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Why not...? - Travel and the Carl F. Bucherer Patravi TravelTec Black

Why not...? Travel and the Carl F. Bucherer Patravi TravelTec Black

Travelling is easy today, but it hasn’t always been like that...

Marine chronometers survive to remind us of a time when travelling was a genuine adventure and never something that is done for pleasure. It is in this difficult context that the watchmaking industry learned to travel and understand the needs of those who were away from home for many months.

Later came the question that seemed simple: “What time is it here”?

It was the start of a long road towards “global” time.

Although the origin of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) dates back to 1675, we had to wait another 200 years for GMT to become the standard time in Great Britain. Thanks to whom? To trains and the dawn of “mass transit”.

Trains revolutionised the notion of timekeeping more than any other means of transport. First they made travelling more affordable. Then they created new needs, like the need to know what time the train arrives. The answer to this simple question is much more complicated than it seems. Because it depends on the time of departure (and therefore the place), the speed, local time etc. This problem, which we have all had to solve at school, is one of the fundamentals of travel time.

The British were the first to have a unified time from 1880.

But across the Atlantic, with the conquest of the West, the problem of time zones became critical.

Contrary to what many people believe, the adventure of transcontinental trains in North America started in the West, and specifically in the town of Sacramento. The idea was to disenclave the emerging California and to move East. The gigantic project took more than six years and linked Sacramento with Omaha, thus opening up the possibility of crossing the US safely in just over a week. 

While travellers in Great Britain had the same time throughout the country, crossing the USA added a new problem. What time was it in Boston, Omaha or Sacramento? And how could these three times be coordinated, connected or measured? This question, asked in 1863, received an operational answer in 1883, when the USA was divided into five time zones.

At the same time, the question also became global and aimed to incorporate all times across the world using the same rule. First of all, a reference time was needed so that the differences from it could be measured.

Achieving this involved a number of political debates (between British GMT and Paris mean time), endless discussions on the intervals (one hour or a half hour), the boundaries and geopolitical changes.

But in the end, between the start of the 20th century and the 1930s the world started to talk the same “time” language, over 250 years after the Royal Observatory was built in Greenwich.

But the story doesn’t end there.

First, one small object changed the way we communicated. It was the telephone. Invented in 1876, it became “international” in 1927 with the first call between New York and London.

In 1931 it was possible to call countries in the Pacific from the USA.

And what was the first question asked in these calls? “What time is it where you are?”.

That was it! Time became tangible and time zones were now “visible” without moving from where you were.

The third stage in the adventure of time zones involved the air. The increasing importance of aeroplanes as a means of transporting passengers sped everything up.

It was only after the second world war that travel started to become more democratic. Bigger, faster and more reliable aircraft were capable of crossing the oceans, hopping across borders and changing “time” even quicker than with the train. Not only did people travel faster, they travelled further.

The time difference – the result of the combination with a change in time zone and the speed at which this change happens – was born. But it wasn’t just that. New requirements emerged, like the need to change the time quickly on one’s watch, or to see departure and arrival times at the same time.

Rolex invented the first genuine travel watch with the GMT Master. This watch, launched in 1954, allowed its wearer to read two time zones simultaneously. It was the result of a cooperation between Rolex and Pan Am (for its pilots) and was above all a professional instrument. But it didn’t remain so for long and quickly found a home on the wrists of the first “global citizens”.

Then, we just needed to wait for progress to continue. Bigger planes (the 747 was launched in 1969), widespread use of the telephone, the appearance of television and the increase in world trade. Planes filled up, prices dropped. The civilisation of leisure was born. Cinema and television allowed people to see the world. Now they just had to discover it.

Today, our trusty old time zones are still there. GMT watches are everywhere, the iPhone indicates the time everywhere and at all times.

Since 1954, watchmakers have never stopped thinking about how to make world time more visible, easier to read and more accessible. The World Time complication was invented by Emmanuel Cottier in 1894 and its first commercial implementation came in the Vacheron Constantin 3372.

Then there was the first wristwatch to feature the function, the Patek Philippe Worldtimer 515HU.

Today, GMT watches are everywhere. Some brands try different approaches and want to push the limits of world time measurement.

Carl F. Bucherer is one of them.

And its TravelTec is worth the trip…

Why Carl F. Bucherer?

What is the coolest journey you can make? Time travel! If you like cinema and you are very attentive, you might have noticed that Cable – the best enemy or the worst friend of Deadpool – is capable of travelling through time thanks to a Carl F. Bucherer watch!

If you need to hide a list of secret agents and get it across the Berlin Wall a few days before it falls, then a Carl F. Bucherer once again does the job (Atomic Blonde).

And guess which watch you need to wear to strike at a megalodon in a lost corner of the ocean? Yet again a Carl F. Bucherer (The Meg – Li BingBing wears a ScubaTec). And I won’t even mention John Wick or Fast & Furious.

But Carl F. Bucherer isn’t a Hollywood brand! It was born in Lucerne in 1888 on the initiative of Carl Friedrich Bucherer. Today, 130 years later, it remains an independent and – something that is rare enough that it is worth noting – family-owned brand.

The brand’s creations alternate between neo-vintage (the Adamavi on a mesh bracelet), classic (the beautiful Manero Flyback and Manero Peripheral) and avant-garde (the TravelTec and the ScubaTec).

For a number of years the brand has had a more aggressive marketing and business strategy and has been more and more visible. It has a number of arguments to seduce genuine watch lovers and is worth taking a closer look at.

I have to admit that, for a long time, Carl F. Bucherer was not one of the brands on my bucket list. I had a passive interest in some of their watches, but none of them appealed to me enough to try them on or buy them.

But only fools never change their mind and it was a TravelTec that I saw on the wrist of a passenger on a flight to Kuala Lumpur that made me change mine.

The TravelTec is a traveller’s watch on steroids (the watch, not the traveller!) and cannot leave you indifferent once you understand it.

The Carl F. Bucherer Patravi TravelTec Black: Travel Freak!

Not one, not two but three time zones! And a chronograph, too. All in a matt black case with seductive round lines and a diameter of almost 47mm.

The Patravi TravelTec catches your eye because of its look, but impresses you because of its technical prowess.

If you are looking for a simple watch that is easy to wear or discreet, move on. The Patravi TravelTec Black  is made to be noticed. It’s its thickness that impresses as much as its diameter. At almost 16mm, it is competing in the heavyweight category.

Travel and the Carl F. Bucherer Patravi TravelTec Black

Patravi TravelTec Black © Carl F. Bucherer

Its case is solid, black and fitted with two crowns and two chronograph pushers. The latter are rectangular, solid and perfectly integrated into the case. A crown at 10 o’clock is used to set the third time zone. Everything else is done using the time-setting crown.

The dial is worthy of an Airbus A380 cockpit. It is complex, but in a good way. Once you have actually understood it, it’s quite easy to read.

Travel and the Carl F. Bucherer Patravi TravelTec Black

Close-up of the dial © Carl F. Bucherer

There are two graduated bezels with a 24-hour scale, three chronograph counters, a date, a GMT hand and three hands for the hours, minutes and seconds. It’s easier to discover the watch IRL (In Real Life). Just remember that the two bezels can be used to read two different time zones. The third is local time.

The Carl F. Bucherer Patravi TravelTec is driven by a movement based on an ETA 2894 but considerably modified by the THA (Techniques Horlogères Appliquées) workshops that have been part of the company since 2007. The fact that this movement, launched in 2005, has been around for 13 years is testament to its solidity and performance.

Travel and the Carl F. Bucherer Patravi TravelTec Black

Case back view © Carl F. Bucherer

The movement is not visible through the case back but you can see it through a small window on the side of the case at 9 o’clock, which is a choice that is as original as it is attractive. You can see the movement working from an angle that is not usually on offer.

The Carl F. Bucherer Patravi TravelTec comes with a choice of black rubber strap or stainless-steel bracelet. I would advise against the steel bracelet because it weighs down a watch that is already quite chunky. The rubber strap is by far the best option and underscores the watch’s sporty character.

This Patravi TravelTec is a sniper that has its target in its sights. It doesn’t do things by halves. You either like it or you don’t, and that’s it.

And that’s why it deserves your attention.

What does the devil’s advocate think?

Too big, too complicated, too heavy, too much of everything? We could criticise a lot of things about this Carl F. Bucherer TravelTec. But it is solid enough and sure enough of itself not to be bothered too much.

The Carl F. Bucherer Patravi is uncomprising and the devil’s advocate will just have to accept that!

Nevertheless, a case in titanium – or ceramic – wouldn’t hurt, neither would a strap in canvas or sail canvas, which would have accentuated the tool watch aspect. A slightly smaller logo on the dial would have free up some more space, too.

The three chronograph counters could have been finished in a more discreet way to show off the multi-GMT function better.

The main criticism – but it’s a classic one for any travel watch – is the inability to deal with some time zones where the difference is only 30 minutes. This is one of the last frontiers for watch brands to cross. And I would like the Carl F. Bucherer teams to find a solution that is as bold as the rest of the TravelTec!

It’s over to you...

How to wear the Carl F. Bucherer Patravi TravelTec in travel mode?

So it’s time to fly off to discover the world, or at least three of its time zones.

If you happen to be at Tom Bradley terminal in Los Angeles and you are about to board a 15-hour flight, it’s better to be comfortable and well equipped.

So no shirt, but a T-shirt – and it must be long-sleeved. The air conditioning in a Boeing 787 can have you holed up in bed without warning. My favourite is the Uniqlo in Supima Cotton, in white or grey.

Another vital accessory: a lightweight multipurpose scarf. I love the ones from Zadig et Voltaire and I never travel without a Delta camo or a navy-blue Skull.

If you are hoping to get some sleep you need to think above all about comfort and movement: so you either need denim with a high percentage of elastane (my favourites are Levi’s 501 stretch or Jacob Cohen in light fabric) or high-quality jogging pants (Brunello Cucinelli or Ralph Lauren Purple Label, both in anthracite, which is the easiest colour to match).

There is nothing better than a pair of Zegna Imperia sneakers for your feet. They look like normal sneakers (with laces) but they are in fact slip-ons, which is very practical when you keep having to take them off and put them back on again.
For the compulsory blazer, try a “Traveler” model from Boss, Loro Piana or a “10-pocket” by Zegna. Choose a crease-resistant and lightweight fabric (ideally with a mix of silk).

To carry all your other belongings, a Rimowa suitcase in black aluminium would match your Patravi TravelTec perfectly. Another interesting option could be the Louis Vuitton Horizon 55 in black leather with a red handle.

There you go. The plane has just taken off. Sit back and relax.

On the screen, Cable is about to head off in search of his past, with his steampunk-style Carl F. Bucherer on his wrist.

What time is it?

Here or there?

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