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World Time Watch: Time Zones Around the World

World time watches let you know both local time and the time in other time zones. This type of watch is a good choice for frequent fliers and globetrotters.

Read on to find out more information about world time watches, including:

  • The purpose of a world time watch
  • Buying advice
  • GMT watches
  • Watches with multiple time zones

World Time Watches: Practical and Helpful

Every well-known luxury watch manufacturer offers timepieces that show more than just the current local time. In certain situations, such as an international phone conference, webinar, or while traveling, it's important to know what time it is somewhere else in the world.

That's exactly what a world time wristwatch is for. There are both quartz and mechanical world time watches. There is another important distinction with world time watches: One kind displays a single time zone in addition to the local time, while another displays 24 time zones at once.

How much does a world time watch cost?

Are you looking for a watch you can use to tell the time in multiple time zones? Prices for this kind of watch with a mechanical movement start around 1,000 euros. A second time zone is an intricate complication which raises a watch's price.

The Davosa World Traveller with an additional hour hand costs around 1,000 euros. The Atlantic Worldmaster falls in a similar price range, and Frederique Constant offers the comparable Worldtimer.

The Breitling Navitimer World costs around 4,000 euros. As the Navitimer series is one of the most well-known wristwatches in the world, the world time version is particularly intriguing – and not just for pilot's watch and chronograph enthusiasts. There are many versions of the Navitimer World available. There are models with black, blue, and white dials, and some have different color combinations. Certain versions cost over 5,000 euros.

IWC offers the Pilot Worldtimer, which costs about 6,000 euros. The timepiece displays all 24 time zones simultaneously. For 11,000 euros, you can purchase the Compressor Extreme World Chronograph from Jaeger-LeCoultre. 

Aside from the Pilot Worldtimer, IWC also offers the Yacht Club Worldtimer. It's part of the elegant Portugieser collection and costs 19,000 euros with a rose gold case.

For around 40,000 euros, you can purchase a World Time from Patek Philippe and a similar watch from Vacheron Constantin also called the !{model-,World Time}. However, you should be sure to get the most recent version of these watches, as some time zones have been modified over the years. For example, Moscow is now only three hours ahead of GMT instead of four. Several location names have been changed as well. Patek Philippe replaced Riyadh with Dubai on the dial. Thus, older versions of the World Time sometimes display time zones which are no longer accurate. You should make sure that any pre-owned, out-of-date examples are appropriately priced.

One of the most expensive world time watches is the golden World Time from Patek Philippe, which features a colorful world map in the center of its dial. The enamel map is made by hand. This watch costs around 100,000 euros.

Quartz Watches: An Affordable Alternative

If you want a more affordable watch with multiple functions, then you should consider buying a quartz watch. It's much easier and cheaper to produce electronic watches that display multiple time zones than mechanical ones. A mechanical watch requires its own, individually constructed movement with additional moving parts if it's to function as a world time watch. With a quartz watch, you just need to add an extra integrated circuit for this feature. This is much simpler than building a complicated gear.

You can purchase a Seiko with an integrated world time display from their Prospex or Sportura series for around 400 euros. The versions that receive radio signals always display the correct time. Solar powered watches are not dependent on batteries as a power source. More expensive Seiko watches have a GPS signal receiver instead of a radio signal receiver. The GPS variety offers advantages: It can receive a signal across the globe, while the radio-controlled watches can only receive a signal if a transmitter is within 2,000 km. Citizen, Seiko's largest Japanese competitor, also has many quartz world time watches available.

Selection of Different World Time Watches

Model Movement Number of other time zones Price starting at
Seiko Prospex Quartz One 400 euros
IWC Worldtimer Mechanical All 6,000 euros
Breitling Navitimer World Mechanical One 7,000 euros
Rolex GMT Master II Mechanical One 10,000 euros
Jaeger-LeCoultre Compressor
Extreme World Chronograph
Mechanical One 11,000 euros
Vacheron Constantin World Time Mechanical All 13,000 euros
Patek Philippe World Time Mechanical All 40,000 euros

GMT Watches with an Additional Hour Hand

World time watches are generally divided into two subgroups: One type has an additional hour hand to indicate a second time zone and the other type displays 24 time zones simultaneously with representative locations written on the dial.

The first type is known as a GMT watch. The GMT-Master II from Rolex is an excellent example of this type of watch. Its second hour hand makes one rotation per day, meaning it moves at half the pace of the normal hour hand. The GMT-Master II and its predecessor have rotatable 24-hour bezels that correspond to the second hour hand. Imagine you're in Berlin or Paris and it's 8 PM CET. You'd like the GMT-Master II to display the time in New York as well. Therefore, you set the second hour hand to two o'clock using the crown since it's just early afternoon in the Big Apple. There's a time difference of six hours, so you turn the bezel so that the 14 on the bezel matches up with the extra hand. Now your watch will tell you both the local time and the time on the east coast in the USA.

Many world time/GMT watches function this way. One of the most famous is the Navitimer World, a variant of the legendary pilot's chronograph Navitimer. Breitling had the time zones of the most important cities around the globe engraved in the case. The city names are required to correctly set the second hour hand. Usually, you need to either know the time difference between the local time and the other location, or you must be able to look it up. With the city names engraved, the watch does the work for you.

World Time Based in London

Although these timepieces are called GMT watches, their name is slightly misleading. GMT stands for Greenwich Mean Time, named after the district in London. As was decided at an international conference in 1884, the prime meridian runs through Greenwich, separating the globe into an eastern and western half. Back then, Greenwich Mean Time was also used as a reference time. The term "GMT" is still used today to refer to a reference time, although Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) has been the official reference time since 1972.

In some cases, it's a good idea to set the additional hour hand to Greenwich Mean Time. GMT is the same all over the world and doesn't change for daylight saving time. If you're having a weekly telephone conference with participants from all over the world, for example, then using GMT as a reference time would be ideal.

However, no one's stopping you from setting the extra hour hand to your home time instead of GMT when you're on vacation in Hawaii. This way you know exactly what time it is when you call friends or family back home. Some world time watches use a window in the dial instead of an additional hand. The time for the second time zone is displayed in the window using a rotating disc with a position for every hour. The Worldtimer from Porsche Design has this type of layout. It displays a city abbreviation for the second time zone in another window, such as PAR for Paris (CET).

A Wheel for All Time Zones

The second type of world time watch doesn't just display a second time zone, but rather all 24 at once. A famous and especially luxurious example of this type of watch is the World Time from Patek Philippe. Its dial has two rotatable discs on its edge. The inner disc has a 24-hour scale. The local time is displayed at the 12 o'clock position and corresponds with the time displayed by the central hands. The outer disc has names of cities such as London or New York which represent their respective time zones. If you're in London at 10 AM, you can take one look at your World Time and see that it's 7 AM in Rio de Janeiro, 6 PM in Hong Kong, and 8 PM in Sydney.

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