Review: the Porsche Design 1919 Globetimer UTC All Black

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I am a big fan of challenging my own preconceived notions about what I like in watches. This, I think, is the only way to really grow in this hobby, and to keep it from getting stale. Because I’m open to almost anything, I’ve had watches of all kinds in my collection at any given time. Dress watches, tool watches, big watches, small watches, and watches made in Switzerland, Japan, Germany, and the good ol’ USA have come in and out of my personal collection at various times, and at various times I thought each of these little subcategories would be the thing that guides my “collecting journey” to the end, not that it ever really ends, of course. And, just as you’d expect, every single time, I was flat out wrong.

There was a time when a watch like the Porsche Design 1919 Globetimer UTC All Black would have been at the top of my “To Buy” list. This is a watch from an interesting brand with a fascinating history and ties to a carmaker that I have a lot of personal fondness for, with a funky and ultra modern appearance that I happen to dig quite a bit. It’s also a wholly unique spin on the GMT complication, with deceptive pushers on the caseband that don’t operate a chronograph at all, but jump an hour hand forward and back in time, enabling weary travelers to switch time zones with a click rather than a slower unscrewing, turning, and additional screwing. I went through a hardcore tool and sports watch phase that I’m only now putting in the rearview, and at the height of it, a watch like this would have checked a lot of boxes.

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But our tastes develop, and along the way, we learn what we like, and even more importantly, what we don’t. A few things that have become clear to me as I’ve gone in and out of watches over the years is that big, oversized watches don’t wear well for me, literally and figuratively. I’ve become kind of bored with blacked out watches – they just aren’t very versatile in my view, and I rarely feel like they’re an appropriate complement to whatever I’m doing or wearing. And butterfly clasps. Oh man, there isn’t a strap buckling system I deplore more than a butterfly clasp, particularly when that strap is integrated to the case, making a switch to something a bit more graceful impossible. I’m also finding that in the strictest sense, the traditional “tool watch” is probably not as much in my wheelhouse as I once thought. Selling my Tudor Pelagos, maybe the tooliest tool watch I’ve ever owned, and wearing something decidedly more refined (but still fairly robust) on a daily basis has reshaped what I think of as an ideal watch for my lifestyle, which, let’s face it, doesn’t involve a ton of time underwater, on the side of a rock wall, or huddled in a tent somewhere in the New Hampshire wilderness. 

This is a rather long windup just to say that the Porsche Design 1919 Globetimer UTC (just Globetimer from here on out) is a watch well outside the parameters of my own personal preferences, which is something you’ll have to consider as you take in my personal reaction to it. Criticism of any kind, though, is about more than a personal reaction, but really should be an evaluation of how successful something is at being exactly what it set out to be in the first place. If you don’t love a very specific type of horror movie, for example, you might think Malignant is total trash. But even if you don’t personally enjoy it, you have to give it credit for evoking 1970s Italian giallo in a unique and contemporary way, right? Right! 

In that spirit, let’s take a look at the latest creation from Porsche Design, a watch that’s wrong for me on every level, but does exactly what it says on the tin, which happens to be a genuinely clever party trick that anyone who counts themselves a fan of the travel watch will enjoy quite a bit. 

$6750

Review: the Porsche Design 1919 Globetimer UTC All Black

Case
Titanium
Movement
WERK 04.110 (Sellita SW200 base)
Dial
Black
Lume
Yes, hands and hour markers
Lens
Sapphire
Strap
Leather
Water Resistance
100 meters
Dimensions
42 x 50.8mm
Thickness
15.4mm
Lug Width
26.5mm
Crown
Screw down
Warranty
Yes
Price
$6750

The Case

The case is a logical place to start, and is a remarkable piece of construction. You’ve heard watches described as hockey pucks, right? Well, this is maybe the most puck-like design I can recall, even down to the color. The Globetimer is a cylinder measuring about 42mm across and 15.4mm tall, including the sapphire crystal. It’s titanium, so while it’s not heavy on the wrist, you feel every millimeter of those measurements (and then some, and we’ll get to why that is). 

What makes the case special though is the open lug design – the cylinder is essentially suspended within a thin titanium frame. Impossibly thin lugs protrude from the expected locations, but are connected by another strip of titanium, to which the strap is attached. I quite like the way this looks – it’s modern and contemporary, and it looks good in photos, but unfortunately it presents some wearability issues that we’ll get to in short order.

That open space, while aesthetically pleasing, creates a lug to lug measurement of 50.8mm. And unlike most lug to lug measurements, which terminate in a space that’s left open (where a strap is fitted), on the Globetimer that measurement refers to the titanium frame, or case, itself. The result is a watch that feels very long on the wrist. Think about other integrated bracelet/strap sports watches, and how that lug to lug measurement often winds up wearing shorter than on a watch with a traditional lug design. Here, it’s very much the opposite, and it feels like an aesthetic choice that hasn’t taken ergonomics into account. 

Finishing on the Globetimer case is a simple satin brushing. There are no polished edges in sight, which seems to fit the watch’s general vibe as a hearty tool. While there’s nothing complex about the finishing itself, it’s very well machined, and feels good in the hand. It’s worth noting that the caseback has a UTC scale lasered onto it showing offsets for 24 time zones, which certainly might come in handy for some users, and the scale is easily readable against the black backdrop, which is a nice bonus (often these types of engravings are difficult to make sense of unless your eyesight is near superhuman, or you use a loupe, which would seem to defeat the purpose of the scale, at least somewhat). 

The Dial

The Globetimer’s dial is my single favorite element of the watch. It’s busy, but pretty much nails the difficult task of presenting a lot of information in a way that’s easy and (mostly) intuitive to take in. It also has a few small details that bring a little bit of refinement to a watch that otherwise revels in its lack of that very quality. 

Multi time zone watches can be tricky, and there are a lot of different ways a watch designer can go about communicating the time in different parts of the world. This type of execution, with a long 24 hour hand always pointing to the home time on an outer scale, with a traditional minute and hour hand used for the local time, is preferable in my opinion over other options that include tough to read sub registers or additional windows displaying an additional time zone. I’ll add here that I think Porsche Design made the right choice in foregoing a rotating bezel on this watch. It’s just cleaner and more intuitive, and you’ll never convince me that a third time zone to track is really necessary unless you’re doing so from the cockpit of a plane in the midst of a transcontinental flight. The layout here, at least as far as the GMT functions go, is simple and easy to grasp.

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The wrinkle that’s added to this dial is the inclusion of a date ring within an interior section of the dial, which necessitates another hand. This, I’ll be honest, proved to be a bit confusing at first, as both the 24 hour hand and date indicator are tipped with arrows, and they can bleed together at a glance. It might have been more effective to simply use a traditional date window somewhere on the dial, or even to incorporate the date into a smaller sub register at the 6:00 position. This is a relatively minor complaint, though, as I think most people who wear the watch with any frequency will quickly adapt and find the blue tipped hand for their home time easily.

One nice thing about the date ring though is that it appears to be constructed from an actual ring, meaning a separate piece that’s been applied to the dial’s base. This gives the dial a bit of unexpected depth, along with the applied and lume filled hour markers. The interior sector of the dial is very subtly finished with a circular brushing effect that can easily be seen with a loupe, but with the naked eye only registers as a surface with a slightly different tone and sheen from the rest of the dial. On a watch that has a maximalist approach to almost every other design element, these little things were appreciated, if a bit incongruous. 

The Movement 

The Globetimer is powered by a pedestrian Sellita SW200 movement that has been thoroughly transformed. The caliber here is the heart of the watch, and it’s the most compelling reason for it to exist. I imagine that it will be the driving force behind every purchase, and the calculus for many will simply be that they love the movement’s functionality more than they dislike any other component part, and it would be impossible to argue with that logic, as the movement works really well, and is unique at this price point. 

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What Porsche Design has done here is to move the actual GMT functionality outside of the crown to pushers alongside the case that will confuse those who don’t know any better to be basic chrono buttons. The pusher above the crown, etched with a “+” symbol, advances the hour hand to the next hour at the press of a button, and the pusher below the crown (with a “-” symbol) moves it back in time, all without stopping the balance. It’s easy, intuitive, and immensely satisfying. The mechanical “click” feels more like the actuation of a nice chronograph than anything else, and in my testing both buttons worked flawlessly, never missing a request to move the hour hand either forward or backward. 

Porsche Design’s marketing materials for the Globetimer tout the simplicity and elegance of their mechanism as a solution for busy travelers in the real world, and I think this is an idea that’s worth exploring. Like any other GMT, the functionality of the Globetimer will only be truly useful for individuals who find themselves traveling frequently. With that said, it’s frankly hard to imagine this watch being an ideal travel companion, simply because of its size and the degree of difficulty in wearing it for long periods of time. But let’s say you’re Dwayne Johnson, and you genuinely have the wrist to pull this one off. I have to wonder if owners of nice GMT watches like those made by Rolex and Grand Seiko that allow for independent jumping of the local hour hand through the crown have been crying out for something that’s just a little bit easier. I’ve owned a Rolex watch with this functionality, and I can’t recall ever thinking it was too cumbersome. This feels like a solution in search of a problem. 

That said, as solutions go, it’s excellent, and is brilliantly realized, but I don’t see this as being much more than the equivalent of a fidget spinner for most people. And it’s an expensive fidget spinner, with Porsche Design asking $6,750 for this particular Globetimer. I suppose it’ll depend on how much you prize those push buttons as to whether you see this as a screaming value compared to a new GMT Master II, or hysterically overpriced when you consider the base Sellita keeping time (it’s worth pointing out here that the movement is chronometer certified, so it should keep exceedingly good time). My impression after spending some time with it is that this watch is ultimately for gadget and complication enthusiasts, more than someone who is genuinely trying to improve their travel experience through the use of a new device. 

This type of functionality, however, in a more wearable package would be extremely appealing, and the test for this is largely born out by the popularity and collectibility of push button travel watches that have been made by Patek Phippe over the years (this article by James Stacey for Hodinkee is a great primer on the complication). Porsche Design, it hardly needs to be said, is not Patek, so it would be unfair to completely dismiss the achievement that this movement represents based on the size of the watch, an unavoidable end result when modules on top of stock movements are involved. This seems particularly apt when we consider that the case itself (the cylindrical section, which houses the movement) isn’t what ultimately makes the watch such a challenge to wear. 

Straps and Wearability 

When I first wrote about this watch upon its introduction, I thought for sure that the unique complication would be the headline should I have the chance to go hands-on with one, but I just wasn’t adequately prepared for the watch’s sheer size, which includes some of the wildest measurements I’ve encountered on a watch for review. The wearability of this watch is seriously limited, in my opinion, by those measurements, as well as decisions that were made by Porsche Design with respect to the strap and clasp combination. 

We covered the case size up top, but it’s worth reiterating that this is already a large watch before you start factoring in the impact that a strap has on the wearing experience. By my calipers, the 50.8 lug to lug measurement is a dramatic underestimate of the true length of this watch, thanks to a strap that is heavily bolstered at each end. In other words, the portion of the leather strap immediately adjacent to each lug is stiff by design, and really feels like an extension of the lugs themselves. Measuring the end to end span between both ends of the strap where the bolstering ends isn’t straightforward, but comes out to about 73mm in total, if you measure to the outside of the strap.

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Now, it wouldn’t be fair to say that this watch has an effective lug to lug span of 73mm. That’s overkill, for sure, as the case itself doesn’t span that distance, and the leather strap is stiff but certainly not as solid as the titanium construction of the case. And the material of the strap itself is soft and doesn’t feel objectionable against the skin. But the strap integration has a major impact on wearability, as there’s no natural drape around the outside of the wrist that you’d experience with a bracelet, and the strap won’t naturally form to the curvature of the wrist like you would expect with any other leather strap, even those that are well padded.

The end result, unfortunately, is a watch that I can only describe as uncomfortable to wear. It’s honestly been a long time since I’ve had something on my wrist that has left that impression. I think having a large wrist means that most watches either fit really well, or have what I’d describe as a “neutral” fit in that they don’t feel like they’ve been made expressly for you, but don’t actively cause discomfort, either. They’re somewhere in the middle. The Globetimer is very much not in the middle.

And then there’s the matter of the clasp, which is of the butterfly variety, which is a type of attachment I have simply never enjoyed. They are more difficult to use than a foldover clasp without being any more comfortable, and can’t match the ease of use of a simple tang buckle, which is forever my favorite. The strap’s proportions are also, frankly, absurd, but match the dimensions of the rest of the rest of the watch. At the lugs, the strap, which is integrated to the case and not removable with any tool at my disposal, measures about 26.5mm wide. It tapers to 22mm at the buckle. It’s nicely made, and the leather is soft on the strap’s underside, but it just takes up a lot of space on the wrist, and leaves a visual impression that is tough to get past. 

I wore this watch going about my normal everyday activities for about a week. I’m fairly accustomed to wearing a watch (obviously) and regardless of the watch I happen to be wearing, I’m so used to having something on my wrist, it’s rare that it really registers in my mind that there’s a metal object strapped to my non-dominant arm. The Globetimer’s presence was felt constantly, as it needed regular adjustment, and I found that it frequently inhibited the mobility of my wrist, making everyday tasks like driving, dicing an onion, or folding laundry far more of an endurance test than they typically are, even for me, a subpar cook at best. If it’s important to you that a watch blend into your everyday life (which, to be fair, is not the stated goal of most “tool watches”) the Globetimer is not a watch I can recommend.

Conclusions

The Porsche Design 1919 Globetimer UTC is not without its charms. On a surface level, it looks great, but suffers from being over-designed and too complex for its own good. This is a watch that must have looked great on paper and in the initial drafting stages, but somewhere along the way it became an object to serve a singular aesthetic and house a particular movement, and being an enjoyable part of the lives of the people who owned it became a secondary consideration. There are lots of products like this in our recent history. Great looking sports cars that break down constantly, shoes that are stylish but fall apart after a season, or furniture that complements your decor while killing your back. 

That’s not to say that there aren’t customers for this watch who will own it and love it for years. It’s even possible that the very things I find objectionable about it might be the same things that a satisfied owner enjoys the most. And that’s the strangest thing about this hobby, and about critiquing something that is ultimately so subjective. To say “I’m glad this watch exists,” in our world is sometimes a shorthand for “I hate it, but whatever…,” but in this case I’m actually glad this watch exists, and that I got to experience it for a short time, because it had the effect of solidifying in my own mind what it is that I like and don’t like about watches, which is an exercise that is helpful to any collector. Also, it was just really fun to play with those pushers. Porsche Design

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Zach is a native of New Hampshire, and he has been interested in watches since the age of 13, when he walked into Macy’s and bought a gaudy, quartz, two-tone Citizen chronograph with his hard earned Bar Mitzvah money. It was lost in a move years ago, but he continues to hunt for a similar piece on eBay. Zach loves a wide variety of watches, but leans toward classic designs and proportions that have stood the test of time. He is currently obsessed with Grand Seiko.
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