The world of worldtimers

How on earth can you know the hour in New York, London, Hong Kong and Sydney all at once? Just look at your wrist

Published: Aug 1, 2015 06:35:09 AM IST
Updated: Jul 28, 2015 03:56:52 PM IST

The world of worldtimers
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In the early 1930s, nearly 50 years after Greenwich, England, was established as the prime meridian of the world’s 24 main time zones, Swiss watchmaker Louis Cottier created a mechanism to display them all on a single watch dial. By the end of the decade, Vacheron Constantin had produced the first worldtimer pocket watch, and Patek Philippe is credited with creating the first Cottier-inspired World Time wristwatch. (Time has also been good to their value: In 2002, a 1939 platinum Patek Philippe World Time watch set a then record at an auction, selling for more than $4 million.) By the 1950s, Rolex tried to further simplify the complication by creating a watch, the GMT-Master, set to Greenwich Mean Time and a home location, a function especially useful for pilots.

Today, of course, worldtimer watches are invaluable to every corporate Magellan who does business across multiple time zones. Patek still makes a World Time watch that looks remarkably similar to its early models, while Greubel Forsey has elevated the GMT with a rotating globe on the dial and a world time disc with 24 cities on the back of the movement. And every time you look at your wrist, you are reminded just how small a world it is after all.

Hide and Chic

The mysteries of the secret watch revealed

The world of worldtimers
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If time is a great mystery, why not add a little intrigue to your wrist—or perhaps a finger— with a secret watch? Popular in the 1930s and ’40s, secret watches have come back into vogue (particularly now that the hour blinks from every smartphone), a reminder that some things are better left hidden. With tiny dials obscured behind cameos and bejewelled lids, and even inside, say, a serpent’s mouth, a secret watch is the ultimate collaboration between a jeweller and a watchmaker. In their hands, a watch is transformed into a bracelet, a brooch, a ring. And time, however briefly, disappears.

(This story appears in the 07 August, 2015 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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