NOMOS refers to the travel-savvy version of the Zürich as weltzeit, or world time in English. It is however often said that the Zürich Weltzeit is not a true world timer. Is this true, and does it matter?
What is a world timer?
The undisputed king of world time watches is Patek Philippe. The Genevan masters have been doing them since the mid 1930’s, using a mechanism invented by Louis Cottier that has been continuously refined since. In the 2016 press release of the ref. 5230, they describe the function as follows:
They show all 24 world time zones at a glance. The local time is most prominently displayed for the time zone whose assigned city name is just above the small red arrow at 12 o’clock – in the classic manner with the hour and minute hands. In the other 23 zones, the times are directly readable on the 24-hour ring that rotates counterclockwise within the city disk. The minutes indicated by the minute hand are the same for all time zones.
When traveling into a different time zone, the pusher in the case at 10 o’clock is pressed as often as needed to align the respective city name with the red arrow at 12 o’clock. Each time the pusher is pressed, the hour hand will advance by one hour while the city disk and the 24-hour ring will move by one increment in the counterclockwise direction.
The key takeaway is that time is read in multiple, clearly labeled time zones simultaneously. I don’t think that there are any hard and fast rules regarding how many, but preferably 24 or more – there are some 38 in use today. With Patek it is the 24-hour ring that rotates, while with others (such as the Tissot below) it is the city disc that does.
Is the Zurich Weltzeit a world timer?
So, the Zürich Weltzeit… This watch was introduced back in 2011. Still today it is one of NOMOS’ most eleborate watches, both in terms of movement as well as case construction. As far as stainless steel NOMOS watches go, it is top of the line. But is it a world timer? It has Weltzeit in its name, so the answer must be pretty straight forward right? Eh, no.
While the Zürich Weltzeit is one of my favorite watches, it is not a world time watch in the strict sense of the word. The city disc is there to indicate which time is shown by the central hour and minute hands. The 24-hour disc at 3:00 shows home time, as indicated by the 🏠. The button at 2:00 let’s you select a different city; when pressing it the disc will jump to the next city, and the hands will show the time accordingly. In the mean time the 3:00 disc will remain stationary, displaying the time back home. Jumping between the 24 different cities is a breeze, and the oft-flawed legibility of traditional watches with world time functions is 100% on point. As per the best NOMOS tradition!