There is no shortage of consumer products that at least say they were designed for a specific type of buyer. In the camera world – and probably some others – even a range of users called “prosumers” exists. However, once you find that you are a demanding consumer in at least one particular niche of products, you’re bound to shortly find that only a fraction of the available goods will get even close to delivering on the promised features that they boasted about. World timer and GMT watches are similar, with the term “proper GMT” even becoming a known term among seasoned watch enthusiasts, to set apart the lesser or more complex watches with second time zone indications. The Glashütte Original Senator Cosmopolite is one of only a handful of proper dual-time-zone watches, engineered to deliver on the promises others make.
We all know – and certainly more than few of us love – the traditional world timer look, invented by Louis Cottier and largely singled out by Patek, but also occasionally used by a good handful of others. However, since the early 1930s inception of that elegant solution for a watch that could indicate different time zones simultaneously, the dimension of time, as we know and keep it on Earth, has become a fair bit more complicated. So complicated, in fact, that only a handful of luxury watchmakers dared/bothered to take on the challenge of creating a watch that can not only display any of the world’s 35 time zones, but can do so in a user-friendly, sensible, easily adjustable, user-error-mitigating way. Once you add these latter components into the equation, the selection of luxury world timer watches shrinks smaller and smaller.
This is not to say that brands – even the biggest, most powerful ones like Rolex or Patek – didn’t love to go on about the world of business class globetrotting and the remarkable utility of watches that can display a second time zone. Just think of the GMT-Master II (hands-on with a very special one of those here) or the rather controversial Patek 5524. Patek refers to the latter as “a supreme test of ingenuity” – yeah, right. However, the fact of the matter is that as useful as a GMT hand can be at times, most of them are tricky to adjust, adjust in only full one-hour increments, leave room for user error and, one could argue, are not purposefully designed for use by the business world’s heavy-duty travelers. That’s where the Glashütte Original Senator Cosmopolite comes into the picture.
How the trick, 63-jewel, 3-day power reserve, in-house produced Glashütte Original Calibre 89-02, and especially its unique timezone changing complication works, we discuss in a dedicated article. As such, I’ll spare the mind-bending details from this review, but will not omit to later on tell how it basically functions. Besides, I’ll focus on other elements that a watch designed for frequent intercontinental travel must get right.
In-Flight Food… For Thought
The first and certainly one of the more important aspects of the Senator Cosmopolite that I think we must address is the following. It’s a purpose designed, purpose built watch. Then again, there is no shortage of these – some watches have been to the Moon and back, others can go really quite very deep in open waters, yet others are to be worn by airline pilots, and so on and so forth. However, most of these watches and their purpose designed functionalities and features never ever get used or even once put to the test by their respective owners. That’s not a complaint, it’s a fact.
Now, things are going to be different with a watch whose every functionality is linked to world travel – something many more people do than, say, perform compression diving. Not to mention that a great deal more people bring luxury watches along for travel than for diving or flying or on missions into outer space. Therefore, this luxury watch, unlike many others designed for specific use scenarios, won’t be allowed to miss a beat – because its buyers, who have shelled out a considerable sum, are bound to notice if and when it does.
At just over €20,000 in steel, the recently introduced Glashütte Original Senator Cosmopolite is an expensive travel companion – even if it costs nearly half as much as the red gold and white gold variants that had been exclusively available. Still, for this sort of money, I think one should expect not only flawless reliability and functionality, but also exceptional entertainment value. That, again, is thin ice, as all of us will have a more or less different idea of how that translates into watch design and a watch wearing experience. Not wishing to speak for anyone else, I’ll tell you my take on that.
I realized this latter expectation on a long haul flight between the Old Continent and America, when, with my eyes too tired to read but my brain not tired enough to take in anything the poor selection of in-flight entertainment could offer, I went back to looking at the watch I was wearing. I turned my overhead lights on (belated apologies to everyone seated nearby) and started looking at the case, the dial, and especially the movement, trying to put myself in the minds of its engineers to figure out why things were the way they were on the Senator Cosmopolite.
My impression was that of an overwhelming desire to create an item of uncompromised quality – and the fact that the extent of this could surprise me in a €20k watch says a lot of what you need to know about the current state of luxury watch offerings. That is to say that not all watches in the low-five-figure segment offer the level of detailing and quality that I think they should. What I’m getting at is that a luxury watch has to be dripping with fine details, unique design elements, quirky solutions and, before all else, must try as hard as it can to make every minute you spend looking (not just glancing) at it an occasion. The way that’s achieved in the Senator Cosmopolite, however, is rather unique – see chapter “Conflicts of interest” for more on why that is.
The Not-So-Basic Basics
A slim bezel surrounds a large, crispy white dial. Case diameter is a full 44mm while thickness is 14mm. It is large, but not simply for the sake of being large. Look closely and you’ll see that the double time zone indicators at 8 o’clock (more precisely the double IATA location code apertures) are tucked right next to the bezel, at the very edge of the dial. Now, picture its disc running all around the dial, as well as the two, concentric discs for the PanoramaDate at 4 o’clock. A tier further inside you’ll find the power reserve, as well as the two AM/PM indicators for the local time at 9 and for home time under 12 o’clock, respectively. This means that the Glashütte Original Senator Cosmopolite couldn’t possibly be any narrower – especially since it has some of the thinnest bezels out there, wrapped around the movement in a way so as to add as little extra girth to the watch as possible. The movement itself measures 39.2mm wide, leaving less than 5mm of steel altogether to keep it safe from the outer world.
Set 21mm, the lugs are as pronounced as they need to be – any stubbier and they look disproportionately small, any longer and they look stupid and render the entire watch unwearable for anyone with a wrist under 7.5″. As it was, I just got away with it with my 6.75″ inch wrist. Thickness is kept at its lowest with the use of a micro-rotor embedded as deeply into the movement as apparently possible. Given that the Senator Cosmopolite has 8 indications (9, if you count the double IATA code as two, but why would you?), along with a massive balance wheel and bridge, as well as automatic winding and a 3-day power reserve, the 8mm thickness of the movement and the consequent 14mm thickness of the watch is, again, as slim as it can get.
What Does It Do? How Does It Work?
I really want us to look at and understand the detailing on this watch, but I feel like I should get these questions out of the way first. Again, the exact functionality and the remarkably clever mechanical engineering behind it all is explained in this article. In essence, the Glashütte Original Senator Cosmopolite can display home time in the sub-dial at 12 o’clock and the local time, i.e. a second timezone on the main hands in the center of the dial. The two can be set independent of one another, with the main hands adjusting in 15-minute increments, accompanied with the automatic adjustment of the IATA city codes displayed in the apertures around the 8 o’clock index.
Where the Senator Cosmopolite really stands out is in its ability to display time in 35 different time zones, even those that are offset by 30 or 45 minutes. These have IATA codes printed in blue and red, respectively. The city codes help the busy traveler accurately adjust the local time, giving reassurance about his math working correctly. All you need to do is set the watch up correctly once by adding your home time and then any local time from any part of the world, with the correct IATA code linked to it. And from then on ever after, you just adjust the local time via the crown at the 4 o’clock position, and do so without upsetting the timekeeping functionality – the watch keeps on ticking and keeping your accurate home time. Needless to say, when something is so simple and straightforward on a dial, there’s some intense engineering going on right behind it.
The movement itself, although we’ll talk about it more later, offers 3 full days of power reserve, replenished by an elaborately crafted micro-rotor with a 21ct gold inertia weight, runs at 4Hz and is produced in-house by Glashütte Original in its highly impressive manufacture in… Glashütte.
Conflicts Of Interest
Now, the “conflict of interest” comes from this being a German watch, with its movement proudly produced in Glashütte, Saxony, and its dial and case yet more proudly crafted in Pforzheim, Baden-Württemberg; a good 6-hour drive away. The movement and dial manufactures are owned by Glashütte Original, whereas the case manufacture is literally upstairs from the dial manufacture, inside the same building, but not technically owned by the brand. All this, ruled over by the (at this point cliché-worthy) Germanic approach to design, results in a watch that has a decidedly heavy focus on functionality. A watch, where you are required to have an eye and sense for their take on luxury levels of detailing, or else you’ll simply miss out on them and find yourself longing for more. To tell how the Glashütte Original Senator Cosmopolite delivers on this specifically, let’s see its many smaller details.
The first impression that the Glashütte Original Senator Cosmopolite makes is that of a large, solid watch that intimidates with its many indications, lack of boasting text on the dial, and the consequently serious, purpose oriented design. Once one gets to a point that these can be aside and a second impression can be made, that is dominated by the minute details that are small in quantity and yet smaller in size.
The case is far from a “love at first sight” affair for it doesn’t try to impress or overwhelm with superficial details, or its own l’art pour l’art take on redefining watch case design. Rather, it is a developed appreciation that, by definition, takes time to attain. I note two things about the exterior as my favorite in the Senator Cosmopolite – the first one being something I already hinted at further above as missing from so many of the watches on sale today for four or low five figure prices. This first thing is the solidity of the feel of the base material used and the achieved overall look and feel of the finished case. While many major brands have allegedly outsourced a lot of their case and bracelet production to Asia, and although said Asian suppliers are capable of creating a final product that fools the inexperienced watch buyer (all the while it being borderline impossible for us to come with hard proof on which cases are or are not made in Asia thanks to conveniently loose “Swiss Made” regulations), I will still go out on a limb and say that one can actually find and define strong differences between watch case qualities achieved by today’s luxury brands.