Last year, Carl F. Bucherer introduced an upgraded version of its 10-year-old, hyper-masculine triple-time-zone watch, the Patravi TravelTec. With the release of the TravelTec II, the Swiss brand pulled off the rare feat of making the original watch substantially larger in dimensions yet somehow more streamlined in its look.
I had the opportunity to spend some quality time (no pun intended) with the Patravi TravelTec II in an ideal milieu for putting its multiple time indications to use — during my annual trip to the Baselworld watch fair in Switzerland, where I was tasked with keeping track of numerous appointments, presentations, and events throughout the days there while simultaneously checking in with home, office, and various colleagues back in the U.S.
One observation could be made immediately after strapping this watch on the wrist: the Carl F. Bucherer Patravi TravelTec II is a lot of wristwatch. At 47.7 mm in diameter and nearly 16 mm thick, with a case made of stainless steel, this is a watch that announces its presence; it doesn’t so much peek out from under a shirt cuff as muscle its way out — daring you to hide it and daring everyone in your presence not to notice it.
The biggest change from the original TravelTec is that the 24-hour scale that used to adorn the outer ring of the dial — the design flourish that allows the user to view a third time zone, thus setting this watch apart from other GMT timepieces (and one still in use in the new all-black version of the original TravelTec) — is now engraved on the majestically sloping, satin-and-polished-finish bezel.
The watch cuts an impressive, and yes, imposing figure from both side views: from the right, you see the two rectangular, pedal-like chronograph pushers at 2 and 4 o’clock, each with a slight groove in the center for tactile pleasure, flanking the similarly grooved crown protectors, which secure the screw-down winding crown, wrapped in black rubber and featuring a Carl F. Bucherer emblem in raised relief. The crown helps secure the case’s 100-meter water resistance.
Viewed from the left, you’ll see the pusher at 10 o’clock (with its screwed locking mechanism) that rotates the inner GMT ring and a small, rectangular sapphire window that offers a peek into the wheels and gears of the movement — a bone thrown by CFB to those aficionados who will lament the absence of an exhibition caseback on this watch.
About that caseback: unlike a sapphire window to the movement, it serves both an aesthetic and utilitarian purpose. It is inscribed with a 24-hour GMT scale, which the wearer can consult when setting his second time zone on the watch. London represents Greenwich Mean Time (GMT 0), while the Carl F. Bucherer brand’s home city of Lucerne, Switzerland — highlighted in black — takes the place of larger European cities usually found on word-time scales (usually Paris) at GMT +1.
When changing time zones, simply remove the watch, find your home city on the scale (you may have to squint a bit) and use the numerical GMT indication for your home time zone to determine how many clicks of the 10 o’clock pusher you’ll require to rotate the inner 24-hour disk, in one-hour increments (in either direction, as indicated by the “west-east” notation in the lower half of the dial), into alignment with the red GMT hand to set the home time. The ingenious mechanism in CFB Caliber 1901.1 — a substantially modified version of the ETA 2894, a reliable workhorse with an integrated chronograph function — also moves the date backward or forward in conjunction with the hour as the wearer’s chosen time zone crosses the International Date Line.
The chronograph tallies up to 30 minutes on the 9 o’clock subdial and up to 12 hours on the 6 o’clock subdial. Small seconds tick away continuously and unobtrusively on the 3 o’clock subdial. All the subdials have a subtle snailed motif, barely noticeable to the naked eye but visible under a loupe. (This watch in general, it needs to be said, is a treat to view under a loupe: so much depth, detail, and diversity of finishing.)
The dial is also very interesting; it’s technically black but in certain lighting, at certain angles, it takes on a vibrant blue tone. It also displays, as one might expect from a watch with multiple complications, an extraordinary sense of depth, with the skeletonized hour and minute hands and thin chronograph seconds hand above the red GMT pointer hand, above the applied hour indices, above the recessed chronograph subdials, and ringed all around by the inward-sloping flange with the 24-hour GMT scale; an added bonus is the magnifying lens over the date window, which makes the date numeral appear to hover above the dial. (As one might reasonably expect from a timepiece in this price segment, the crystal is made of sapphire and has nonreflective treatment on both surfaces.) Legibility-wise, this very busy dial, with numerous small white elements, might have been better off with solid white hands rather than skeletonized ones, as the tips can sometimes get lost against the indices or the subdial rings, but this is a minor quibble. As far as nighttime legibility goes, the judicious use of Super-LumiNova on the hand tips and hour indices is more than sufficient.
The TravelTec II’s strap and closure lives up to the rest of its masculine, luxury-tool-watch (is that a thing?) pedigree: the strap is black rubber with a stitched, black calfskin leather insert on the outer edge. The rubber is segmented toward the buckle, making it easy to cut it to size for smaller wrists — as I most assuredly had to do. Again, this is a watch that is unapologetic in its courting of thick-wristed suitors. The buckle has an almost industrial look, solid and blocky, adorned with the Carl F. Bucherer logo and equipped with a push-button-operated safety clasp.
The TravelTec II kept time impressively; not surprising, since the movement carries a COSC chronometer certificate. The modified movement’s other attributes include automatic winding and a 42-hour power reserve, which means that daily wear should keep it charged up without interruption. (In my case, very helpful, as even the relatively simple task of re-winding and re-setting a watch during the bustle of Baselworld is often an unwanted distraction.)
The model in this review, Ref. 00.10633.08.33.01, with the steel case and leather strap, is priced at $12,900. The TravelTec II is also offered in a steel case/steel bracelet version (Ref. 00.10633.08.33.21, $13,400) and a version with a black-DLC-coated-titanium/18k-rose-gold-combo case and rubber strap (Ref. 00.10633.03.33.01, $48,000). If you’re a globe-trotting type who believes a timepiece doesn’t have to be shy or subtle in its approach, your takeaway should be this: the Carl F. Bucherer Patravi TravelTec II does exactly what a luxury sports watch should do: it draws attention in a positive way and performs its utilitarian functions with minimal fuss and admirable efficiency.