There are timepieces built to serve a useful function and there are timepieces intended to dazzle the eye and draw attention to one’s wrist from across the room, and it is rare when the twain meet. But Arnold & Son — the innovative manufacture named for British watchmaker John Arnold and now, at least in the arena of high-end traditional horology, the crown jewel of Japan’s Citizen Watch group — has accomplished it with the Globetrotter, a visually arresting world-time watch released in 2018.
I discovered the Globetrotter — which the brand describes as “a timepiece for the modern-day navigator,” taking inspiration from the high-precision marine chronometers created by John Arnold in the 18th century — at last year’s Baselworld, and made a mental note to get a hold of it as soon as possible for a wrist review. As it happens, the right time proved to be this past spring, during my reporting visit to the annual CoutureTime watch showcase in Las Vegas. Of course, as with any business trip that takes me out of my New York City office and away from the Eastern Time Zone, the watch’s multi-time-zone functionality proved to be a boon.
The Globetrotter is something of a departure aesthetically for Arnold & Son, whose watches in the past few years have been known for more sober, technical looks, with lots of dial-side, exposed tech elements — in essence, like something you might have seen on one of John Arnold’s workbenches in the 1770s. The brand has been reaching beyond those boundaries lately, however, notably with the dazzling 3-D moon and bright blue guilloché dial in its HMS Perpetual Moon, to name just one. With the Globetrotter, which hails from Arnold & Son’s Instrument Collection, the brand provides an even more contemporary and eye-catching take on a celestial body — in this case, a polar view of Planet Earth itself, executed as a domed disk in the centre of the dial and anchored by a gleaming, curved bridge. As alluded to in my intro, however, this spinning mini-globe is there to serve a very utilitarian purpose as well.
To start with the exterior, the Globetrotter’s array of functions are housed in a 45-mm case in mirror-polished stainless steel. The case flows into the sharply faceted yet still smoothly curved lugs. The small, fluted crown at 3 o’clock is onion-shaped for easy extracting and includes an engraved Arnold & Son crown-and-anchor crest on its surface. The caseback, with its sapphire window providing a view of the movement, is held by six screws. A very thin, sloping bezel frames the expansive dial, covered by a highly domed sapphire crystal that account for the watch’s relatively thick profile of 17.23 mm. The domed crystal, as you might surmise, is necessitated by the similarly domed, photorealistic Earth disk in the dial’s middle, which is suspended on its axis by a large, central arched bridge, forked on its ends, which spans the centre of the dial.
Before delving into the globe, and how it works, let’s pause to admire the more traditional elements of the Globetrotter’s dial, whose outer perimeter consists of a brushed-finish chapter ring with black printed minutes – Arabic numerals at the 5-minute marks and dots for the interim minute markers, with the notable exceptions of 15 and 45, which are occupied by visible screws that hold fast either end of the central bridge. Inside this outer ring is a an opaline disk with black Roman numerals. Inside that is the visual mother lode: a 3D chemical-engraved Earth whose realistic details come alive under a loupe. The process of making this hemispherical indicator, according to Arnold & Son, begins with sandblasting a brass disk to create the land masses, then applying several tones of blue lacquer by hand to fill in the oceans. The entire disk is then treated with another layer of clear lacquer, before undergoing a final polishing.
Directly under the globe is a sapphire disk numbered 1-24 for the world time display. Tucked under this showcase central display are the all-important hour and minute hands for the local time, arrow-shaped, constructed in blued steel, and filled with red lacquer for contrast against both the white dial and large blue areas of the world-time globe. Peeking out from under the globe disk so as to not obscure the polar view, these hands are distinguished from one another (albeit subtly) by the length of their tips. The hour hand is a bit broader and shorter and just brushes the lower half of the Roman hour numerals, while the minute hand is thinner, longer and touches the edge of the minute track.
Believe it or not, one becomes accustomed to this unconventional and understated method of reading the local time very quickly, though there are still points where it becomes downright impossible, i.e., when the hands intersect the central bridge around the 3 o’clock/15 minute and 9 o’clock/45-minute mark. Depending on the angle of your watch, times like 3:45 and 9:15 can disappear almost entirely from the dial. And of course, there is no seconds hand and no luminous material, so it becomes fairly obvious that Arnold & Son did not aim this timepiece at wearers for whom extreme promptness is an issue.
The audience the Globetrotter is intended for, of course, is frequent international travellers who would find its 24-hour world-time function useful. We’ve established its aesthetic bonafides; so how does a frequent traveler actually use the timepiece? It’s all controlled by the three-position crown and requires little specialised knowledge beyond a simple grasp of geography. Pull it out to its third position, visualising a straight line from the dial’s centre, passing through your current city as indicated on the globe, and set the time accordingly — the hour by aligning the hemisphere with the 24-hour scale and the minute by moving the minutes hand clockwise. (Example: if home time is 5;30 PM in Los Angeles, the sector of the map corresponding to California should be lined up between 17:00 and 18:00 on the sapphire-disk scale.) Push the crown into its second position to set the local time by moving the hour hand in one-hour jumps, clockwise or counterclockwise, then push the crown back into its first (winding) position, snug against the case. At this point, the globe and the hands will display the same time.
When you arrive in another time zone, simply pull the crown back out to position 2 and move the hour hand in either direction, along the 12-hour outer scale, to set the new local time while the home time, as indicated on the globe, remains stationary. If you’re in one of the few time zones that don’t line up on the hour (i.e., India and Nepal), you can simply set the minute hand independently, in position 3, to line up with the local time hour hand. Of course, you can also read the time in other time zones simultaneously simply by scanning where the hemisphere lines up with the 24-hour disk.
Responsible for all of this functionality is Arnold & Son’s manufacture Caliber A&S6022, with automatic bidirectional winding via a skeletonised, black ALDC-treated rotor decorated with a distinctive hobnail guilloché motif. Through that swinging mass, which fuels the watch’s power reserve of 45 hours, you can glimpse other elements of the grey NAC-treated movement, such as the mainplate, enhanced with the Côtes de Genève rayonnantes pattern that has become a hallmark of Arnold & Son calibers; bridges with hand-chamfered and polished edges, screws with mirror-polished, beveled heads; circular satin-finished wheels; and the large balance wheel oscillating at a brisk 28,800 vph frequency.
The ocean blue of the world-time disk harmonises perfectly with the shiny, maritime-blue calfskin leather strap that secures the Globetrotter to the wrist with a simple buckle in polished stainless steel. It is a testament to the skills of Arnold & Son’s watchmakers and designers that despite its substantial diameter and girth, the watch not only never feels too weighty or unbalanced on the wrist but also fits relatively comfortably under most shirt and jacket cuffs. The uses of blue, silvery white, and basic black for the detailing also make it stylishly compatible with a range of dressy ensembles, from black tie to casual navy jacket, always erring just on the right side of the thin line between eye-catching and ostentatious that too many such “exotic” pieces stumble over.
If you don’t mind a little eye-catching, however, the Globetrotter, as alluded to above, definitely delivers in that area. After my last appointment at CoutureTime 2019, as per tradition, I settled into my favorite cigar lounge on the Vegas Strip, rolled up my sleeves and unwound with a cigar, cocktail and NBA playoff highlights on the bar TV. Before I could pay the tab, the barmaid asked excitedly to see the “crazy” timepiece on my wrist. As I slipped it off to give her a closer look, another server approached with even more questions about the Globetrotter, admitting that he’d been eyeing it from across the room since I sat down. After securing my permission, he brought the watch over to another table where a couple of customers, presumably watch lovers, also gave it a thorough and admiring once-over. Needless to say, it was a while before I actually settled up and left.
One more aspect of the Arnold & Son Globetrotter that’s likely to widen eyes is its price: Rs. 12.08 lakh (approx.) or $16,995, an eminently reasonable ask for a timepiece with a user-friendly and visually stunning world-time complication as well as high level of haute horlogerie engineering and finishing.