The world of high-end watches has seen several new releases of worldtimers in the last years. Until a decade ago, the worldtimer wrist watch, originally developed by Louis Cottier, was a complication that was dominated by brands like Patek Philippe and Girard-Perregaux (with their WW.TC). In the past years a few more contenders entered the market of world timers, however with the launch of the Montblanc Heritage Spirit Orbis Terrarum, earlier this year, we have a new player in luxury entry level. It comes at a retail price of approx. € 5,500 Euro. The watches are now becoming available in stores and we thought it would be a good idea to review it. A worldtimer is after all one of the most convenient complications in this day and age, and with such a price, Montblanc makes this complication available for a larger audience.
The Montblanc Heritage Spirit Orbis Terrarum comes in a 41mm case, in either stainless steel or 18k red gold. Besides the modest diameter, the case is only 11.99mm thick, making this a very comfortable watch to wear. In this review we will focus on wearing the watch on a daily basis in the office, and during a trip from Amsterdam to New York (and back.) That was the perfect opportunity to test the worldtimer properties in real life and for the exact purpose that it has been designed for.
Here at Monochrome we’re working with people from all around the globe, and I don’t think we’re unique in that. Whether it’s business, family, friends or maybe hobby related, chances are that you’re in contact with people from all over the world as well. One of the things that we have to realize, although this might sound rather obvious, is what time it is before calling someone on the other side of the Earth. And it doesn’t always have to be related to a phone call, it can also be because a fast response is required and knowing the local times helps to know whether that fast response is realistic or not.
We’re in the lucky position to wear quite a few different watches, going from entry level luxury (take for instance the Tudor Heritage Chrono Blue) to ultra-high-end timepieces like the Lange & Söhne Double Split, URWERK UR-210. Most people that we encounter on a daily basis are used to seeing something new on our wrists, and I have to say that some watches just catch more attention than others. The reason for saying this, is that the Orbis Terrarum got a lot of very positive remarks. It’s the size, the quality and finish, and especially the lovely dial that catches the attention.
This multilayer dial shows the Earth from the North Pole, and all continents on the Northern Hemisphere are visible. The seas are printed in blue, on the underside of a sapphire dial, and the continents are transparent with light blue surroundings. Below this sapphire disk with seas and continents, is a second disk – half silver, half dark blue – that rotates in 24 hours. Because the continents are transparent, the dark blue of the lower disk is visible and shows the part of the Earth where it’s night, and where it’s day. This allows for a quick view on whether it’s day or night all 24 time zones around the world.
Just around the centre depicting the continents, is a ring with cities that represent the 24 timezones. Around that is a 24-hour ring that is half silver, half dark blue, and that rotates in 24 hours. Aligned with each city is the time in that city, and in the entire timezone that it represents.
On some worldtimers setting time is a bit of a hassle, but not so with the Orbis Terrarum. When the crown is pulled to the first position, you can change the hour hand with 1-hour increments, and at the same time the 24-hour disk also rotates in 1-hour increments. With the crown pulled to the second position, bot the hour hand and minute hand can be adjusted. The pusher at 8 o’clock will allow for adjusting the hour hand and city-ring with 1-hour increments and this can be used when you’re traveling
In the office or at home
When in the office (or any other place) you can see, in one glance, the times in 24 time zones around the world. While these 24 time zones are not all time zones of the world, it’s good to realize that the these 24 time zones cover most major countries (except India where the time difference is GMT +5.30h). So before I phone our contributor Mario, who lives in Shanghai, it’s good to check what moment of the day it is. The dial of the Orbis Terrarum has a good legibility and only when lights go dim, I needed to turn up the lights in order to read the time in another time zone (and I have to admit that age is starting to have an effect on my eyesight.)
On the photo below you can see that it’s a quarter to 1, as indicated by the central hour and minute hand. The tiny red arrow, located at the 6 o’clock position, tells you that it’s around 1 o’clock in the afternoon, New York time. The silver/blue ring indicates the actual hour in each time zone, and the red arrow points towards the city that represents your local time zone.
At the same time I can see that it’s just after 7 o’clock at home (GMT+1 timezone), and Mario is (hopefully) asleep because it’s just after 2 o’clock at night in Shanghai. It’s convenient to see everything in one glance.
Suppose you fly from New York to Amsterdam; NYC being in the GMT -5 hours and Amsterdam is in the GMT +1 hour time zone. The good thing, is that you don’t have to know this. You can simply see it on the city ring and corresponding 24-hour ring on the Orbis Terrarum. During the flight you can adjust your watch to the time zone of your destination. Since I’m flying back to Amsterdam, I have to align Paris – the city that represents the same timezone – with the small red arrow at 6 o’clock. You do this by pushing the button at the 8 o’clock position, and both the hour hand and the city ring rotate with 1 hour increments.
The Montblanc Heritage Spirit Orbis Terrarum on the wrist
The size, being 41mm in diameter and just less than 12mm thick, is just great. Please note that all worldtimers are a few millimeters thicker than your average time-only watch. The worldtimer needs some additional gears and levers, and that means a few extra millimeters. On top of that, the rotating city disc and 24-hour ring also take up additional space, and add another few millimeters to the overall height of the watch.
On my average size wrist it wears great, comfortable and also looks like the right size. Besides the pleasant diameter and thickness, the short downward sloping lugs also add to the comfort on the wrist. The Orbis Terrarum comes on a very nice alligator leather strap with double folding buckle. Personally I prefer a tang buckle, however among folding buckles this is certainly one of the nicest and slimmest buckles I’ve seen.
All together the Montblanc Heritage Spirit Orbis Terrarum is a winner, visually, functionally, ease of use and comfort on the wrist are all great. Oh, and price-wise it’s absolutely great, because it’s one of the most affordable worldtimers on the market, and in price/quality ratio it’s unbeatable. Check the Montblanc website’s web shop or the dealer locator to find a local retailer.