Much of the world enjoys traveling and a big part of world travel is ensuring you’re on time for various essential events such as air travel, rail travel or even checking in and out of your hotel. Of course, the latter often being left up to negotiation between the hotel and guest.
What can often affect your travel plans are various time zones, differing languages and of course, language barriers while communicating with locals. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily translate (no pun intended) to domestic travel, but of course, even flying from one city to another can require a change in time zones.
Assuming you’re not a pilot, and just the average tourist, I’d like to present you with a short guide to some of my favorite watches for traveling. These watches are ideal if you’re limited to packing a minimal amount of supplies, whether it be due to airline restrictions or just because you’re backpacking through Europe. For the most part, the watches listed below will get you through your trip and be appropriate for wear just about anytime day or night. Obviously, if you’re planning to attend a specific event or activity and require a watch for that, you’ll want to pack an additional timepiece. Otherwise, the following selection should suit you well.
First and foremost, there’s a few characteristics we look for when picking a watch that’s not only suitable, but preferable for traveling.
The first thing we want is of course a watch that can handle multiple time zones. This can be extremely helpful, especially if you’re planning to visit more than one final destination. For anyone traveling through Europe, a watch with multiple time zones is an essential travel tool.
Secondly, while not prominent in this list, it definitely helps to have a watch with an alarm function. This can often be difficult to find in the average luxury watch we discuss in this series, but when traveling there is nothing wrong with going basic and even back to digital. Having an alarm ensures you don’t get caught up in tourism, forgetting those all-important flights, hotel checkouts and last bus leaving. We can often get swept away in the romanticism and elegance of touring a foreign region, and like a breathtaking conversation, it’s not hard to imagine forgetting to check your watch. Additionally, by having an alarm that you can count on, you won’t be panicked and checking the clock every two minutes, worried you might miss your flight. You’ll be able to enjoy whatever you’re experiencing, knowing that your watch will beep when it’s time to start leaving.
Next we want to look at a watch that has some resistance to it. Not just water, but something fairly sturdy and rugged that can withstand minor blows should you decide to engage in any form of wilderness activity such as mountain climbing, white water rafting or even just hiking through the wilderness. There are a couple in this list that match the requirement.
Finally, we’re looking for a watch that can match up to the worst environment you’ll encounter on your vacation. We’re not looking for a boardroom appropriate watch, because even if you are attending meetings for work, your host is going to understand why you chose a travel watch over the everyday dress watch. Especially if it’s not a day trip. For any trip lasting more then a few days, you’re going to want something fairly rugged and stable. Look at the watch below for this requirement
Breitling Transocean Unitime Pilot
Chances are if it’s good enough for a pilot, it’s good enough for the passenger. Breitling, despite my chagrin, is without question, equivocation or mental reservation, the most popular watch maker for pilots worldwide. Quite honestly, they’re not bad watches. Now, I wouldn’t compare them to some other brands for use outside of travel, but when it comes to jet setting, they really should be considered a top pick for any globetrotter.
The watch itself is pretty impeccable for the tourist. It features a patented Brietling Caliber B05 movement encased in a very technical looking case that really screams aviation. The black dial offers simultaneous readings of all 24 timezones, with a crown adjustment system that includes the date, both forwards and back. If you want a watch strictly for its technical ingenuity, this is a viable contender.
Patek Philippe Ref. 5130 Worldtimer
It almost seems impossible for me to create a list of watches without including at least one watch by Patek Philippe. Arguably, the most legendary watchmaker, the manufacturer has taken world timers to a whole new level (and price). This drool-worthy time piece is truly exceptional with an automatic Calibre 240 HU that’s composed of almost 240 parts. It has a 48-hour power reserve, gyromax balance and one of the most pristine and reputable movements imaginable. At 39.5mm it’s available in yellow, white and rose gold or platinum or a silverly white guilloché sunburst dial with gold hour markets.
The watch is exceptionally simple to use and has a 24-hour timezone ring with day/night indicator. At almost $50,000 it’s well worth the price tag and will last for many generations. Just don’t leave it unattended in the hotel room.
Frédérique Constant Classics Manufacture Worldtimer
When it comes to aesthetics, aside from the NOMOS for it’s simplicity, this is my favorite watch in the list. Despite it’s appearance as a travel watch, somehow the company has managed to give it an elegant flair that allows it to work as a dress watch when needed. While I certainly wouldn’t wear it as an everyday watch at home, it’s great if you’re traveling with a suit on. One of the best features of this watch is its simplicity. Every function of the watch can be accessed via the crown so there’s no buttons to push which means a smooth case. After you’ve selected your timezone, the internal discs align and synchronize automatically permitting you to see each of the 24 cities on the dial. As well, the watch uses a day/night disc to quickly show whether it’s day or night in the respective city.
NOMOS Glashütte Zurich Weltzeit
If you’re on a budget, this is a great pick. With push button activation, it allows you see all 24 hour time zones to keep track of the accurate time wherever you are. It’s incredibly simplistic (which I love) and has the in-house NOMOS caliber Xi, which the manufacturer claims knows time zones better than you know your back pocket. It’s won a number of awards and comes in at a fraction of the price of many other watches featured in this list.
This particular watch is actually offered in two models – one with a chronograph and time zone indicator, and the other with moon phase indicator and large date. Obviously, I recommend the former for travel as, quite honestly, a moon phase complication is useless to you. In a nutshell, this really is a very nice watch. The issue I find is they really focused on aesthetic and marketing appeal, where that money may have been better spent actually making the timepiece. It’s exceptionally modern, but as described, does have a certain elegant flair to it while somehow remaining quite casual. This watch pairs exquisitely with a pair of blue jeans and a tshirt or even golf course attire. I’m not sure I’d wear it with any formalwear though. It’s pretty hefty at 44mm which is far larger than I’d wear, but nevertheless, built for what’s currently popular. This is probably my least favorite of the watches in this list, but still deserves its place as it fulfilles a contemporary casual appearance the other watches just don’t seem to meet. The watch a beveled ring edge which indicates the cities and a 24-hour day/night function with a date aperture at 2 o’clock. Its single screwed crown is the sole regulator of all the complications, with three notches to control the time settings – the first which sets the city index, the second for the date and the third which sets the time, the minute and the 24-hour ring.
What’s kind of neat about this particular timepiece is that it comes in more than one option. Other options include a matte black dial in a steel case, silvered opaline in a titanium case and a silvered opaline with black ceramic bezel in a steel case.
NOMOS Glashütte Tangomat-GMT
Another NOMOS worthy of your attention, the Tangomat GMT is even more simplistic than the Zurich Weltzeit. Based on the classic Tangomat, the GMT version lets you push a button once or twice and then tells you what time it is where you are. It has the same Caliber Xi that the Weltzeit has, but with easier readings and a more simplistic dial. If I had to choose between the two, this would be my top pick.
Jaeger-LeCoultre AMVOX5 World Chronograph Cermet
Jaeger-LeCoultre has long been one of my favorite watch manufacturers. I have to admit, this particular time piece is not one I would buy, but still a very worthy contender for any world traveler. The AMVOX5 offers a variety of complications including a chronograph in addition to the simultaneous display of all twenty four time zones. The case, which is of particular notation, is made of reinforced cermet which is a material that consists of aluminum, but is reinforced with ceramic particles before being covered in a protective ceramic coating. What this does is gives it an incomparable lightness, resistance and stability. In essence, it’s a ridiculously sturdy watch.
For the most part, just about every watchmaker has at some point developed, or tried to develop a watch for travel. Whether it be a dual timezone or a world timer, you can find many watches that will serve your needs. Heck, even a cheap digital watch can serve you well if it offers multiple displays. In fact, sometimes that’s even preferable because you’ll have other features such as the stop watch, timer and alarms. Yes, I admit it, there is a place for digital. Just not on my wrist. The fact is, that when it really comes down to it, the best travel watch is your smart phone. But for the same reason we don’t use the phone at home to tell time, we don’t use it in place of our watch while traveling. The only final recommendation I’ll make is to try and wear a watch that can be repaired almost anywhere you travel in very little time. Many of the above watches are so specialized that won’t be the case, however, but traveling with a watch listed above, the hope is you won’t need to repair it because its quality will be nothing short of superlative.