Watchmakers have a score to settle with Venezuela. Nothing serious, just a matter of 30 minutes or 1,800 seconds, and a minute hand that has swung back and forth twice in nine years. Any self-respecting watchmaker is particular about punctuality. After spending years developing a watch capable of showing 24 time zones, after putting together a communication plan that promises the globe on your wrist, after defying time zones with a mechanical movement, one can reasonably expect “those in charge” not to go fiddling around with the hours and minutes at the drop of a hat. So who would have thought that Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro would wake up one morning and decide to change his country’s time zone by 30 minutes? Not watchmakers.
Venezuela has it in for watch brands, or so it would seem. Already in 2007, Hugo Chavez put the country’s clocks back by 30 minutes. The “omnipresident” rejected claims that this was an arbitrary decision, declaring that thanks to this new measure, it would be light when children woke up for school. This was, he said, a compromise in a country that extends over two time zones.
Venezuela isn't the only country in the world to have a half-hour difference with the rest of its time zone.
What goes around comes around, and so on May 1st this year, the country’s incumbent president, Nicolás Maduro, brought the time forward by half an hour in order to save energy: Venezuela is struggling with power cuts as water levels have fallen at the nation’s hydroelectric plants. Back to square one. To summarise, in 2007 the country went to -4h30 GMT. On May 1st it went back to -4h GMT. Still with us?
This is bad news for watchmakers. Venezuela isn’t the only country in the world to have a half-hour difference with the rest of its time zone. India, Afghanistan, Burma, Iran, Sri Lanka, Newfoundland in Canada, parts of Australia, and some islands in the Pacific and Indian Ocean are in the same boat. Certain watchmakers have responded with timepieces so precise they indicate every time zone, including those that don’t fall bang on the hour.
Vacheron Constantin is one, having launched its Traditionnelle World Time at the third Watches&Wonders in 2015, in Hong Kong. It is precise to the point of indicating 37 time zones, including those which are offset from GMT by thirty or fifteen minutes… including Caracas at–4h30 GMT!
While Venezuela’s new time will leave certain brands perplex, others are delighted as they will no longer have to rack their brains in search of ways to contain this South-American country inside a multiple time zone watch. For example, the Pilot’s Timezoner Chronograph by IWC can put Caracas in the same bag as La Paz in Bolivia, also -4H00 GMT. As an added bonus, a small letter “s” for summertime, on the rotating bezel, indicates cities such as London and New York that switch to daylight saving time.
Another watch that performs equally well is the new Reference 5230 from Patek Philippe, which incorporates recent changes in the official designation of the 24 time zones, and will replace all current world time watches by the Maison.
Special mention also goes to the Montblanc 4810 Orbis Terrarum, which shows the time in 24 zones, including La Paz, in an intelligent and intuitive way. As for the Tambour Monogram Time Zone from Louis Vuitton, it features the time in La Paz and enough glamour to make it any woman’s preferred travel companion. Over at Richard Mille, suffice to keep an eye on the time zone for San Juan, Porto Rico, when adjusting the rotating bezel of the RM 63-02 World Timer.