in the mid 1930s, the pilot watch family. The dial is based on the classic Pilot design, a clean and legible black and white style. The large date window shows three dates at a time, helpful for when traveling to keep track of places ahead or behind. With this in mind, the design also has influence from different instrument gauges on an airplane.

During Daylight Savings time, IWC has added a dot slightly to the side of cities that would take into account the extra hour. The only thing you’ll need to keep an eye on is when the certain cities are in DST so you know to read off of the city itself or the extra dot. Everything is set through the crown, which allows you to move both forward and backward when setting, including the date moving both directions.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic Universal Time

In keeping true to the original release of the Geophysic, Jaeger-LeCoultre wanted to tie in the exploration it became associated with when introducing the modern Geophysic Universal Time. The Universal Time is based off of the True Second but with an added complication: the Universal Time. With the True Second, you’ll note that the seconds hand jumps rather than acting as a sweep to provide the most accurate reading.

Independently adjustable from the hour, the world disc features 24 timezones a once while making setting simple and easy. The model comes in both stainless steel and rose gold. Complementing the case color is a northern hemisphere world map in either steel or rose gold, atop a gradient blue ocean. Separating the dial is a red center axis marking the Prime Meridian.

Patek Philippe 5930G World Time Chronograph

One of the most exciting watches from Baselworld 2016 released by Patek Philippe was the 5930G World Time Chronograph. The watch is quite similar to the 1940’s reference 1415 HU, a world time watch with pulsometer. Patek Philippe combined (and re-designed) movements to create the CH 28-520 HU which has become the world’s smallest and thinest world-timer chronograph.

The dial features 24 global cities in a bright contrasting white against the stunning blue dial along with an am/pm indicator. The center of the dial features a guilloché treatement, creatind depth and texture. The chronograph can be seen in the sub-register as a 30-minute counter and chronograph seconds. Because there is no constant seconds, Patek Philippe designed the caliber to sustain the chronograph seconds constantly running.

What’s your favorite world time watch? Did we leave your favorite out? Let us know in the comments below!

About Emily Smith
Emily loves the history of watches and loves learning how they work. While she enjoys the look of vintage watches, she is excited to learn about new models and to build her collection.

Watches you may be interested in:

  • crawl control

    Really like to JLC Universal Time but it lacks 2 key features: (1) a rotating city ring. While I understand JLC’s decision to go with a fixed city ring so the city names align with the map location, I’d like to have the flexibility to move the city ring so my traveling local time city name can be placed at 12 clock or 6 clock position. (2) This is very subtle but extremely important: to have a slim dash or a small arrow pointing towards the 24-hour time ring. You can see Breitling Unitime and PP World Time has that slim dash connecting the city to the time (the new L.U.C Traveler One also uses the line). Other brands such as VC Overseas World Time uses a small triangle arrow or a small dot. When you take a quick glance on the watch, that small dash or arrow really helps to pin point the time. Another interesting thing is different brand places the city and 24-hr ring direction differently, some facing inward (PP) while others facing outward (VC).

  • Great points about the JLC, subtle details like those are what can push someone to love a watch or choose something else. Which do you prefer for the 24-hour ring? Inward or outwards?

  • crawl control

    Generally I prefer inward for city and 24-hour rings and (for fixed city ring) I’d like to see London at 12 o’clock, not 6pm. I do have to say JLC did a really nice job to have the city ring facing inward for the upper half of the dial and then facing outward for the lower half of the dial – that way it’s much easier to read all 24 cities’ names. From business perspective, it’s interesting to note JLC reduced the price of the WT watches (steel version cut by $1K in the U.S., from $15K to $14k). Also of importance, Richemont Group recently replaced CEOs at four brands: VC, JLC, Piaget, and Dunhill. One last note on IWC’s rolling date window for the last gen Pilot WT and regular Pilot series. All I have to say is what a gimmick that was – I like IWCs and I know they tried to copy the flying instrument but all watch makers should remember “less is more”. As I predicted, IWC went back to the single date window for new Pilot watches in 2017. The new L.U.C WT is nice but way too busy…IMO the only numbers in WT watches should be the 24-hr numbers, no numbers should be on the 12-hr dial (just use hour markers like the JLC and PP above), and definitely no 31-date dial. Either use a date window or no data at all.