Forget, for a moment, that your phone can dance between time zones before you’ve even popped your chronometer’s crown. Forget the horrors of airport security manhandling your expensive cogs and gears. Because when you strap on a watch that’s designed to travel, you’re embracing the idea your journey could end somewhere your phone won’t. And that’s a complication worth investing in.
The bounds of horology have always crumbled beneath the adventurer’s boot. Whether beneath the waves or towards the stars, they’ve demanded watches ready for rigour and, each time, Switzerland’s finest provide. Which is why, even if it’s only an overnighter to Frankfurt, slipping on a timepiece that could go to the ends of the earth at least entertains the romance of something more.
Citizen Promaster Navihawk GPS
Your smartphone outperforms your watch in most facets of timekeeping. At least, it does when you’ve got a signal. And battery. But Citizen’s Promaster beats your iPhone on a diet of sunshine.
Satellites guide its hands, revealing the time in any of 40 time zones – or 27 global cities – in just three seconds. It’s powered by daylight and boasts a 1/20 chronograph for timing flights, a perpetual calendar so you arrive on the right day, and it’s waterproof to 100atm, should you need to swim the final leg of your journey.
So you’re covered for around-the-world travel, and end-of-the-world survival.
Available from John Lewis, priced £995 on a bracelet.
Tudor Heritage Advisor
Tudor is a brand with exploration heritage. It joined the British North Greenland Expedition on its 1953 Arctic mission and, last year, hooked up with James Bowthorpe on his 650-mile, midwinter trek down the Hudson River. So you know it builds its watches hardy.
The Heritage Advisor is a modern spin on a 1957 original, Tudor’s first to incorporate an alarm function. That complication returns, to help keep you on your travel schedule. But this year’s version also features Tudor’s excellent new in-house movement – so you know it won’t stop ticking if you do veer from your itinerary.
Available from Chronext, priced £3,550.
Frederique Constant Worldtimer
If you’re on first-name terms with your cabin crew, you need a worldtimer. As complications go, it’s a simple one: the world’s time zones are emblazoned on a rotating bezel; spin your home city to 12 o’clock and you immediately know the time anywhere else on Earth. Which helps prevent partner-waking phone calls when you add eight hours from Shanghai time, rather than subtract.
Frederique Constant’s Worldtimer model also features a globe-engraved dial, to double down on that jet-setting aesthetic, in an otherwise restrained, steel case you can wear from meetings to after-dinner drinks.
Available from Jura Watches, priced £2,890.
Pierre Arpels Heure d’Ici
French jeweller Van Cleef & Arpels has reimagined the way we tell the time for its spin on a travel watch. Instead of a 360-degree dial, it features two windows at what would have been five and 11 o’clock, which show the time at home and in your destination country.
A sub-dial between the two then indicates the minutes, for a quick read on the time here and there. It takes a little getting used to, but once it clicks, you’ll reconsider ever going back to a traditional two-hander.
Available from Van Cleef & Arpels, priced £29,300.
You don’t need to bottom out your bank account to buy a decent travel watch. And if you’re heading to some less salubrious locations, your Patek is just an invite for strangers to join you in dark alleys.
Farer is a new British brand inspired by adventure, with each model named for an explorer. The Barnato is tribute to the eponymous Diana, the first British women to break the sound barrier. That spirit finds flesh on the dial in its dual-time hand – a red-arrowed way to track a second time zone – and on the caseback in Farer’s signature engraved compass.
Available from Farer, priced £420.
The Big Crown is the world’s best-known watch brand, according to Forbes, and the 64th most-recognised overall, sandwiched between Porsche and Lexus.
Which means that should you take one of its rugged divers off-road, you don’t just get excellent timekeeping in a case that can cope with sun, sea, or sand. But also a logo you can trade for safe passage home from anywhere in the world. Should your adventuring take an unexpected turn.
Available pre-owned from Watchfinder, from £16,250.