SINGAPORE: Beyond just telling the time, mechanical watches can come with additional functions called complications. These range from the chronograph, which measures time separately (like a stopwatch), to minute repeaters that chime to indicate the time aurally. Essentially, complications are mechanical solutions to problems. The challenge lies in physically programming a solution with gears, springs, and levers, while keeping within the physical limits imposed by the watch case and movement.
The ability to display the time in multiple time zones – usually two – is a common complication. The time zones are referred to as current time, where the wearer is, and home time, where the wearer is based. These terms are a holdover from the early days of the jet age, when the complication was developed for the jet set who were crossing multiple time zones in their travels.
Current time is usually displayed normally – one simply looks out of the window to see whether it’s day or night. Home time is trickier to indicate though, and comes in two formats. The GMT complication displays home time in a 24-hour format, while the dual time zone complication does so using a 12-hour indicator paired with a day/night indicator. These are, however, just technicalities. More importantly, just how can these complications be pulled off? As it turns out, in surprisingly varied ways, actually.
ROLEX OYSTER PERPETUAL GMT-MASTER II
Rolex’s GMT-Master was the original GMT watch. Rolex had, after all, invented this complication to meet the needs of airline pilots who were crossing multiple time zones on long haul flights. The “GMT” moniker itself harks back to the days when Greenwich Mean Time was still in use for flight operations (UTC, Universal Coordinated Time, has supplanted it). Eventually, the GMT-Master was improved upon and replaced by the GMT-Master II, which continues to be produced today. A simple arrow-tipped hand makes a complete sweep around the dial once a day, and points to home time (or GMT +0, depending on its owner’s usage), which is read off the 24-hour bezel. As the bezel can be rotated, the GMT-Master II can, with a little effort, keep track of a third time zone.
IWC PILOT’S WATCH TIMEZONER CHRONOGRAPH
The Timezoner was an interesting development IWC unveiled last year. Like the GMT-Master II, it displays the time in a second time zone using an arrow tipped hand, although the 24-hour ring is printed on the dial this time. What’s amazing is how home time can be set easily and conveniently by simply rotating the bezel – as it turns, the arrow-tipped hand will jump accordingly to display the time in the city that’s currently at 12 o’clock. For the frequent traveller or the business man who needs to monitor multiple time zones, the convenience afforded by the Timezoner Chronograph is difficult to match. A chronograph rounds out this watch’s functions.
ULYSSE NARDIN CLASSIC DUAL TIME ENAMEL
To be clear, the “Enamel” in the watch’s name refers to its dial material, and points to a handcraft that will be covered in a future story. What’s more relevant here is the little aperture at 9 o’clock. Yes, that’s the home time indicator. In lieu of a hand, Ulysse Nardin has opted for a simple digital display that remains discreet, yet easily accessible. For greater convenience, the main hour hand can be quickly adjusted both forwards and backwards using the two pushers on the case’s left flank – the user can make the corrections in seconds when travelling to a new city.
JAEGER-LECOULTRE REVERSO TRIBUTE DUO
The Reverso is a reversible watch with a case that can swivel to display its steel case back. Originally conceived for polo players, its design was meant to protect the watch crystal while the watch was being worn on the field. The Reverso Tribute Duo is a dressy evolution of the original, with two dials that present two different time zones instead. Current time is shown on the white dial, while home time is on the “back” of the watch, complete with a day/night indicator.
PARMIGIANI FLEURIER TORIC HÉMISPHÈRES RÉTROGRADE
The Toric Hémisphères Rétrograde stands out among the five watches here for its ability to indicate the time in two time zones with two completely independent sets of hands. The distinction is important here – there are time zones that are offset by half and quarter hours, such as Delhi (UTC +5:30) and Nepal (UTC +5:45), and this watch can account for them. In contrast, the previous four watches in this list can only indicate home time in whole hours. This is certainly sufficient for most users, but Parmigiani Fleurier must be praised here for going the whole nine yards. Alas, such a system is exponentially more difficult to accomplish – Parmigiani Fleurier did so here using a module that’s stacked on the base movement – which explains their relative scarcity.