You know what watches are really cool? The “graphic” worldtimers. Yes, those watches that show the time anywhere in the world and accompany it with a graphic representation of the globe. Thus, not only can you know, at a glance, what time it is in Mexico City, New York, Geneva and Singapore, but you can do it in an almost artistic fashion, using the best of watchmaking craftsmanship by means of nicely printed tiny maps or even masterful, hand-painted engravings that, by definition, make each of these watches a unique piece.
The concept of the world time wristwatch as we know it today was developed by Louis Cottier, who followed in his father’s footsteps and research on the matter almost a century ago. In 1932, Cottier’s idea of a “universal time” display found a home in the Vacheron Constantin 3372. Soon after, Patek Philippe approached the independent creator and, in 1937, it came to light in 515 HU. From then on, the complication was adopted by more and more large maisons, gradually evolving to offer greater reliability, utility and even beauty, until it became the nifty complication it is today.
Throughout the history of this multi-timezone feature there are truly illustrious examples; genuine icons of watchmaking for globetrotters who, despite not being mentioned in the first places when listing the most notable complications of watchmaking, have made a very special reputation and prestige. From memory, I can recall a few epic, contemporary and very artistic worldtimers: the Patek Philippe 5131, the Breguet Classique Hora Mundi 5717 or the Greubel Forsey GMT. For their part, the watches from Jaeger-LeCoultre (Geophysic Tourbillon Universal Time), Vacheron Constantin (Overseas World Time), Bovet 1822 (Récital 22), Franck Muller (Vanguard Worldtimer), and Omega (Seamaster Aquaterra Worldtimer), to name but a few, deserve an affectionate mention because they too illustrate how much this type of watch is well-regarded today, despite its relatively low media profile.
Some of the above examples cost a small fortune, but they are the pinnacle of multi-timezone haute horlogerie. Fortunately for the rest of us, there are some (quite few, in fact) examples of graphic “multi-timezoners” that are much more affordable. And if there is a brand that has put the world timers front and center, that is Montblanc.
At the 2015 Geneva Watch Fair (SIHH), Montblanc presented the Heritage Spirit Orbis Terrarum, a just-over $5,000 USD watch featuring multiple time zones inside a 41 mm steel case carrying the MB 29.20 self-winding calibre (a Sellita-based workhorse to which a complication module was added). Since then, the function has remained in one or another collection within the firm and has established itself as the most accessible world time on the market. And this year, the success of Montblanc’s pretty worldtimer takes another upward step in the form of the new Star Legacy Orbis Terrarum (they should stop bouncing it between collections, though).
The Orbis Terrarum has always been one of the most attractive multi-time zone watches on the market, by virtue of its meticulous and explanatory dial. In this new iteration, in addition to the new case, the projection of the northern hemisphere, seen from a high location above the North Pole, is added to the new and delicate engraving work and the clear graphics that sentence the usefulness of this timepiece.
It all starts with the design of the 43 mm diameter case, which adds a touch of artistic complexity to its lines. For example, we have the new stepped lugs that echo the beveling on the rounded-edge case, which is kind of pebble-like. An equally prominent new “onion” crown adds a somewhat more classic look, as opposed to the rectangular push-button on the left side.
The dial has been refreshed with a much more modern-looking texture. The projection of the “mercator transversal” map is enhanced by the relief, which replaces the more conventional print of the previous iterations—this is a nice touch, Montblanc. The indicators are built in two layers that rotate with the mechanism. The upper rotating disc is made of sapphire and is partially transparent. This disc has a metallic coating of rhodium or pink gold —depending on whether the case version is made of steel or pink gold— applied directly to it so that the continents and meridians stand out against the seas, providing a striking aesthetic. Around it, a ring is printed with the names of 24 cities.
On the second “layer”, the day and night disc rotates. In the new references, in the steel version, it changes from light blue for the day to dark blue for the night and from light brown to dark brown in the 18-carat gold version. The center of the day and night disc is now decorated with waves using the flinqué-froissé guilloché technique. In addition, a red triangle was added at 12 o’clock pointing to the user’s time zone of residence. Crowning the set are also new leaf-like hands that have been generously filled with SuperLuminova.
The complication of this Oris Terrarum is wonderfully simple to use, which adds even more to this valuable proposal from Montblanc. To explain the operation, let’s start with the crown. In position “1” (the normal position), the large crown is used to manually wind the barrel of the 42-hour MB 29.20 calibre (the same as the original Orbis Terrarum!). In the pulled-out position “2”, the hour hand can be adjusted in one-hour increments to determine the local time. A further pull out to position “3” enables the regular, precise hour and minute settings. Using the pusher on the left side of the case, the user turns the numeric dial with the 24 zones to set the reference time, signaled by the red arrow, while at the same time the hour hand jumps by one hour to set the local time. The Star Legacy Oris Terrarum is as attractive as it is effective.
The stainless steel version presents a general aesthetic in blue, while the 18K pink gold —limited to 500 pieces— favors the brown. The Montblanc Star Legacy Orbis Terrarum are accompanied by alligator leather straps finished in “Sfumato” shades, all made by Richemont’s pelleterie in Florence, Italy, and have a triple safety clasp.
Mechanical self-winding MB 29.20; hours and minutes; multiple time zone, user adjusted; 28,800 A/h; 42-hour power reserve
In steel or rose gold, 43mm in diameter; sapphire caseback, 50-meter water resistance
Crocodile leather with metal-coordinated triple-fold clasp
$6,800 USD (Steel)/$20,800 USD (Pink Gold)