Times around the globe
1884 is not just Breitling’s founding date: it is also the year that representatives from 25 countries, gathered in Washington for the International Meridian Conference, decided to divide the world into 24 timezones each covering a 15-degree longitude (corresponding to one hour) and to adopt the Greenwich meridian near London as the reference, or 0° longitude.
At this stage in history there were countless local times in use, more or less loosely based on longitude, including more than 70 in North America and around 30 in Europe. However, the boom in travel and particularly the birth of railways made unifying the time system a vital necessity. To ensure travelers’ comfort as well as to avoid accidents, England decided to create a legal time for all destinations covered by a single railway line.
In 1847, the British Railway Clearing House recommended that all companies adopt the mean time of the Greenwich observatory, which already served as a reference for sailors. The use of legal or standard times gradually established itself wherever railways developed. The United States, which could not have just one single time, divided its territory into several timezones.
Prior to 1884, travelers constantly had to adjust their timepiece according to the location they had just reached. Adopting a unified worldwide system led to the emergence of a new type of instruments representing a field in which Breitling would shine: travel watches simultaneously displaying several timezones.