Apparently not a connoisseur of the long commute, Tennessee Williams once remarked: “Time is the longest distance between two places”. It’s an apt conjuring that rings never truer than when you find yourself traversing time zones on a semi-regular basis, forever winding your watch forwards and back.
It’s the curvature of the planet and the rudimentary requirements of maintaining a satisfactory solar orbit that make time zones such an imposition on the 21st century traveller. Essential physical realties, however, are of little comfort when a wrongly-adjusted timepiece results in a missed meeting or a premature presentation.
While – in truth – it is easy enough to manually wind your own watch fore and aft, in the age of Siri and Ayis the very of idea of undertaking so mundane a manoeuvre seems, somehow, lacking in dignity and grace. It is an unwanted admission that nature has outfoxed mechanical ingenuity, requiring an artless intervention to restore a semblance of temporal normality. Thank goodness then for watches gifted with the Temps Universal Coordonné (UTC) facility.
UTC – or Coordinated Universal Time in more vulgar parlance – is a globally accepted standard for the regulation of both clocks and time itself. Watches compatible with this particular standard allow their wearers to correctly tell the time at numerous different points across the world. While this is certainly not a new function, the ever-industrious watchmakers have been refining and improving UTC timepieces ever since their 1953 debut. Their mission? Nothing less than making life a little more bearable for the weary world-traveller without compromising the aesthetic values and elegant style that have long been synonymous with Haute Horlogerie.
Indeed, the merest glance at the classically stylish Rolex Cellini Dual Time watch makes it abundantly clear that its dual-time function has in no way diminished the brand’s defining elegance. If anything, it has only enhanced it, bequeathing an air of rare complexity and sophistication.
The simultaneous display of the second set of hour and minute hands – settable for any time zone independent of the main display – has its own miniature window. This sits just off the six o’clock position, elegantly framed by a brown guilloche dial and comes complete with 12 elongated appliqué hour markers. Completing its classic look is a polished 39 mm, 18 carat, Everose gold case, designed to perfectly complement the brown alligator leather strap and its matching Everose gold buckle.Powered by a self-winding mechanical movement, the Cellini Dual Time watch carries the Superlative Chronometer certification as redefined by Rolex in 2015 and now widely regarded as an apt testament to the notoriously high levels of craftsmanship behind every Rolex time piece. This designation certifies that the watch has successfully undergone a series of tests, each of them ensuring that it exceeds most accepted watchmaking norms, while its precision has to be within the strict parameters of -2/+2 seconds per day (more than twice that officially required of a chronometer).
Another fine example of an effortlessly stylish dual time watch is Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak Dual Time model. In the case of this remarkable timepiece, the secondary time display again sits at the six o’clock position. Striking a note of difference, however, its three other displays share the blue Grande Tapisserie dial, somewhat resembling a micro-cockpit dashboard, complete with a night-day indicator, a power reserve gauge and a date indicator. All told, this should leave you in no doubt as to when exactly you are at any given moment.
Supplying the life blood of this timepiece are its Audemars Piguet self-winding calibres 2329 and 2846, fetchingly encased in stainless steel and glare-proofed sapphire crystal, which offers a clear view of the coated luminescent Royal Oak hands of its namesake. The dial is framed in an octagonal case, with a series of visible screws giving the watch its distinctive functional aesthetic. A further touch of luxury and class comes courtesy of its hand-stitched blue alligator strap.
Another dual time watch notable for its aesthetic appeal as much as its mastery of precision mechanics is the Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Dual Time. While classic in almost every sense of the word, the Grande Seconde Dual Time particularly distinguishes itself with its elegantly unconventional design. The Grande Seconde offers a knowing nod to Jaquet Droz, the marque’s inimitable founder and a man known to being partial to always keeping track of the time in La Chaux-de-Fonds, his home town back in France, whether he was in Madrid or even during one of his many visits to Beijing. In fact, the very notion of dual time keeping is at the heart of the brand, with its ultimate expression found in its UTC models. In order to facilitate its unique display, a new movement was developed that allowed for two dials to sit within one watch face. The upper dial displays the local time while the lower second dial – off-centred at six o’clock – displays the reference time, while also ticking off the seconds.
A true one-off, the artisans at Jaquet Droz maintained the timeless elegance that characterises the brand with the use of Roman and Arabic numerals to index the dials, while a red-tipped hand enhances the lower dial, adding much to the overall readability. A true marriage of convenience and technical superiority, the Grande Seconde comes fitted with a silicon escapement, ensuring its exacting chronometric performance remains unaffected by magnetic fields. Some 43 mm in diameter, the Grande Seconde is available in three different versions – an ivory Grande Feu dial with a red gold case option, a silvery opaline dial variant and a model featuring an onyx dial. The latter two options both come with stainless steel cases. A 65-hour power reserve is featured across the range.
While the ability to tell time in two different locations at any given moment may suffice for many, there are those who need still greater flexibility. Although the UTC watch may not be up to meeting their needs, the multiple time zone watch is clearly up to the challenge.
One such multi-capacity chronometer is the Cartier Tortue. Clearly crafted with the world traveller in mind, the Tortue is distinguished by its comprehensive display of global timekeeping, while maintaining a surprising simplicity of use. Indeed, the facility for managing such an extensive temporal resource while remaining user-friendly is an art in itself and one that Cartier has clearly mastered.
With its distinctive tortoise-shaped case, the watch is both distinctive and elegant. An integral part of its design is a discrete side window that displays the names of the world’s major cities, leaving the watch face refreshingly clean and uncluttered. The face itself comes decorated with a finely cut-out blue lacquered world map. Unmistakably Cartier, it is adorned with Roman numerals and encased in 18 carat white gold, complete with a faceted sapphire on its winding crown. At the heart of the timepiece is the Cartier calibre 9914 MC, a self-winding movement visible through the sapphire crystal case back. Water-resistant to 30 metres, the classical elegance of this understated watch is further enhanced by its black alligator strap and a folding clasp in 18 carat white gold.
Last but far from least in any round up of luxury multi-time watches is Montblanc’s 4810 Orbis Terrarum by Montblanc. Again, even the most cursory of glances is enough to know that this is a timepiece crafted with the world traveller in mind. Intuitively functional, the Orbis Terrarum’s dial features a multiple layer construction, with the main sapphire crystal disc displaying the continents as well as the names of 24 key cities used to distinguish the different time zones. Once properly calibrated, the watch displays the time accurately in all 24 time zones and can be conveniently and easily re-set at the touch of a button to match your current location. Boasting a 43 mm stainless steel case, it is water-resistant to 50 metres and has a 42-hour power reserve. Decorated with 26 rubies and housed in scratch-resistant, anti-reflective crystal, the Orbis Terrarum is perfect for those who are serious about their time keeping, no matter where they are nor where they may be headed.
As technology moves ever onwards and many classic items fall by the wayside, it is good to know that certain things never become obsolete. For the luxury watch aficionado, those who are truly passionate about their timepiece, there is no shortage of meticulously-crafted and elegantly-presented chronometers that are every bit as functional as they are beautiful. World travellers – or those merely with business concerns or loved ones in another time zone – are truly spoilt for choice when it comes to having all the time in the world.