Time Travel

Geoffrey Sokol

My mother always said it was bad luck to turn back the hands of time, so no matter where I go, I never change my watch. Instead, I carry my trusty vintage Van Cleef & Arpels travel clock (sadly no longer available). I am fully aware that I could simply check my cell phone or rely on hotel wake-up service, but there is something about a portable timepiece that calls to mind the golden age of travel. The tradition began circa 1400 with what were referred to as les horloges de voyage, but those were more or less just large clocks that still functioned while being transported from one place to another. A much lighter pendulette de voyage was created by watchmaker Breguet and used by Napoléon Bonaparte during the 1798 Egyptian campaign. Soon after the mode was small clocks in leather carrying cases, until wristwatches rendered them virtually obsolete. Today’s travel clocks range from Cartier’s exquisitely decorative Trinity, in three shades of gold, to the worldwide atomic projection clock from Oregon Scientific, which uses an atomic (but not radioactive) frequency to automatically adjust the time zone. It also, rather cleverly, beams the time onto the ceiling. Open your eyes in the morning (or, if you’re jet-lagged, in the middle of the night), look up, and you’ll know exactly where you are.