In the 1950s, when the world of the jetset was in its infancy, a brand new sort of timepiece was appearing on well-travelled wrists everywhere: the GMT or dual time wristwatch. The very first watch of this sort was even called a GMT watch and is now legendary – the Rolex GMT Master. This of course was just the beginning, for world travelers and for watchmakers alike.
The subject of GMT/ dual time watches, and all multi time zone (MTZ) watches in general, fascinates us to no end. From getting through security unmolested with a precious watch in tow to keeping track of time at home while traveling, we have previously explored these and other issues in general here and here. These stories serve as great introductions on the subject of MTZ watches.
In 2012, we have had the good fortune of getting a closer look at a couple of significant MTZ watches. We already brought you our review of the Calibre de Cartier Multiple Time Zone watch and our follow-up is this, the Breguet Classique Hora Mundi Ref. 5717. We find that both these watches challenge certain presumptions about MTZ propositions. For one thing, the typical large central hand showing time via a 24-hour scale is absent and, more importantly, the dials privilege clarity and legibility.
To be sure, Ref. 5717 is a truly distinctive wristwatch, with a highly decorated dial and quite a classical overall aesthetic. Of course, the watch is part of Breguet’s Classique collection so this is to be expected. What you might not expect are the four patents that this watch boasts, given the classical spirit and such. This is not a La Tradition after all. Briefly, the Hora Mundi Ref. 5717 is the world’s first mechanical watch with instant jump time zones: all the displays change instantly at the push of a button. To put it another way, the watch delivers time in two of 24 times zones on demand.
Looking closer at the dial, you will see a window at 6 o’clock that shows city names, thus hinting at what is going on here. As watch enthusiasts might guess, what is showing is part of a city disc, rather like that used by another sort of MTZ watch, the worldtimer. This also explains the bit about the 24 time zones as this is normal for worldtimers in general. We asked the Breguet representatives why the watch didn’t deliver half-time zones as well and they indicated that the brand did not want to seal the thunder of Blancpain, which has just such a complication (but not the on-demand functionality here).
Back to the business at hand, the highly legible dial makes space for an unusual dragging date display at 12 o’clock and a day/night indicator at 4 o’clock that looks for all the world like a moon phase indicator. Linger for more than a moment on the dial here because Breguet has lavished a wealth of decorative touches that you can show off to friends and acquaintances alike.
The generous 43mm case size also helps matters in terms of the display, giving the artisans plenty of real estate to show off their skills. Breguet does have a reputation for ornate - baroque even - styling and finishing and this is evident in Ref. 5717 too. Note the stylized representation of the world map comes in three versions. One shows Asia and the Pacific, another shows the