Strange as it may seem, in an era when nearly everyone has a mobile phone with the time clearly displayed, fine wristwatches have never been more desirable. They’ve become personal statements for men, in the way that a woman’s shoes or handbag send out signals to other women. With that level of importance, it’s inevitable that niches develop: “You are what you wear” now applies to your wrist.
Most well-appointed individuals are aware of the watch-sellers’ dictum that everyone needs three: a sport watch for rough-and-tumble activity, from diving to golf to mountain-climbing; an everyday watch that matches one’s career (or retirement) needs; and – if necessary – an elegant dress watch that suits formal attire. Those who wish to avoid choosing can settle on a single classic like Cartier’s Tank or Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Reverso and simply be done with it, but even those might only accomplish two out of the three requirements. And what fun is there in having only one?
Should you be bitten by the watch bug – and it’s a frighteningly infectious passion because watches are small, portable and covetable – you soon learn that every type can be broken down into sub-divisions. Watches with special functions, like moonphases and minute-repeaters and yachting timers, are all the rage, but many of them are merely intellectual exercises. It’s easy to be distracted by these ‘complications’ – the actual term for any function beyond mere time-telling – and you’re always better off with something that actually serves your needs and lifestyle.
After the basic hours/minutes/seconds/date combination of most watches, the single most worthwhile ‘extra’ is the ability for a watch to show a second or even third time zone; the watches are often called ‘GMTs’ for short, acknowledging the pre-eminence of Greenwich Mean Time.
International travel has undergone complete demystification, and it’s not uncommon to find travellers making a dozen or more foreign trips a year. With this comes the need to keep track of time zones, and even the most seasoned of frequent flyers can recall occasions when they didn’t know if it was 2am or 2pm.
Multi-time-zone watches now feature in nearly every brand’s catalogue, and they actually have a worthwhile purpose for those who aren’t familiar with, say, every First Class lounge in South America. Even if you never travel, you’ll find a dual-time watch invaluable for ensuring that you haven’t woken up a colleague – let alone a client – in L.A. or Beijing.
LANGE & SOHNE LANGE 1 TIME ZONE
£19,300 in pink gold; £19,300 in yellow gold; £26,400 in platinum
Lange & Sohne’s Lange 1 wristwatch restored the prestige of Germany’s premier brand when the company was revived in the 1990s. An exemplary in-house movement, a look that oozed maturity – the Lange 1 sired an entire range. Adding a second, smaller 12-hour dial resulted in the Lange 1 Time Zone. Lange’s engineers also provided power reserve, day-and-night indication and, of course, the ‘big date’ feature: the detail that makes the Lange 1 a landmark model.
020 7432 9432
AUDEMARS PIGUET ROYAL OAK DUAL-TIME
£14,500 in rose gold; £9,100 in steel
Arguably the best-selling upscale sports watch of all-time, Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak showed that a rugged timepiece could also be dressy enough to wear with a suit. Available in a plethora of forms – perpetual calendars, chronographs, tourbillons – the watch has proven to be infinitely adaptable. The self-winding Dual Time is a perfect example, its signature ‘porthole’ styling instantly recognisable, while the second time-zone, power-reserve and date displays have been incorporated into dial without crowding.
020 7416 4160
BLANCPAIN VILLERET GMT
Blancpain is one of those brands that appeals to those ‘in the know’ – never flashy, always a model of discretion. You could even call it a watch ‘for grown-ups’. A superb in-house movement, visible through the watch’s back, powers the self-winding, two-time zone Villeret for up to 100 hours on a full ‘wind’. Handsome in its 38mm red gold case on a crocodile strap, the Villeret GMT places the second time zone dial prominently at the 12 o’clock position.
0845 273 2500
Designed by pilots, for pilots, Bremont’s ALT1-Z is as no-nonsense as it gets. The ALT1-Z makes no concessions to frivolity or fashion, being utterly functional and insanely robust: its steel case has a hardness of 2000 Vickers, more than four times that of normal stainless steel. This automatic chronograph informs the wearer of normal time, date, a second zone and stopwatch functions with utmost legibility: there’s no mistaking which is which. Available with black or cream-coloured dials.
0845 0940 690
CARTIER COLLECTION PRIVEE TANK LOUIS CARTIER TWO TIME ZONE
£11,350 in white gold; £10,550 in pink gold
Take one of the all-time greatest watches – Cartier’s immortal Tank – and split the dial. Add a second pair of hands. Bingo: another instant classic. What’s so delicious about the Tank Louis Cartier Two Time Zone is that it’s almost possible to mistake it for the single time zone model. After all, they share the 18K gold case, the sapphire cabochon crown, the Roman numerals. A transparent sapphire crystal back allows you to savour the exquisite manually-wound movement.
020 8080 0330
De BETHUNE DB20 GMT
(price on request)
Among the most exclusive watches in the world, De Bethune timepieces are subject to a waiting list. But they’re worth the wait: those possessing the patience are rewarded with radical, exclusive movements, the sort of workmanship that most makers only dream about, and – in the case of the DB20 GMT – unmistakeable styling. This oversized and robust automatic will run for five days on a full wind, and it reveals both the second zone and day/night indication through windows above the 6 o’clock position.
+41 24 454 22 81
DENT PARLIAMENT POWER RESERVE
£14,500 rose gold
Dent’s Parliament Power Reserve is named after the ruling body that turned the brand into one of the world’s greatest clockmakers: Dent constructed Big Ben, and the DNA of the world’s most famous clock features prominently in the Parliament’s dial and case. A tiny 24-hour dial, its hand set by a miniature press button on the side of the case, informs you on a 24-hour-clock of home time. Strap on this Dent, and you can almost feel the ‘great’ in Great Britain.
020 7873 2363
FRANCK MULLER MASTER BANKER
Prices from £9,460 in steel to £19,500 in gold.
If your travelling exceeds the norm, or if your business is global, two time zones might not be enough. Franck Muller addressed this dilemma with the wittily named Master Banker. Launched in 1996 and a mainstay of the range ever since, it shows three time zones (hours and minutes) with total clarity, from a single automatic movement. Cleverly, the adjustment of each of the three zones is made from the single winding button.
020 7416 4160
JAEGER-LeCOULTRE REVERSO SQUADRA HOMETIME
£8,450 on crocodile strap; £9,900 on rubber strap
Although launched as a watch for sportsmen, the original 1930s Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso is a bit too dainty by prevailing standards. It took to only a slight squaring of the case to render the all-time classic more suitable for the current taste in chunkier models. The Reverso Squadra is the result, while the HomeTime version adds a skeletal red hand to indicate the second zone. A small window at 9 o’clock indicates AM or PM – worth its weight in gold when crossing continents.
020 7312 6803
Prices £2200 to £2500
Among the most dazzling of alternative time-keeping methods are retrograde hands: instead of completing a circle, they trace an arc and fly back in a fraction of a second when the movement is complete. Longines is marking its 175th Anniversary with the Retrograde, which performs four functions with flyback hands. Consisting of an arc that runs from the 7 to 11 o’clock points, the second time zone is shown at a glance on a 24-hour scale.
0845 272 6500
MONTBLANC STAR XXXL CHRONOGRAPH GMT AUTOMATIC
£7350 in white gold; £6750 in red gold
In a blindingly short time, Montblanc has endowed its watches with the same prestige and desirability as its Meisterstuck pens. The star logo immediately identifies the watches as Montblanc, but the look also incorporates sublime detailing, chunky cases and dressy dials – even their sport watches are smarter than most. To combine the stop-watch facilities of a chronograph with dual timekeeping, Montblanc has added a red-tipped hand to indicate the second zone, with a 24-hour scale running around the watch dial’s circumference.
020 8332 4550
PANERAI LUMINOR 1950 TOURBILLON GMT
Price circa £60,000
Panerai – who designed watches for the Italian Navy – recently developed its own tourbillon to create the ultimate ‘statement watch’ below the waves. The Luminor 1950 Tourbillon GMT offers two eponymous complications, with the dual-time function in the form of a small dial at the 3 o’clock point, with AM/PM indication. This 47mm watch, water-resistant to 100 metres, was designed to withstand action during war time, so that delicate tourbillon is is good, er, hands.
020 7312 6894
ROGER DUBUIS EXCALIBUR TRIPLE TIME ZONE
£21,900in steel; £31,600 in gold
Well-travelled, or simply a plutocrat who needs to know what’s happening in three countries? Roger Dubuis’ Excalibur Triple Time Zone possesses a watch with a novel approach to displaying the zones. The main hands can show local time, while two 12-hours dials on either side of the centre show independent time as well as AM/PM. That’s not all: cities representing 12 meridians are shown in windows at the 3 and 9 positions: buttons above and below the winder set these with a simple press.
020 7722 2438
VOGARD SUPER TRAVELLER
No mistaking the purpose here: Vogard only makes watches for users who need to know the times in different zones. Every model features a rotating bezel with rapid time setting for the different regions indicated: you can choose 24 airports, 24 golf courses, 24 major cities. Vogard will personalise the Super Traveller with whatever indicators you require, from stock exchanges to different preferred hotels. One supposes that a cad with girlfriends in different time zones might have their cities inscribed?
0207 416 4160
ZENITH GRANDE CLASSE MULTICITY
Steel £8500 Rose Gold £18,600
Zenith’s expertise with complications means that the automatic Grande Class Multi-City can display hours, minutes, seconds, date, power reserve, chronograph functions and all 24 time zones at a glance. Major cities fan out from the dial in a spiral effect, while a second hour hand in contrasting metal shows the time on a 24-hour scale. Whether regarded as a sporting watch or an elegant dress watch, Zenith’s world traveller offering can flit from poolside to First Class cabin to black-tie dinner with the ease of Fred Astaire.
020 7565 6403
WHERE TO BUY: Marcus
Marcus Margulies (r) with Franck Muller
Marcus Margulies isn’t boasting when he says, ‘Our store carries more tourbillons and multi-time zone watches than anyone else in London.’ He’s merely stating fact. Margulies, who has spent his entire life in the watch business, retains his enthusiasm for fine timekeepers, but his standards are now so elevated that he’s only truly excited by the rarest, most exotic of pieces. Mere bling isn’t enough. But tourbillons and dual-time watches and minute repeaters are.
It’s fitting that Marcus has an appreciation for the most complicated watches, because he was one of the few who never forsook mechanical timekeepers when it looked like quartz was going to take over in the 1970s. When mechanical watches came back in the 1990s, his business was poised to provide the most interesting pieces.
Among the store’s treasures are probably the largest selections of Franck Muller complications and Hublot Big Bangs in Europe. In-depth stocks of Piaget, Audemars Piguet (the hardest-to-find Royal Oaks, of course), Vogard and others are offered in tranquil surroundings, including upper floors which offer respite from the bustle of Bond Street: a backgammon room, a private cinema, a well-stocked kitchen. Recently opened is a ‘special room’ where the most impressive models are displayed in a custom-built ‘wall’ that winds the watches.
Marcus (the store) is a haven for watch enthusiasts, especially those eager to acquire something new and ‘special’. Because Marcus (the man) prides himself in spotting talent, he’s often the first to find and support budding watchmaking geniuses. During the past two years, he’s added Urwerk’s radical models which eschew hands and dials, while he has no hesitation in describing Greubel-Forsey’s tourbillons as the best watches money can buy. The watches in stock, like the store, are simply out-of-the-ordinary.
Marcus, 170 New Bond Street, London W1
020 7290 6500
(La Dolce Vita, 2007)