Specialist Picks • 16 Nov 2015
Travel Watches: Looking For (Simple) Perfection
Traveling abroad can be fun, but setting your watch can be…a nightmare! There was a time when watches only had a single hour hand and things were simple: without a dual time watch, no need to wonder about the day, the time zone, the day/night indicator, and so on.
However, watch manufactures have made significant efforts to make things more understandable and easier to set. The main solution was to preset the main – or even all – the time zones on the calibre. According to a city of reference, such as London for the GMT time zone, the watch can automatically display what time it is in the others.
The Patek Philippe ref. 5130 World Time runs on this principle. Despite the complexity of its self-winding 240 HU movement, the world time is a model of simplicity. The hour and minute hands display local time in the middle of the dial. Surrounding it are two rings, one with the names of 24 cities that stand for the 24 time zones, the other with a 24-hour scale in a darker shade for contrast. In the end, the ref. 5130 is one of the most simple travel watch to set: all it takes is a few actuations of the push piece at 10 o’clock. When the city that stands for the destination time zone is at the top of the dial, the setting is complete.
A few weeks ago, Vacheron Constantin went one step further with the Traditionnelle Heures du Monde, unveiled during Watches&Wonders. Its new mechanical self-winding movement is distinguished by its capacity to indicate the world’s 37 time zones, including those offset from Universal Coordinated Time (UCT) by a half or quarter-hour.
Breitling has taken a different approach with the latest Chronoliner, which has the second time zone is indicated by a red tipped hand. It’s the very basic approach of a travel watch, and probably the most simple to use. Breitling equipped its Chronoliner with a 24-hour ring so that the owner can make the distinction between the day and night time.
But wait, there’s another way for a travel watch to exist. And it’s even simpler: one watch, two calibres, two dials! MB&F made it with the Legacy Machine 1 unveiled in 2011. The movement is actually two in one – each fully independent from the other and each has its own crown so that the time can be set directly.
In the middle of that selection stands Jaquet Droz. Its Astrale collection gathers most of the precedent types of displays. The Grande Heure GMT displays two time zones with only two hands, one per hour, with no minutes, nor date, while the Douze Villes (“Twelve Cities”) has just one hand and a central window where an Arabic numeral shows the home time. Last but not least, the Deux Fuseaux has two dials, a main one with central hands and a secondary one at twelve to display local time.
Last but not least, the F.P. Journe Chronomètre à Résonance stands as a complete outlier in the travel watches category. Resonance is a physical phenomenon that dictates any animate body transmits a vibration to its environment. When another body picks up this vibration, it absorbs its energy and begins to vibrate at the same frequency. The first is called the “exciter” and the second the “resonator”.
In this watch, each of the two balance wheels alternately serves as exciter and resonator. When the two balances are in motion, they enter into sympathy and begin beating in opposition. The two balances thus rest against each other, giving more inertia to their movement.
Journe created the first Resonance piece in 2000, the second version with a gold calibre in 2004 and then finally a last version in 2010, where the dial at nine o’clock now offers a time indication of 24 hours, defining the hours of day and those of night.