If nothing else, the last year or so has made foreign travel an adventure again, at least for those who enjoy navigating their way through vaccination regimes and test requirements. It feels long ago when instead the burning question was whether it’s cocktail hour at the destination yet.
For the well-prepared traveler, the answer is on your wrist, as one of the few really useful complications watchmakers offer is the ability to show two or more time zones at a glance. Simply put, a “complication” in watch parlance is any function on a timepiece other than showing the time, such as a stopwatch or moon-phase display. Of course, you can do it in your head or use a world-time app on your phone, but a GMT or worldtimer saves you the bother and looks considerably more stylish.
However, as easy as it is for you to decipher, showing multiple time zones is a significant challenge for both the watchmakers and the designer, as there’s always a tradeoff between simplicity and utility. How do you want the second time zone to be set? Should it link to the date? Do the time zones need to be named? How do you make sure the “travel” time is sufficiently distinct from the “home” time? What about places with just 30-minute differences?
Here is our edit of some of the best mechanical worldtimers you can get right now, from entry level to high-end. All should serve you well, wherever your travels—once they begin again in earnest—may take you.
The standard approach to a GMT watch is exemplified by the Explorer II from Rolex, which has a second hour in bright orange that runs on a 24-hour cycle: set this 24-hour hand for your second time zone, then read the hour off the bezel scale, and minutes as normal.