Worldtimer vs. GMT: Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Chronograph WT vs. IWC Pilot’s Watch Timezoner Spitfire
I travel quite a bit. Maybe you do too. We work, visit, and/or have business interests in various time zones. Yes, your smartphone or -watch will tell the time pretty much anywhere in the world. But for those who would rather wear a mechanical watch, a worldtimer or a GMT may be the answer.
What’s the difference? At a glance, the standard worldtimer dial tells you the time in the world’s main 24 time zones.
A GMT watch, on the other hand, employs a 24 hour-format hand that indicates a second time zone at a glance. Some people sync up the GMT watch to their local time in order to have an AM/PM indicator. Both worldtimers and GMTs are beautiful, sophisticated works of horological art.
For writers working with publishers and editors worldwide, knowing what time it is in other parts of the world prevents the embarrassment of calling at night. Writer’s Rule #1: never ask an editor stupid questions when they’re asleep. A worldtimer or GMT just might save your job.
For pilots flying international routes, the utility of having a multi-time zone watch is obvious. Also for securities traders working the world’s bourses knowing the time zones can mean the difference between closing out a profitable trade or suffering an agonizing wait while the world’s markets turn against you during off trading hours. Multinational corporations with far-flung operations certainly work in a variety of time zones.
Many of the world’s top watch manufacturers offer worldtimers and GMTs. Here I’ve chosen two of the top performers to familiarize you: Jaeger‑LeCoultre and IWC.
Both offer cutting-edge watchmaking technology. Both are truly works of art that can be put to daily use. These are not just watch-winder queens, destined for a life of display rather than service.
If you follow my articles both here and elsewhere, as well as my thriller/suspense novels, you know I use my watches for their intended purposes and don’t baby them. Neither the Jaeger‑LeCoultre nor the IWC models are watches that ask for any special treatment and are sturdy enough to stand up to regular use both at home and on the road.
Let’s begin with the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris WT. Then we’ll move on to the IWC Pilot’s Timezoner Spitfire. Lastly, I’ll tie together what I’ve discovered about both pieces.
Current world time at Jaeger‑LeCoultre
Jaeger Le-Coultre offers daily wearer worldtimers in two of its most rugged lines. One is the Polaris Geophysic Universal Time. The other is the Polaris line, which is blessed with both the limited-edition Polaris Geographic WT and the regular-edition Polaris Chronograph WT.
Owing to its heritage dating back to the iconic 1960s Memovox Polaris diver’s watch, the latter is the one I asked Jaeger-LeCoultre to send me for evaluation.
In 2018 Jaeger-LeCoultre created a brand-new Polaris collection – previous to that the only watches in the brand’s arsenal to have borne this name were two individual Memovox diver’s editions.
At the time of its launch, the new Polaris collection comprised six references, including a three-hander, an automatic with date, a chronograph, and a chronograph with world time function – the first time the brand combined these two complications since opening its doors in 1833. Of necessity, this combination creates a somewhat busy dial. However, if it’s functionality and at-a-glance information you want for your travels, this is where you’ll find it.
The original Memovox Polaris of 1968 was a dive watch featuring an alarm that was audible underwater to signal it might be a good time to surface since your air was about to run out. The two off-center crowns and domed crystal offered easy user functionality and excellent readability.
This watch is unlike any others in the JLC collection. Its sporty look includes the same design language of the Jaeger instruments fitted in the most iconic vintage cars.
The Polaris Chronograph WT follows the same distinctive format, prioritizing user readability and function over form.
Jaeger-LeCoultre manufactures the 752A (“A” for automatic) movement in-house; the combination of chronograph and worldtimer functions make it a complicated caliber. This is some serious horological firepower packed in a rugged and wearable titanium case.
A dive into the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Chronograph WT
The Polaris Chronograph WT comes in two dial colors: blue and black, both splashed with white Super-LumiNova dial furniture. These dial colors were chosen to convey masculinity in an elegant yet still casual style. The watch Jaeger-LeCoultre sent me had a dark blue dial.
Looking at it under either office light or direct sunlight, various gradients of color stood out among the three finishes used for each dial. The center’s sunray brushed finish works beautifully in different light conditions, alternating from light to dark blue depending on conditions.
Working out from the center is the grainy numeral ring containing the hour markers and at least partially the two chronograph subdials.
The matte-finished 24-hour ring outside of that is split in half: one-half shows a blue background with white numerals depicting the night hours, while the one with a white background and blue numerals is for daylight hours.
The final ring on the outermost dial perimeter is a satin-finished blue showing the cities in each of this watch’s 24 time zones in white lettering.
London, the home of the prime meridian, is shown in red as is the numeral “24” (for midnight)
The titanium case is a lesson in design efficiency by itself.
I wore the Polaris Chronograph WT for a week. Each time I looked at this beautifully functional watch (which was often), I couldn’t believe it was a 44 mm case.
I resolved its smaller appearance results from two design qualities: first, the lugs curve nicely downward. The watch conforms neatly around the wrist, giving it the appearance of having a somewhat smaller diameter.
Second, the calfskin strap attaches to the case using curved spring bars, another design decision intended to give a smaller appearance than its 44 mm diameter actually implies.
Finally, the choice of case metal – titanium – allows for a watch that is light on the wrist. In steel, I’d imagine the case and the 274 parts it contains would be significantly heavier.
The case’s surfaces display light across its alternating brushed and polished design – mostly brushed. But there’s just enough of the polished edges exposed to impress viewers with JLC’s characteristic attention to detail.
The sapphire crystal case back shows off the 752A movement. For those who know what they’re looking at there’s a sophistication to the trademark Jaeger‑LeCoultre manufacture automatic movement.
Hands and markers
One thing that’s essential to any watch I work with is legibility, and the Polaris Chronograph WT has it in spades. First, everything is covered with bright, beautiful Super-LumiNova.
In the dark it glows a pleasing blue hue. In daylight, its bright white finish provides stark contrast to the dark blue dial. Perfect.
The sword-shaped hands are just what I want on the tool watches I work with. They extend right to the edge of the indices where they are easily read. Such exactitude is what I’d expect from JLC: pure elegance in working precision.
Jaeger‑LeCoultre’s designers added a blue bar that runs across the dial from one side of the 24-hour ring to the other, very clearly separating day from night hours. This bar is attached to the worldtimer/24-hour ring so it rotates with it.
In my opinion,the bar adds dial clutter. However, my editor-in-chief says she didn’t even notice it until I brought it up, even though she has handled this watch several times.
The hour markers have a trapezoidal shape that points to the dial’s center. Had the designers so chosen, I feel they could have replaced the 12 and 6 numerals with the same markers and opened up more dial real estate without compromising legibility.
Setting the world time is as easy as setting the hands to local time using the crown at 3 o’clock.
Turning the crown at 10 o’clock rotates the city disk to match the city at 6 o’clock that corresponds to the local time. That’s it.
Now you can instantly read the time in any of these 24 city/time zones at a glance. Jaeger‑LeCoultre also provided for summer and winter time with a small white triangle as a reminder to shift the city disk accordingly.
I always test the accuracy of each watch I review. Since the Polaris WT doesn’t have a second hand (just the sweep hand for chronograph seconds) I wasn’t able to set it to the exact second without running the chronograph.
Even so, for the week I had the piece I found it accurate to the minute. In view of the world time complexity, that is perfectly sufficient for my purposes.
My only suggestions for improvement would be minor compared to the ease of use achieved with this watch design.
First, the names of the cities are printed in a very small font. In bright light this is workable. However, in lower light conditions, even with 20/20 vision, you’ll have to squint a bit.
Second, London and 24 (midnight) is printed in red. Red print on a dark blue background is less legible than white as used for all other cities and hours.
The Polaris Chronograph WT provides bicompax counters for 30 minutes and 12 hours, shown in subdials at 3 and 9 o’clock; the chronograph is started and stopped using the pusher at 2 o’clock and reset using the pusher at 4 o’clock. There is no flyback feature on this chronograph.
Elapsed seconds are shown by a central hand with a red tip. The red end of the second hand tends to get lost. My same suggestion holds when trying to read red against a dark blue background.
The entire Polaris collection has very convenient quick-change capability for changing out the various straps offered. There is a choice of calfskin strap, alligator strap ($375), blue rubber strap with a clous de Paris finish, and a stainless steel bracelet ($1,660).
All have dual side deployant buckles. After wearing this watch fitted with the brown calf skin strap, my opinion is to stick with this or perhaps the blue rubber. It’s comfortable and adds to the rugged yet sophisticated look of the piece.
A black alligator strap would dress it up. The stainless steel bracelet would add to the overall weight of the piece but would also allow its 10 bar water resistance to be fully used as would the blue rubber strap.
Jaeger-LeCoultre’s 1,000 Hour Test
All Polaris models must pass JLC’s 1,000 Hour Test. According to the company, this series of internal production tests exceed official chronometry tests.
It includes movement testing before and after casing and extends throughout the entire watch assembly. Just some of these tests include timing regularity, resistance to temperature changes and atmospheric pressure, resistance to shocks and magnetic fields, and waterproofing.
This set of examinations of the assembled watch over six weeks proves the specifications of each piece before it leaves the manufacture.
Frankly, I have a lot of faith in JLC. The 1,000 Hour Test is just one of the reasons I bought my wife her stainless steel Rendez-Vous several years ago (see Happy Wife, Happy Life: What Women Want (In A Watch) and it hasn’t had a single problem.
It also keeps extraordinarily accurate time.
Lastly, the Polaris has a 65-hour power reserve. I find this to be more convenient than other pieces whose reserve is a little less. Still, I always recommend keeping your automatics in a watch winder when not being worn.
History of IWC’s Timezoner
IWC has dabbled in multiple time zone watches for a number of years. In 2012, the Schaffhausen-based brand introduced its Pilot’s Watch Worldtimer, since discontinued.
This was a true worldtimer in the sense that it told the correct time in each of the 24 world’s main time zones at a glance and without any user interaction. Its layout is similar to that of the Jaeger-LeCoultre but without the chronograph.
Then in 2016 IWC introduced the Pilot’s Timezoner Chronograph. This occurred because the brand had acquired the patented Timezoner mechanism originally developed by independent watchmaker Thomas Prescher for the now-defunct Swiss boutique brand Vogard.
Though the reference cities on the bezel give IWC’s Timezoner the superficial impression that it’s a world time watch, it is not. The IWC Timezoner has the ability to tell the time in 24 time zones by turning the bezel. It doesn’t really fit my definition of a true GMT, a watch showing two different time zones simultaneously.
Still the IWC Timezoner can be extraordinarily useful in the right application.
The purists among our readers will say I’m comparing apples and oranges: worldtimer versus a GMT or “Timezoner.” And they would be right.
However, IWC maintains that the Timezoner has a world time complication. Its bezel certainly appears to offer this feature. And, though the wearer cannot see the time in 24 time zones at a glance, he or she can easily turn the bezel to any time zone to see the correct time anywhere on earth.
IWC’s Unique Bezel-Setting System
In 2002 Michael Vogt launched his Vogard brand built around the patented system by Prescher. Vogt debuted his first watch incorporating the Timezoner system at Baselworld 2004.
IWC acquired the Vogard patent and transferred the technology in 2014. In a press release Vogt said, “As a niche manufacturer and watch atelier we do not have the financial and structural resources to fully exploit the potential of the Timezoner technology. I am very pleased that we found one of the leading brands with the power to further develop the Timezoner and to establish it on a worldwide level.”
After two years and some in-house refinements, IWC was ready to release the Timezoner technology to the public in its watches.
The brand’s movements designers paired it with IWC’s column-wheel chronograph movement, automatic Caliber 89760. Additionally, IWC redefined the bezel locking system from Vogard’s lever that required lifting and closing to change time zones to a more convenient bezel/spring arrangement that unlocked when pushed down to rotate the city ring.
This was a game changer both in user convenience and in assurance that the city ring would not be inadvertently moved. It also proved a far cleaner design. It is this innovation of user convenience that I think allows the piece to compete with at-a-glance worldtimer watches.
The IWC Pilot’s Watch Timezoner Spitfire
The watch IWC sent me for this article wasn’t just any Timezoner. Oh no: it was the Timezoner Spitfire, a special edition limited to 250 watches dedicated to the Silver Spitfire – The Longest Flight project.
It was developed specially for the two pilots, Steve Boultbee-Brooks and Matt Jones, as they embarked on their quest to circumnavigate the globe in a restored vintage Spitfire.
The stainless-steel case, matte black dial, and green textile strap evoke the colors of their Spitfire’s cockpit. The design is inspired by the Mark 11 navigation watch.
The IWC-manufactured 82760 caliber features Pellaton winding with components made of non-wearing ceramic and has a 60-hour power reserve.
IWC Pilot’s Watch Timezoner Spitfire
IWC offers three versions of the Pilot’s Watch Timezoner. Along with the Pilot’s Watch Timezoner Spitfire Edition The Longest Flight they provided for this review, there is also the Pilot’s Watch Timezoner Chronograph and the Pilot’s Watch Timezoner Chronograph Edition 80 Years Flight to New York.
Each is powered by the 82760 caliber using the Vogard bezel-set GMT system. Of the three, the Spitfire is the only one that is not a chronograph.
Its layout is a little different than the other two: local time can be set using the central hour and minute hands. That same time is also shown in the 24-hour window at 12 o’clock, conveniently differentiating day from night (remember Writers’ Rule #1).
I found this redundant. In my opinion, owners would be better served if the 24-hour display window showed a second time zone, making this a true GMT (by my definition) without any user interaction.
The chronograph versions of the Timezoner employ a red secondary hand with a 24-hour dial ring to differentiate day from night. It serves the same function as the 24-hour window in the Spitfire. My observation of redundancy holds for these two pieces as well. In my humble opinion, the Spitfire’s use of a 24-hour window gives the dial a cleaner look. Especially since the chronograph and second subdials intercept the 24-hour ring, making the reader guess at certain times.
All three versions use Arabic numerals 1-11 with IWC’s traditional triangle with two side dots representing the 12. The Spitfire uses luminescent paint just on the hands and the markers at 12, 3, 6, and 9. This glows a nice green in the dark.
In daylight the numbers are white while the hands and the 3-6-9-12 markers are beige. I appreciate a well-lit display in the dark. My preference would have been to cover everything in luminescent paint, though. Red dial text designates this piece as a Spitfire with “Timezoner” in white beneath. Neither of the other two models have such a designation.
The tobacco-colored Pilot’s Watch Timezoner Chronograph Edition 80 Years Flight to New York honors Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s 1939 transatlantic flight. This model is limited to 80 watches.
The dial and city ring are tobacco brown, commemorating the flight suits worn in Saint-Exupéry’s time. Paris and New York – the time zones marking the start and finish of Saint-Exupéry’s flight – are printed in red on the city ring.
My observation about the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Chronograph WT using red against an already dark background holds here as well: those two cities are decidedly not as readable as those depicted in white. The other two versions have black dials.
All three versions have the date window at 3 o’clock.
The case is the same for all three Timezoners: brushed stainless steel with a diameter of 46 mm and a height of 16.8 mm for the chronographs and 15.1 for the Spitfire.
Each features a screw-in crown and has a water resistance of 6 bars. In keeping with IWC’s tradition of pilot’s watches the crown on the Spitfire is similar in size to that of the Big Pilot – which is to say, substantial and extraordinarily easy to use.
The crown on the Saint-Exupéry limited edition and the unlimited black dial Timezoner are smaller, but certainly sufficient to gain a good grasp. The lugs curve gently down, making this 46 mm watch easier to wear.
The Spitfire comes with a green textile strap and a brushed stainless deployant buckle. The lugs accommodate a 22 mm strap. In my opinion the textile strap coupled with the beige luminescent paint on the hands and the 3-6-9-12 markers give the watch quite a nice antique, military bearing.
Straps for the tobacco-colored special edition and the regular black dial Timezoner are in brown and black calfskin respectively. Since the watch is large and heavy, these straps are substantial and stiff when new.
For my taste, I favored keeping the strap fairly snug – just the little finger barely slipping between my wrist and the strap to prevent this top-heavy watch from sliding around.
Using the Timezoner bezel
The mechanics of using the Timezoner bezel to tell the time in another zone is the same for all three pieces. I found it to be intuitive, easy to use, and a convenient tool. Though this watch is not a true worldtimer, a quick turn of the bezel displays the time in any of the 24 time zones.
This is perhaps not quite as convenient as simply glancing at the JLC’s dial and finding 24 different time zones immediately available, but nevertheless convenient.
By order of utility for someone requiring immediate time of day in these 24 time zones I’d rank them as:
- JLC’s Polaris Chronograph WT
- IWC’s Spitfire Timezoner
- Apple Watch using the World Clock function
Setting the time
Here’s how to set the time and the Timezoner bezel.
- Press down on the bezel at opposite sides while turning it until your current time zone is centered at 12 o’clock. Release the bezel so that there’s a noticeable click and it is now locked in place.
- Unscrew the crown and pull it one click out. The Timezoner has hacking seconds, allowing the movement to stop and be set to the exact second. Now set the local time and date to the second as you would normally any fine timepiece.
- Push in the crown and screw it down. Now the watch shows the accurate local time to the second, the Timezoner bezel is synched with the same local time, and the local time in the 24-hour window is synched as well to distinguish AM from PM.
Reading the time in other time zones
You be the judge in how convenient it is and whether IWC’s Timezoner could be a substitute for a true world timer or GMT watch for you.
- Press down on the bezel at opposite sides while turning it until your desired time zone is centered at 12 o’clock.
- The hour hand and the 24-hour display in the window at 12 o’clock have both jumped in one-hour increments to the correct time in the new zone shown on the Timezoner bezel. You also have the correct date since the date window has advanced or retracted if the change went past midnight. Further, you know if the time in the new time zone is AM or PM from the 24-hour display.
- If you wish to keep the new time zone, then release the bezel so that there’s a noticeable click and it is now locked in place. If not, then turn the bezel back to your reference time zone or some other and click it in place.
With a little practice I was able to navigate around various time zones quite easily.
No, the IWC Timezoner is not a worldtimer. To view the correct time in different time zones does require some interaction by the wearer unlike with a true worldtimer.
Is it a showstopper for someone needing to know the time in various parts of the world at a glance? Maybe, maybe not.
Honestly, I completely enjoyed my all too short time with both the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Chronograph WT and the IWC Timezoner Spitfire. They’re two different watches for two types of applications. Yet both have the same full-hour 24 time zones in common.
The JLC provides instant world time at a glance. It is smaller and lighter than the IWC and wears even smaller. And it is thinner (12.5 mm vs. 15.1 mm for the IWC). I can see owners wearing the JLC as a sport watch and as a casual dress watch.
Not so the IWC. It is a big hunk of metal on the wrist. Being stainless steel rather than titanium like the JLC, it is heavier. No mistaking that this is a tool watch. It is made for a life of travel and work in the cockpit.
I loved the precision of its workings. Moving that ceramic bezel into another time zone was a joy to operate. Frankly, I didn’t much care that all 24 time zones weren’t available at a glance. It just takes a few seconds to move the display around. These are seconds out of my workday to treasure and appreciate the precision IWC is so noted for.
You might choose the Jaeger Le-Coultre Polaris Chronograph WT if . . .
You want a watch that places convenience over to-the-second precision. The JLC has a central chronograph second hand but no second hand for the local time.
You will use it as a dress watch as well as for casual wear.
You have use for a chronograph or just think the subdials look cool.
You love (as I do) the multi-dimensional and textured blue dial. A real show piece.
You (still) have excellent vision and can actually read the city ring without a magnifying glass.
You need to know the time in many different zones instantly with a glance.
You might choose the IWC Pilot’s Watch Timezoner Spitfire if . . .
You like a big watch (as I do) and find you can read the dial and bezel easier.
You appreciate the precision mechanics of interacting with IWC’s technology.
You don’t need a chronograph.
You prefer a less busy dial.
You frequently travel through multiple time zones and need to know the local time in each.
Your preferred style is casual.
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Quick Facts Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Chronograph WT
Case: 44 x 12.5 mm, titanium, water resistant to 10 bar
Dial: black or blue, each with sunray, grained, and opaline finishes; applied numerals and hands coated in Super-LumiNova
Movement: automatic Caliber 752A, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, 65-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; chronograph, world time
Price: $13,900 / CHF 14,300 on a calfskin strap
Quick Facts IWC Pilot’s Watch Timezoner Spitfire Edition
Case: 46 x 15.1 mm, stainless steel, water resistant to 6 bar
Dial: Matte black with white and beige luminescent applied numerals, hands, and markers
Movement: automatic Caliber 82760, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, 60-hour power reserve, Pellaton winding
Functions: hours, minutes, hacking seconds, date, 24-hour display for world time, Timezoner bezel with 24 time zones
Limitation: 250 pieces
Price: $12,400 / CHF 13,500 on a green textile strap with stainless deployant buckle