By giving its own take on the dual time zone complication, Patek Philippe is lifting this function to new levels of sophistication.
During the 1950s, as air travel started to take off, a new mechanical watch complication arose to help travellers navigate time zone changes conveniently. For the jet set, the dual time zone watch became a new status symbol. It was admittedly more accessible than Patek Philippe’s World Time watches. At the time, the Genevan watch manufacturer was already working with Louis Cottier to refine the world time complication.
A new Cottier “Travel Time” or “Heures Sautantes” (French for ‘jumping hours’) complication followed in the footsteps in 1959. This patented function enabled adjustment of dual hour hands in both directions without stopping the movement. The complication would quickly emerge in the Ref. 2597. The Calatrava “Cross Country”, as it was coined, had a second hour hand on the main dial, which displayed the “home time”. These Dual Time watches were the forerunners of Travel Time models of today.
As dual time zone watches go, they are relatively rare in Patek Philippe’s history. After the Ref. 2597, the complication was only revived in 1997 with a new optimised patent as the Travel Time, when the Ref. 5034 was introduced. It included a day/night indicator as well as a home time hour hand on the main dial. A ladies’ version, the Ref. 4864, was also introduced. Four years later, a new model, the Ref. 5134 was released with a modern case design that rather echoed the style of the Aquanaut, with a heftier bezel not often seen on classic Patek Philippe watches.
The Travel Timers of Patek Philippe
In 2011, Patek Philippe unveiled a brand new design for its Travel Time watches. Utility being the intention of the original complication, it set out to do just that. Two time zones were now displayed on the main dial, now with an additional skeletonised hand indicating home time. Aperture displays on the dial further reflected day/night times for local and home time. These refinements made the complication incredibly easy to read. The first model to appear with this complication was the Ref. 5164 Aquanaut Travel Time, to incredible success.
The Travel Time design appeared next in the Nautilus Travel Time Chronograph Ref. 5990, which combined the new chronograph calibre CH 28-520 with Patek Philippe’s Travel Time module. In 2017, on the 20th anniversary of the Aquanaut, the watchmaker would introduce a new version featuring an Advanced Research design: The Ref. 5650G had a Silinvar Spiromax balance spring and a flexible mechanism, exposed on the dial, to set the second time zone.
Since then, the Travel Time complication has also appeared in the Calatrava Pilot series, starting with the Ref. 5524 in 2014, which was quickly followed by the Ref. 7234 the next year. Similar to the Aquanaut Travel Time, two pushers enable quick adjustment of the local time zone forwards and backwards, with a date counter and displays for day/night both locally and at home.
The most recent and complicated edition of a Travel Time watch is the Alarm Travel Time Ref. 5520, a fascinating watch that combines the alarm complication with dual time display. The watch incorporates a digital display for the alarm, which can be set in 15-minute intervals that sound out on a tuned gong with a single hammer. The hammer strikes for a duration of 35 seconds and follows the local time, so you can remind yourself easily of a time-sensitive task.
Furthermore, to ensure the movement is reliable and foolproof, Patek Philippe has placed various securities, such as needing to unlock the pushers before you can actuate them. The watch remains water-resistant even if the pushers are unlocked.
Across all of these different models, Patek Philippe’s Travel Time watches retain the simple legibility of the original Ref. 2597, updated with modern aesthetics and enhanced with new practical benefits. For those who find the World Time excessive in the information it shows on the dial, the Travel Time is an excellent alternative.