One watch for four time zones

The most useful timepiece known to man
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First Published: Fri, Oct 05 2012. 08 24 PM IST
The Casio AE1000W World Time Illuminator
The Casio AE1000W World Time Illuminator
Updated: Fri, Oct 05 2012. 08 25 PM IST
Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to tell you that after having spent over four years writing about watches for this newspaper I have finally discovered what I think is the most useful watch that you can possibly buy.
No, it is not made by tiny bespectacled watchmaking elves who live in a tiny log cabin atop a Swiss mountain hunched over vintage workbenches. Nor is it available solely in limited-edition platinum or rose gold at prices so high that if you have to ask you probably shouldn’t ask at all.
In fact, it is probably cheaper than a replacement leather strap for that beloved Baume & Mercier or Tag Heuer Carrera you saved all year to buy last Diwali.
I am talking about the Casio AE1000W World Time Illuminator watch with five alarms. This is simply the most useful timepiece known to man. Or at least, in any case, to this man.
The idea of the watch occurred to me, ironically enough, when I recently visited La Chaux-de-Fonds in Switzerland to have a look at some watch-manufacturing facilities.
Now, I like to think of myself as reasonably adept at mental arithmetic. I can add tips to bills, and convert currencies from GBP to USD to INR to CHF and then back to GBP quickly and reasonably accurately.
However, I am utterly incapable of telling you what the time in Delhi is right now if I know the time in Geneva. Between 1-hour time zones and half-hour time zones, and AM and PM and GMT even the simplest time calculation has me foaming at the mouth and thrashing about on the floor.
And so it is, I suspect, for many other people. I would very much like to walk up to the people who discovered the “Mark Knopfler particle” at CERN, corner one of the scientists, and ask him:
“Currently I am in Mumbai. Next week I am travelling to Edinburgh. When I am there I need to interview someone on the phone at 10am Tokyo time. What time should I wake up in Edinburgh?”
Then I will stand back and watch the Nobel laureate explode into a thousand leptons.
So there I was at La Chaux-de-Fonds, trying to schedule meetings and phone calls to a bunch of people in Delhi, London and New York. And failing completely. Which is when I wondered if it was time for me to invest in one of those world timer or GMT watches.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Why don’t I just check for timing conversions on the Internet? Or use some app on the iPhone? Thank you for your inputs.
The things is I don’t always have a data connection when I am travelling. Second, this need to convert time usually comes up when I am actually on the phone with someone.
Also, why would you want to deprive me of a reason to buy a watch? Especially if it is a delicious piece like Omega’s GMT Speedmaster Broad Arrow? Or the Breitling Unitime?
But then I wondered. Didn’t it make much better sense to just buy a digital quartz watch from Casio or Timex that handles multiple time zones? The watches are cheaper, bomb-proof, and perhaps could handle not just two but multiple time zones.
Forty-eight hours of research later, I was on Amazon, ordering the above-mentioned piece of wonder from Casio. The AE1000W does everything a good Casio does. It tells the time, has a stopwatch, a timer and an illuminator. It allows you to programme up to five daily or single-shot alarms.
But best of all is the world time mode. Press a button and you can toggle between three foreign time zones and your home time. The times are also adjustable for daylight savings.
So right now I have London, Delhi, Geneva and New York set on my watch. The moment I board a plane to Geneva, I toggle to the Geneva time, and then press two buttons simultaneously. Boom. The watch swaps my home time zone for Geneva. No fiddling with settings whatsoever. Indeed, the genius of the piece is that once you set your home time zone accurately, you can toggle between any time zone as many times as you want without losing accuracy.
All that convenience and reliability comes for the towering price of £21 (around Rs 1,815).
So. Good.
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First Published: Fri, Oct 05 2012. 08 24 PM IST
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