The History of the Patek Philippe World Time Watch

Functions themselves are never everything. This is not unique to watchmaking, but it is especially true here. In the case of a watch, you can dive thousands of meters with it (at least if you want to, and your body can dive to that depth). Or use a function that helps you measure lap times – provided you have a car that can use it.

Patek Philippe’s World Time fake watch is no exception. Reference 515 HU – HU stands for “Heure Universelle” – considered a first for the manufacturer. It dates back to 1937, when long-distance travel was still a luxury for the elite. Travel is very cost, risk and time intensive, something only the most worldly gentleman can do. So know the local time in Kolkata or Sydney from your watch? There are few real benefits from this. But then, over the decades, the world began to become more and more connected, culminating in the culture we are addicted to flying internationally today. With just about everyone starting to travel in Boeing or Airbus, the complication of a World Time watch suddenly became very useful, whether for those traveling between time zones or those staying at home.

Of course, phones have at least become a practical way to find the local time or home time you want—they just don’t look good. But then, in the spring of 2020, the world stopped. Instead of wandering around the world, everyone suddenly finds themselves at home. Thus, Patek Philippe’s World Time watches become so special in a way: they are part of the fantasy. A craft that dreams when you look down at your wrist. Is it cocktail time in the Maldives? What might that business partner in New York be doing now? Where is the sun over Cairo right now? This complexity makes every owner a globetrotter, no matter how attached he or she is to his or her home country.

The 1930s and the beginning of a new way of reading time:
Reference 515 – the first Patek Philippe World Time watch
We should remember that even less than two hundred years ago, each larger region operated in its own time. This was determined with the help of the position of the sun; when the sun was at its highest point, it was already twelve noon. It’s simple and precise. However, this became more complicated as railroads became more common. All the different times in different places make it increasingly difficult to create a coordinated schedule. So in 1884, at the International Meridian Conference in Washington, D.C., it was agreed for the first time to divide the world into 24 time zones. The Greenwich time zone is defined as the prime meridian. Since then, at least mathematically, each time zone has corresponded to 15 degrees of longitude. replica watches patek philippe

However, it was not until 1931 that independent watchmaker Louis Cottier found a corresponding watchmaking solution for this new world order. It comes in the form of his “Heures Universelles” design. At the center of his first World Time watch was an inner ring divided into twelve hours, an outer ring with 24-hour markers, and 31 cities representing each time zone.

The complication that fitted a pocket watch for the historic jeweler Baszanger caught the attention of the major watchmakers of the time. Among them is Patek Philippe. In 1937, the watch company, together with Cottier, produced the first Patek Philippe World Time watch in the form of the Reference 515 in red gold. Presumably only four prototypes were made at the time in a rectangular Art Deco case.

At this point, it’s worth stopping and reflecting. Today, the Patek Philippe brand enjoys such a prestige that, given the strength and hype surrounding some of its current models, one might almost forget that its legendary reputation is deeply rooted in the past.

Patek Philippe is closely associated with the development of the perpetual calendar, and many consider this combination of a complication with a hand-wound chronograph to be “typically Patek Philippe”. By contrast, its Calatrava models are the epitome of elegant dress watches. Meanwhile, the Nautilus is another legend, the meaning of which expresses itself in the form of enormous desirability, skyrocketing in price at auctions and on the secondary market. With its countless horological feats, Patek Philippe was also responsible (along with Louis Cottier) for launching the first World Time watch. No wonder Patek Philippe’s World Time watches still have a very special appeal today, once again attracting an equally special collector clientele in the Patek Philippe catalog.

1940s and 1950s:
Constantly strive to improve
While the first model, the Reference 515 (with a fixed time zone ring of 28 positions) was only synchronized with Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), this was no longer a limitation for the Reference 542, which appeared shortly after. The watch features a rotating bezel with 30 positions. With a case diameter of only 27.1 mm, it is billed as the first individually adjustable world time watch. Also worth mentioning is the 30.4mm Gold Reference 96 HU. Only two models are said to exist – one of which once belonged to Jean-Claude Biver and was auctioned in 2020.

Through the partnership with Cottier, these swiss made replica watches destined to be the jets of the future are becoming more and more important to the manufacturer. In 1939, Patek Philippe introduced the Reference 1415 HU; the first “production” world timepiece. By today’s standards, though, we’re talking about a mini-series. Part counts for 31mm models that weren’t produced until 1954 are still pretty simple, and collectors assume totals are in the very low triple-digit range. Only one platinum model is known to exist, and it was auctioned in 2002 for CHF 6.6 million in a heated bidding war. This set a world record for the most expensive watch at the time.

Incidentally, the watch was also used in conjunction with a chronograph at the request of the client (1940 reference 1415-1 HU), which played a formulaic role in the current collection – but more on that later. In addition, Patek Philippe introduced a model with a second crown and a rotating bezel with the city name inside, along with Cottier, in 1954 as the Reference 2523 HU. The crown is at nine o’clock and the model’s local time is set by a rotating disc with the names of 41 cities. Today, this technique of rotating bezels with inner city names is not only used by Patek Philippe, but also by many other manufacturers.

From Moscow to Munich: time zones and their names
The city names on the bezel of Patek Philippe’s historic models are fascinating in themselves, and despite only a few centimeters of space, the dial reflects the state of global geopolitics over the past few decades. In the past, time zones have changed time and time again for political and economic reasons, and naming a city as a representative of its time zone shows its strength at the time. For example, the fact that from 2006 onwards Patek Philippe franchisee Oeding-Erdel’s 5110th anniversary watch has exactly 32, Münster rather than Paris, may be obvious.

Or the Reference 5130P-015, a limited edition of 150 produced for the Arab region in 2011, with “Mecca” printed in green. The same thing happened in cities like Singapore, Doha, Bogota and Taipei. However, in terms of the history of time, for example, Midway Atoll replaced Samoa as the representative of the UTC-11 time zone, as it enjoyed greater fame after the 1942 naval battle, which was more complicated. Or, more recently, Dubai has replaced Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital, due to its growing popularity – as did the Reference 5230, which launched in 2016.

At the KunstWerkUhr exhibition in 2013, a corresponding version appeared with two References 5130R-020 and 5130G-020 with a removable local disc with the blue inscription “MUNICH”. The center of the dial is decorated with a guilloche pattern, decorated in the style of the Munich coat of arms. Finally, these two special editions, limited to 25 pieces, are equipped with a 240 HU self-winding movement.