Perpetually on Time

Advances in technology have made these watches available in every price range.

There’s no better time than the start of a new year—not to mention a year that heralds a new millennium—to promote perpetual calendar timepieces, world timers, and dual-time watches. Advances in today’s quartz watch technology have made such watches available to consumers in every price range, even as exquisite high-end mechanical versions continue to delight collectors.

Into the future. Perpetual calendar watches “correct all the discrepancies in the Gregorian calendar,” in the words of a spokesman for IWC watches. Unlike typical day/date watches, they automatically adjust for 30-day and 31-day months as well as for leap years. Some digital versions even compensate for daylight savings time.

These watches are programmed to continue making those adjustments for 100, 200, even 500 years. A young parent buying a perpetual calendar watch today can pass it on to his or her child or grandchild decades from now, secure in the knowledge that the watch will display the correct date for decades thereafter, without adjustment.

For watch connoisseurs, upscale automatic versions like IWC’s Da Vinci line or Concord’s Impresario Maestro (available in only two models, platinum and gold) represent the best of the watchmaker’s art. They offer not only finely tuned perpetual calendars but also moon phases, chronographs, and tourbillons that are handcrafted works of mechanical precision.

Meanwhile, more affordable perpetuals are pushing the quartz technology envelope. Long-life lithium batteries power many, but Citizen’s Eco-Drive perpetual calendar now has a light-powered example on the market. It continuously recharges in any kind of light, providing an infinite power source. Seiko perpetual calendar watches feature the world’s smallest ultrasonic motor, enabling the company to offer the world’s only perpetual calendar for women. Both Longines’ Conquest VHP perpetual calendar and the Omega quartz Constellation perpetual calendar include a thermo-compensation system to ensure accuracy no matter what the temperature or how extreme the climate. Bulova’s Millennia perpetual calendar not only displays day, date, and year on three subdials (as opposed to a date window on many others) but also has a 24-hour hand.

Multi-zone timers. World timers (programmed to show a number of time zones) and dual timers (two time displays on the same watch face) are increasingly popular with businesspeople and travelers. Brands at all price levels have at least one multiple-time-zone or dual-timer model. “That’s recognition of the fact that more people are traveling and conducting business and need a watch that keeps them on time whatever zone they are in,” says Jim Katz, a spokesman for Timex, which already offers 54 different models with multiple (two or three) time zones and models with world or dual timers.

One multiple time zone winner— literally—is Tissot’s Navigator (a new quartz model based on a 1953 automatic version), which provides the time for 24 times zones on five continents. Popular Science recently named it a “Best of What’s New” honoree for its ease of use (see Watch World, p. 76). The analog watch’s hands instantly adjust to the time in any part of the world. Fila’s new Globetrotter, combining analog and digital displays, has three alarms, each of which can be set for the time in any of the world’s time zones.

Dual timers let wearers set their “home time” on one dial or display and that of the city or country they’re visiting on the other. These watches also lend themselves to a variety of designs, in both mechanical and quartz versions. At the luxury watch level, for example, Maurice Lacroix’s spare and elegant GMT has a 24-hour scale on the rim of the dial surrounding the more traditional 12-hour format. Concord’s Impresario GMT chronometer is distinguished by its signature round coin-edge case, handcrafted 26-jewel movement, and dual-directional calendar at 3 o’clock.

Longines’ upscale Dolce Vita Dual Time offers two dual-hour and dual-minute analog displays, using two movements operated by two independent crowns. Other watches in upscale and mid-market niches combine analog and digital functions to offer multiple time zones. Both Hermès’ sleekly aerodynamic Espace and Swiss Brands new “tank”-style Equinox Time Window combine an analog face with a digital screen that appears when a crown or button is pushed. A variety of functions, including a second time zone, appear on the screen. New quartz digital technology also makes it possible for mass-market brands, such as Timex’s popular 100 Lap Ironman Triathlon digital watch, to include two or three time zone readouts among their many functions.

Perpetual calendar watches automatically adjust for 30-day and 31-day months as well as for leap years.