By Daniel Allen
Over the past year brands from Bremont to Timex have been focused on launching their first world timers. Daniel Allen reports on a trend that is taking the watch world by storm from quartz quickies to mechanical masters.
As is de rigueur in the world of fine watches, there have been many new complications announced in the past 12 months, but what is striking is the proportion of those dedicated to world timers.
A true world timer has two separate ways of allowing its wearer to read the hour. Normally this transpires as two separate hour hands, but occasionally a watch brand will crack out a numbered wheel or a digital display.
A world timer differs from a GMT watch, as while a GMT has a standard hour hand and a second 24-hour hand that can be set independently, a world timer will have a home time and a display of various countries, cities or other zones, and a hand that will show the time at each.
World timers are definitely a complication that is growing in popularity. There are the types of brands that are known for GMTs – Rolex, Jaeger-LeCoutlre and so forth – but if we ignore the usual suspects, which brand is going to bring something different and exciting to the world timers table?
IWC announced its new – and simply named – Pilot’s Worldtimer at SIHH in January. With a 23-country date wheel and a 42-hour power reserve this watch shows that IWC are concentrating on in house movements and increasing their complication output. Despite the vast array of information on the dial, the time can still clearly be read and the use of red highlighting the date line, UTC and date window makes it easier to keep track of the many functions this watch offers.
Like IWC, Hublot has also been focusing heavily on the development of its in-house movement, which it calls Unico. Hublot has developed many different complications and tourbillons, something that is particularly impressive when the brand’s output is relatively low compared to most of the Swiss power houses at an annual production of 35,000 models. One of Hublot’s recent new watches – it has released eight so far in 2012 – is the King Power Unico GMT. This watch is more of a world timer than a GMT as it shows the time in 14 selected locations. As would be expected from Hublot, it is no shrinking violet; at 48mm it’s a monster on the wrist and its use of rubber moulding and ceramics makes it a very aggressively styled watch.
This watch from Nomos Glashuette is the complete opposite to the oversized stylings of Hublot. At 39mm, and with minimalist styling, the Nomos Zurich Weltziet politely announces the time to its wearer rather than shouting it out loud. The Zurich Weltziet houses the Nomos Xi movement, a manufactory calibre that has been 95% built and assembled under one roof at Nomos’s converted railway station factory in the historic German town of Glashuette. It shows 26 different time zones and has the home time displayed via a 24 hour wheel at the three o’clock position. This watch was launched at BaselWorld 2011 and still has a consumer waiting list. The Zurich Weltziet was also the darling of Salon QP at the tail-end of last year where it was lauded with rave reviews.
In 2010 Bremont was commissioned to produce a unique global timer chronometer for the military C-17 Globemaster crew around the world and has now developed this model, transforming it into the commercially available Bremont World Timer ALT1-WT. It features the brand’s durable Trip-Tick case design with a Roto-click bezel and a very complex, highly finished dial. All in all, a wonderfully over-engineered timepiece. The internal bezel, which is operated by the crown at 8 o’clock, uses a Roto-click mechanism developed by the company that integrates a series of ball-bearings to create a satisfying clicking sound that is made each time a minute is turned.
The watches that we have touched on so far are by their nature designed for regular travellers or people with friends overseas, but with the Hublot expected to retail at more than £20,000 and the IWC and the Nomos model running well into four figures, these watches are rather more business class than budget airline. So what world timers can shoppers get for less than the cost of a Spanish package holiday? The answer lies in Citizen and Timex.
The Citizen World Perpetual is a radio-controlled quartz watch with 26 time zones, a perpetual calendar, sapphire glass and a full titanium case; this is a lot of watch for £250 and as a result has been picked up by a large selection of UK retailers. While this is a quartz watch it does feature Citizen’s Eco drive technology, which means that the watch will never need a battery thanks to a solar panel under the dial.
The Timex Intelligent Quartz world timer has 26 time zones displayed via a retrograde hand at 10 o’clock, and with starting prices of £99 is definitely the cheapest of the analogue world timers and has enough style to satisfy many a watch snob. It is available with a leather strap, bracelet or black IP bracelet. A world of time choice indeed.