Most people like simple watches that only show hours and minutes, but for global travelers or business people, a multi-time zone watch is very necessary and practical. So, what is the history of Travel Watch as an important watchmaking category?
William Hogarth ‘Prodigal Son’ Eighth
Back in the years 1732-1733, William Hogarth used eight paintings to depict the ups and downs of the virtual character Thomas Rakeville from the waist to the clan admission (London Bedlam Psychiatric Hospital). In the last painting, the mental patient tried to solve the problem of longitude by observing from a distance and drawing on the wall. At that time, determining longitude was one of the most significant scientific difficulties that caused some people to go crazy.
How can we determine the longitude and specify a safe passage for marine vessels? John Harrison came up with a practical solution. He was a carpenter and a self-taught watchmaker. For decades, John Harrison worked hard to improve the clock. To determine the longitude at sea, you need to know the exact time of the vessel and the port of departure, and then convert the time difference into longitude difference.
According to the Earth’s rotation period, the average angular velocity of the Earth’s rotation is 15 ° per hour, so that the longitude can be determined by time. Today, travellers still face the real problem of determining the local time at their destination and tracking the dynamics of different time zones around the world. Today, it’s easy to get accurate positioning, but this luxury convenience is not always there.
A double-sided pocket watch showing the time of 53 cities, circa 1780, now in the Beyer Watch Museum
The sun determines the law of time. Before the invention of a unified time system, each city had its own local time. Even nearby cities need different clocks. For example, the United States alone has more than 100 different local times. To keep track of time, travelers have two options: carry multiple clocks, or carry a clock that displays multiple local times. Double-time Pocket Watch can track local time and railway time at the same time. Similarly, Captain Pocket Watch is equipped with two sub-dials, which are used to display local time and port time of departure.
Captain’s silver pocket watch, Jean Francois Botte, circa 1820, now in the Girard Perregaux Museum
The industrial revolution of the late 19th century opened the way for extensive travel. The development of the railway network facilitated the negotiation of standard time, and in 1840 England coordinated different local times with railway time. At the international level, with the efforts and suggestions of Canadian engineer Sanford Fleming, a simple and practical concept was outlined and gradually adopted by all countries. The Washington Conference held in 1884 brought together representatives from more than 20 countries and regions. The main topic of this conference was to determine the zero-degree meridian (the prime meridian) and reach a standardized time system. The Earth was then divided into 24 time zones as we know it today, one time zone at 15 ° (longitude), and one hour each (now, there are 37 time zones in the world, some of which are ‘half’ or ‘quarter’ Time zone). ?
World Time Watch
Son of watchmaker Louis Curtier developed a unique mechanism that can display time information in different time zones with a single dial, which earned him a great reputation in the field of watchmaking. Since the 1930s, Louis Coutier has been making such watches for well-known customers, such as Agassiz, Baszanger, Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin and Rolex.
The rare and highly representative Patek Philippe Ref. 2523 World Time watch, produced in 1953. This watch is equipped with a city circle adjustment mechanism (through the second crown), which was invented by Louis Curtier in the late 1940s.
The Louis Coutier mechanism is unique in that it is based on local time and equipped with hour and minute hands; the outer edge is provided with a rotatable 24-hour circle and is decorated with the corresponding city name. The system designed by Louis Coutier is still the benchmark for most of the world’s timetables. Later, the fixed city display was improved and changed to a second crown, button or bezel, but the basic principles remained the same.
The new Patek Philippe Ref. 5230 World Time watch replaces Ref. 5130. Ref. 5130 is an iteration of Ref. 5110, which was introduced in 2000, marking the renaissance of world time watches.
Today, there are 37 time zones in the world. In light of this, some watchmaking brands try to include all time zones to further refine the concept of a world timetable. The first to achieve this achievement was Vacheron Constantin and its inherited series of world time watches, which can realize time information in 37 different time zones. The dial design is similar to the classic world timetable, all equipped with global cities and 24-hour circle. Then comes Glashütte Original, its universal tourbillon watch and the parliamentary world time watch, which uses windows to highlight the required time zone while taking into account daylight saving time and standard time.
GMT / UTC / dual time zone table
Many modern travel watches only display time information in two different time zones and are simple and easy to read. Traditionally, the two time zones are local time and home time, and date changes are coordinated with local time. Aircraft pilots mainly use this type of watch to read local time and Greenwich Mean Time, which is called the GMT watch.
Vacheron Constantin’s Legacy World Time Watch, which displays the time in 37 time zones.
With a few exceptions (the additional 13 time zones are not calculated in whole hours), the ‘minutes’ are consistent across all regions of the world. The crown or button reset mechanism only adjusts the ‘hour’ in the second time zone. There are many differences between different types of world time watches, but the second time zone usually uses a 24-hour clock and is equipped with a day and night display.
A modern Rolex Greenwich II watch, first released in the mid 1950s, designed and assembled by Rolex and Pan Am in cooperation with flight crew members. Greenwich Mean Time or the second time zone is indicated by an independent 24-hour hand and a 24-hour bi-directional rotating outer ring. The blue-black progressive outer ring can also display day and night.
The Washington International Conference of 1884 decided to use the longitude passing through Greenwich as the prime meridian, and use this to determine the global time zone, initial time, or Greenwich Mean Time (GMT time). In 1967, GMT was replaced by UTC (Coordinated Universal Time), which became the new international time measurement benchmark. In most cases, GMT and UTC are equivalent, and are often used interchangeably.