Like many complications on the market, the world timer is by no means a modern creation. First invented by Louis Cottier in 1931, it wasn’t long before Cottier was commissioned to calibrate movements for watches. After some success with pocket watches, Patek Philippe (among others) came knocking, and it wasn’t long before the two first Patek Philippe World Time References came to fruition in the form of the Reference 515 HU with a rectangular case, and the Reference 96 HU using The already popular Calatrava case.
While only four rectangular prototypes were ever made, the Calatrava-cased world timer was actually the birth of one of Patek Philippe’s most collectible watches in existence. Shortly after, the Reference 1415 was introduced as Patek Philippe’s mass-produced world timepiece, although it was produced in small numbers, from 1939 to 1954.
In its infancy, the first version of the movement did not have a separate local time adjustment. Instead, it relies on an outer ring engraved with various home cities, forcing the wearer to manually adjust the local time display at 12 o’clock. It wasn’t until 1953 that Patek Philippe introduced Cottier’s 12-400 HU movement in its Reference 2523 world timepiece – a watch that paved the way for the ultimate development of the entire world time period. The main difference in the new movement is the move to a double-crown configuration, as well as the relocation of the world time city indication to its dial outer ring. This logical change means that the local time city can be changed via the second crown located at 9 o’clock. The 2523 did not remain in the Patek Philippe catalog for very long,
It took Patek Philippe fake about 35 years to revive the much-loved World Time complication, and the successor to Cottier’s masterpiece is finally here in the form of the Reference 5110 – a clever improvement on the much-loved complication. The first notable change is both visual and functional. Instead of a second crown at 9 o’clock, the Reference 5110 adds a wide pusher at 10 o’clock. From a functional standpoint, this button replaces this crown, which allows the wearer to advance the local time, one time zone with each press. Just landed in Paris from New York? Just press the button six times and both the hour hand and the outer ring with the city and 24-hour scale advance to the correct position. This mechanism was actually patented by Patek Philippe many years ago, near the end of reference 2523’s life cycle, but the brand waited until 2000 to bring the watch to market.
The 240 HU calibre that powers the modern world timepiece is no slouch in terms of specification and finish, which is part of the reason why it is still in production to replace the Patek Philippe reference 5230 world timepiece for the 5110. Patek Philippe did improve its world timer case, increasing from 37mm to 39.5mm as the 5110 was replaced by the 5130, then dropping to 38.5 as that model was replaced by the 5230, but the caliber 240 HU has remained the same. The micro-rotor self-winding movement has a very modest thickness of 3.9 mm and uses a Spiromax hairspring (made from Patek Philippe’s proprietary silicon-based composite material) and a Gyromax balance wheel. Of course, finishing is one of the key details that differentiate Patek Philippe from most of its competitors, so the 240 HU is appropriately decorated and visible through the exhibition caseback. Elegant Côtes de Genève, perlage and anglage abound, and this movement is a feast for the eyes, no matter what your knowledge and knowledge of chronograph mechanisms are.
keep pace with the times
What makes the world timer category particularly interesting is how global timing and reference cities have evolved over time. Case and gist, check out this 2523 sold at the Phillips Hong Kong auction in 2017, this dial has so many city names that it seems completely foreign to the younger generation. Ceylon, Bombay and Kolkata have all been renamed Sri Lanka, Bombay and Kolkata respectively to shed their colonial roots. Time zones have also changed over the years, notably Madeira in Portugal is now aligned with London, +1 GMT, while Adelaide and Sydney, Australia are now only half an hour apart, marking GMT Time +9.5 and GMT +10. There are other deviations arguably based on the year of production of the replica watches usa in question, all of which make these world timepieces a bit like a historical time capsule. “Having a piece of history” makes sense, and that sentiment couldn’t be more appropriate in a Patek Philippe vintage world timepiece.