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Throwback Sundays: Six travel watches for the jet setter

by Peter Chong on August 18, 2019

We did a travel watch recommendation piece way back in 2015, and thought perhaps its time for us to update the recommendation with newer watches. So what do we recommend for the jet setter?

And instead of a watch to travel with, this article will focus on watches which are designed to travel. As such, it must have the following criteria:

  • show a minimum of local time and home time simultaneously. If one is displayed on a larger dial than the other, then the larger dial must be able to be set easily to local time.
  • day/night indicator for home time is an advantage.
  • a tough, sporty case is an advantage.
  • world time is not essential, but not a disadvantage if present.
  • automatic winding or high accuracy quartz is an advantage

A bit of explanation on Pt.1 above – we think it is essential to display the local time on the main dial or a larger one if there are more than one. This is less confusing as the jet lagged traveler will find it more intuitive to see the local time at a glance, and decipher home time from the secondary dial. We see the arrangement of large home/small local time to be more a teleconference watch.

Here are our choices.

Glashütte Original Senator Cosmopolite

This is the only watch to have appeared in the earlier list and this one. In our 2015 list, we recommended the Cosmopolite in gold. But for the latest recommendation, we pick the Cosmopolite in Stainless Steel, which became available in 2018. Perhaps the ultimate travel watch, it is fully featured, and gets it right in all the right places. Local display on the large main dial. Home time on small time with AM/PM indicator. Large date. Automatic. Reasonably tough SS case.

The GO Cosmpolite gets it right. The local time is displayed on the main dial, and the home time on the subsidiary dial at 12 with AM/PM indicator. It also shows timezones by city and in both DST and STD time. A large panorama date makes it easy to read the local date.

It is even able to keep track of the daylight savings time via a set of apertures with city indicators. The mechanism for setting the local time moves the hands in 15 minutes increments, so all the timezones around the world can be accounted for. Plus the magnificent Glashütte built movement is a special treat when one flips the watch over for a moment of contemplation during hectic travels. S$ 32,700 recommended retail in steel.

Nomos Zürich Weltzeit

The link will take you to the Singapore Limited Edition, which is already sold out in both the salmon dial and the white dial versions. But the Zürich Weltzeit remains on Nomos’ standard catalog and is still available in a white dial (S$7,820) or midnight blue dial (S$8.030).

Nomos Zürich Weltzeit nachtblau. The watch is showing both home and local time as Sydney.

This German offering is in the usual Nomos style of clean Bauhaus design. When traveling, the main dial shows the local time. And the home time is displayed in a rotating subsidiary ring at 3. Intuitive to read when jet lagged. The watch also displays the local city. The limited edition Singapore Edition indicates Singapore for +8 GMT while the standard version, shown above shows Hong Kong.

The watch combines the handsome good looks of the 39mm SS case with a very nice in-house automatic movement.

Patek Philippe Pilot Travel Time

The Patek Philippe Pilot is perhaps a highly maligned model within the revered manufacturer. Many proclaim it to be not quite Patek. But we love it just the same. This year’s variant is the Pilot Travel Ref 5530 Time Alarm, but for our list, we pick the standard Pilot Travel Time from 2018.

The arrangement to display two timezones are different in the Patek. The watch is equipped with two hour hands, one above the other. At home, they overlap, and only one hand appears. Pushers on the left of the case can advance or retard the upper hand by one hour increments, to show the local time at arrival. Two AM/PM indicators are also provided.

The usual Patek finesse is seen on the case design. And flipping the watch over reveals a beautifully laid out and finished movement.

The Patek Philippe Pilot Travel Time is available in two sizes, a larger in a 42mm case is the Ref. 5524R (S$ 62,800) and the smaller is the 37.5mm case Ref. 7234R (S$ 56,800). Some might call the smaller case a ladies model, and perhaps Patek too as is evident with the 7000 series reference number, but we say it fits a smaller wrist, even if its for a gentleman.

Vacheron Constantin Overseas Dual Time

The VC Overseas is an extensive collection within the Vacheron Constantin maison with a particular focus on travel. We covered the launch of the Overseas collection in 2016 in detail here. And from the rather complete line, with divers complications covered, we pick the Overseas Dual Time from Northern autumn of 2018.

The dual timezone display is similar to that in the Patek Philippe Travel Time, though the home time hand is an arrow and does not disappear behind the local time hand while not traveling. The crown at 4 operates the date change pusher.

This third generation Overseas not only distinguishes itself from a design standpoint, but also from a practical angle as the strap attachment and detachment system is particularly easy to use. The size is nicely comfortable to wear, and in stainless steel, it is versatile, practical and good-looking.

The VC Overseas Dual Time in stainless steel is priced at S$ 41,000 or CHF 28,600, while for a bit more bling, the rose gold variant retails at S$ 66,770 or CHF 46,400.

Citizen Satellite Wave F990 GPS Super Titanium

The link is for the Satellite Wave GPS Super Titanium 100th Anniversary watch – limited to 1500 pieces, but the same watch in other colourway options are still available on the permanent catalog.

At S$ 5,328.60, the watch is not inexpensive by Citizen standards. But it is power packed with features galore. We start by the technical wizardry of a timekeeping system driven by a solar powered quartz movement which takes its timing from GPS and satellite, automatically setting local time on command on arrival. The huge array of features are also at one’s disposal, but one is well advice to read the huge owners manual before setting out. Perhaps understandable due to the sheer numbers of functions, but also the operations are not immediately apparent.

The watch is light, but rather large at 48.5mm in diameter and rather thick to boot, and has a robust, chunky styling.

Seiko Astron GPS Solar Dual-Time 5X53

Our next recommendation is the Seiko Astron 5X33 GPS (€ 2,200 approx S$ 3,500). It matches the Citizen F990 recommended above, feature for feature, with the exception that the Seiko does not have a chronograph or alarm. The Astron is in a smaller case at 42mm in diameter, also in a hardened titanium. It is also solar powered with satellite and GPS capibility It accounts for all the current timezones with DST or without, and displays two timezones simultaneously.

On arrival, local time can be acquired very quickly on demand when GPS signal is available, usually in a place where the watch has a view of the sky. In practical use, the Astron is slightly faster than the Citizen F990 to acquire and lock into the the satellite or GPS signals, and is able to change timezones faster.

Concluding thoughts

We have intentionally selected two Germans, two Swiss and two Japanese. An effort to spread the love, so to speak. While the two Japanese offerings are rather similar in the high tech wizardry contained within, the others are perhaps as different as chalk and cheese.

But some may say this selection based on two per country is a bit unfair, as there are far more Swiss brands than the other two combined. We do not disagree, and offer an extended Swiss list to include the following

  • Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Duo which we particularly like for the stealth aspect. One side carries home time with a AM/PM indicator, and the other side the local time. And as only the Reverso can do, switching from one to the other is a simple matter of flipping the case. Neat!
  • the Jaquet Droz Grande Second Dual Time for its elegance and beauty.
  • the Rolex GMT-Master II “Pepsi” for its rough tool watch capability, but also for its card carrying status symbol credentials. Many other Rolex models qualify, like the Explorer II also is capable of displaying two timezones, but the various GMT-Master II models are specifically designed for air travel with the PanAm team way back in its first generation. Understandably, this SS Rolex is rather difficult to buy at retail.
  • and to include one at the super high end – the Greubel Forsey GMT Earth Quadruple Tourbillon. Perhaps not the safest watch to travel with, but if one is zipped from limo to private jet to top luxury accommodation, the Greubel Forsey is certainly an interesting wrist candy.

So this is our short list. Of course, it is neither exhaustive, nor even nearly complete in any sense of the words. What is your go to watch when you travel? Pray tell.

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