Dashing all over the world
Gisbert L. Brunner was born in 1947 and has worked with every sort of precision timepiece, though mainly wristwatches, since the 1960s. He has now published more than 15 books on the subject. The author is also in demand the world over as a public speaker.
Every now and again I wonder whether watch designers or CEOs ever travel or if they pay any attention to their new products, or even test them before they make it to market. Why else would I keep being proudly shown GMT wristwatches that I for one wouldn’t want to travel with under any circumstances? These watches may have an extra hour hand but it’s barely fit for purpose.
The worst examples of this poor functionality are the Eta 2893-A2, 7765 and A07.171 calibres. The designers have fitted all three with an extra hand which revolves around its axis once every 24 hours and can be set separately from the hour hand. Maybe that helps bankers sitting at their desks who quickly want to reset their watches to the time on the trading floor in New York or Hong Kong. But that’s a fat lot of good when you’re globetrotting because I want the regular 12-hour hand to show me the time where I am and I want to use the 24-hour hand for the reference time or time back home so that I know whether it’s day or night there.
Patek Philippe and the ingenious master watchmaker Louis Cottier showed us how easy it could all be back in 1959 with the ref. 2597 HS. The first version had just one hour hand which you could adjust separately from the minute hand. The second version in 1962 dazzled us with a pair of hour hands, one of which could be adjusted in hourly increments. The Rolex GMT-Master II and Explorer II work on the same basis.
With an eye to the tried and tested benchmarks, I do wonder why new designs (the Eta calibres I mention aside) boast no such feature. This means that when I land in New York, to give just one example, I have to wind the central pair of hands back six hours. And that means that I either need a marker to mark the spot on the glass where the minute hand last was or that I’ll need to look at my neighbour’s watch or use my phone if I want to adjust the time correctly.
Of course you might argue that there are half-hour and quarter-hour time zones. But let’s be honest. We don’t go to them all that often. Trips to the 24 classic time zones predominate. And the solution to the riddle is actually fairly easy: an independently adjustable 12-hour hand requires intervention in the motion work of the basic calibre or its complete redesign. Yet additive systems can be achieved either modularly or additively with less fuss.
Patek Philippe has definitely never produced an exact replica of the retro-looking Calatrava Pilot Travel Time. But in 1936 they came up with a 56 mm thick aviator wristwatch with hour angle indicator. The white gold ref. 5524 was presented in 2015 and harks back to that era. Its impressive design made it very hard to come by. For functionality, the timepiece refers very clearly to the ref. 2597 HS of 1962. What makes it different is a practical time-zone option with a day and night display for the local time at 9 O’clock and for the reference time or time back home at 3 O’clock.The buttons to turn the independent second hour hand forwards and back are located on the left-hand side of the case. Date display also comes as standard. There is a sunken side push-piece to adjust the date. But a refined, functional Patek Philippe watch doesn’t come cheap. This one will set you back €41,260.
Montblanc provides three alternative wristwatches for less well-heeled frequent flyers and globetrotters which still make travelling across time zones child’s play.
The Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Dual Time might make watch connoisseurs think of the 1962 ref. 2597 HS from Patek Philippe, whose hand-wound 12‘‘‘-400 HS calibre had an additional 12-hour hand adjustable by a button on the left-hand side of the case. As I mentioned earlier, the mechanism design originated from Louis Cottier.
Yet the basic reset element on the Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Dual Time is the crown. Pulled half way out, the crown moves the local-time hour hand forwards or back in hourly increments. To avoid confusion, you can align both hour hands when at home. The date window is bound to the local-time hour hand, logically enough. The cost: €4,450
This Montblanc world-time wristwatch – the 4810 Orbis Terrarum – is unique for its patented time-zone module, among other things. A disc rotates once a day through 360 degrees directly in front of the movement. Around the outside there is a coloured 24-hour ring with bright and dark sections. The sapphire crystal dial shows the five cut-out continents as viewed from the North Pole and the world’s oceans in light blue. It also has a meridian grid and the names of 24 cities to represent the 24 classic time zones.
Resetting the time on the wristwatch is remarkably easy. Upon first use, the home time is defined by moving the reference or home city to 6 via the pusher at 8 O’clock. The time is then set by pulling the crown out half-way. Pull the crown out the whole way to change the central pair of hands. Make sure you synchronise with the 24-hour ring. If it is 10 pm back home, the figure 22 should be by your home town. If it’s 10 am, then obviously your town should be at 10.
With the basic settings you know the time at home and in all the different time zones. When you travel to another standard time zone, all you have to do is push whichever city’s name to the south of the dial. Thanks to the sophisticated mechanics, all the other settings change as if by magic.
And we still haven’t mentioned the smart day and night display. You’ll definitely know where on our planet people are going about their daily business or are curled up in the arms of Morpheus. There’s almost no way you’ll make a call at the wrong time. The cost: €5,890
The time-zone system on the 1,110 samples of the limited edition Montblanc 4810 TwinFly Chronograph 110 Years Edition is just as simple and easy to use as on the 4810 Dual Time. Pull the crown half-way out, set the local-time hour hand to the local time and that’s that. The date window at 6 o clock follows the local time. €6,700.