I find that complicated dress or business watches can be hard to get right visually. What I mean by complicated in this case are watches that indicate more than the time. Dress watches are about elegance and poise, which can be a challenge for designers when wanting to incorporate additional features in a watch meant to be (at least regularly) worn with a suit. With that said, I do like to explore slightly complicated dress watches that have both a timeless elegance to them as well as useful complications that can come in handy regularly. On that note, today I look at the German Wempe Zeitmeister Classic Large Date watch (the reference WM37 family of Wempe watches) as the WM37 0003 with the white dial and matching steel bracelet.
While the Zeitmeister (“time master”) Classic Large Date name is a correct if partial description of what the watch does, it lacks some needed personality. Wempe’s lack of putting a lot of personality focus on this product comes with the territory when talking about a conservative German timepiece. Wempe is a high-end watch retailer chain and among the few that also have their own in-house brand. The watches are assembled in Glashutte, Germany, with most of them bearing the term “Chronometer” on the dial. This is a core part of the value proposition for all Wempe Zeitmeister watches and I will remind watch lovers again that a German Chronometer is slightly different from a Swiss Chronometer.
Swiss Chronometers are certified by COSC in Geneva while German Chronometers are (in this case) certified by Wempe themselves at their Sternwarte observatory facility in Glashutte. Chronometer certification is an assurance of movement performance, which is meant to add value to a product because it helps support a manufacturer’s claim of accuracy and reliability. A watch doesn’t need to be certified as a Chronometer to perform well, but the fact that some independent evaluation test was performed on each specific watch does appeal to a lot of people who invest a fair amount of money on a mechanical timepiece. I previously discussed more about the differences between Swiss and German chronometer watch certification of the Glashutte Original Senator Chronometer watch.
The movement being certified as a German Chronometer is the Swiss ETA 2892-A2 automatic (4Hz operational frequency with about two days of power reserve), which has a module on it and offers additional complications. Thus, Wempe uses a stable and good quality base movement with an additional system on top of it for the large date complication as well as the second time zone feature. It isn’t always the fact that an otherwise high-performance movement remains highly performing after a module is placed on it, so the good news here is that with the Chronometer certification, we know the Zeitmeister Classic Large Date watch should be a solid product to live with in terms of reliability.
My favorite part about the dial layout is the symmetry. This is not the first time I’ve seen a watch with this particular combination of complications, but they are uncommon, to say the least. In addition to the time, this watch has what they call a “large date” indicator as well as a subsidiary dial with a second 12-hour dial. With the secondary dial for the time, you can see two different time zones on the same dial. The difference between something like this watch and a GMT is that on a GMT watch the second time zone is indicated in a 24-hour format, versus the 12-hour format of a watch such as the Wempe Zeitmeister Classic Large Date.
Going back to symmetry, the dial of the watch has the large date indicator under 12 o’clock and the second time zone dial over 6 o’clock. This dial symmetry is attractive to me and I think also offers a legible view of the information. All the functions are operated via the crown which in theory is a good thing. However, this movement was really designed to merely have the time and date. Therefore, the addition of the second time zone introduces an issue when trying to adjust it. The way to adjust the second time zone is that you can only move time in one direction, and you need to change the main time as well in order to change the second time zone’s time. The minute hands of both dials are also connected, which means that even though the two dials can show different hours, they both always show the same minutes.
One of the obvious issues here is the lack of an AM/PM indicator for the second time zone. While having a 12-hour format can make it easier for many people to know what time it is, an issue can arise if you want to know whether it is 2pm or 2am in the other time zone you are attempting to reference. This particular watch is ideal for someone who uses their Zeitmeister Classic Large Date watch to track one different timezone as opposed to changing it around all the time and having to recall how many hours ahead or behind their home city might be. Practically I think that means the Zeitmeister Classic Large Date is good for people who aren’t necessarily traveling and need to keep track of time at home, but rather for people who are at home and need to have a reliable way of tracking the time of one specific place that is located elsewhere.
What drew me to this Wempe Zeitmeister Classic Large Date was the design. Yes, it is a conservative dress watch at heart, but there are a lot of nice touches and design details that Wempe pulled together for this model. Note that if you like the look of the dial and case, but prefer a different set of complications, Wempe offers this case for other watch models that are either more or less complicated. The case is in steel with an elegant use of polished finishing for the bezel, lugs, and bracelet, and horizontal brushed finishing on the side of the case. The size of the case makes it feel modern while the graceful curves and traditional proportions offer a timeless look, which I also appreciate in what is supposed to be a relatively conservative watch overall.
Wempe offers the Zeitmeister Classic Large Date on both a strap and this five-link bracelet with its matching brushed and curved links. Bracelets like this are hard to find and I highly appreciate the aesthetic on a dress watch when a leather strap isn’t interesting enough. In addition to the strap options, the Zeitmeister Classic Large Date is available with either this white-colored dial or a black-colored dial as well.
Wempe also didn’t invent the design of the applied hour markers and dauphine-style hands, but they are nicely crafted and help the timeless part of the overall product’s look and feel. I always admire dauphine hands and also appreciate the depth of the dial which helps the Zeitmeister Classic Large Date be legible. I will of course say that in some situations the polished hands aren’t perfectly legible against the white dial all the time. With that said, given the polished hands and white dial used on this product, it is about as legible as can be and I appreciate Wempe for that. Other little dial details such as the polished ring around the second time zone dial are well done.
On the wrist, the Zeitmeister Classic Large Date is 42mm wide. As I said, Wempe uses this same case design for a host of similar models which I believe each have slightly different thicknesses depending on the movement. The problem with having a movement that uses a module for additional complications is that it naturally increases the necessary thickness of the case. I wouldn’t call the Zeitmeister Classic Large Date an overly thick watch, but I wouldn’t refer to it as slim either. The size makes it feel modern, but if you want these types of complications in a thinner package I’m pretty sure you’ll have to spend a lot more money than this. Wempe doesn’t remark on water resistance and it isn’t labeled on the case of this or other Zeitmeister dress watches aside from saying that the watches are “water-resistant.” So I will interpret that as meaning the cases are probably 30-50 meters water resistant.
The rear of the watch on this and most other Wempe Zeitmeister watches is the same. It has an engraving of the Sternwarte Observatory and an individualized serial number for each timepiece. I do like the fact that the watch has a unique serial number on it, but the caseback design is otherwise a bit boring for me. The Wempe logo on the crown is nicer and adds more personality to the overall composition.
Wempe knows watches because as a company they sell a fair number of them as authorized dealers in their stores. Having an in-house brand is about offering value and choice to their consumers. No Wempe watch is taking horological functionality or design in a new direction, but they are pretty good at offering a familiar look in a good quality package for a fair price. That is for me where this and either Wempe Zeitmeister watches excel. If this particular Zeitmeister Classic Large Date isn’t the Wempe watch for you, then I recommend you check out the other models they have. The brand is still quite hard to get outside of Germany (they have a few stores in other countries with their only USA story being in New York City), which means that in addition to value, you also get some actual exclusivity in their products.
The Wempe Zeitmeister Classic Large Date is a solid dress watch for people who want to know a second time zone with ease. The case is well-made and the movement performs well, which together can make for a low-stress ownership experience. Where Wempe lags in design originality they make up for in value and stability as a company that first and foremost specializes in satisfying customers. The Wempe Zeitmeister Classic Large Date (Ref. WM370003) watch has a retail price of $3,175 USD. For more information, please visit the Wempe website.
>Model: Zeitmeister Classic Large Date (Ref. WM370003, as tested)
>Price: $2,905 USD
>Size: 42mm wide
>When reviewer would personally wear it: For a job that requires knowing the time somewhere else at a glance, along with a mature (yet interesting) sense of professionalism.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Lover of traditional watch design as well as a Germanic sense of practicality and poise who can admire the design of the case along with the bracelet.
>Best characteristic of watch: Good value given the overall case quality and components. Legible dial given the complications and a handsome timeless aesthetic that is masculine but not brash.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Second-time zone complication is not as convenient to use as it might be. Can make the argument that the case is on the thicker side.