Techné and the UTC Harrier for Air Traffic Controllers

Techné watches, founded in 2007, has been making quartz and mechanical watches for a while. Now they’re making a GMT targeted at air traffic controllers. Seriously, they wrote, “Techné dedicated a year to develop a sturdy watch that helps air traffic controllers keep track of Coordinated Universal Time.”

The Harrier UTC Carbone TE-368 is quartz powered, proudly declaring on the dial the use of a Ronda movement. It’s got a green UTC hand that’s only solid at the center pinion and it’s arrow head. This mimics the hand of the radio magnetic indicator gauge on older aircraft gauges. The hour and minute hands are very similar to those used on gauges of this sort.

Techne-Harrier-Carbone-2The date window is nice and large, and has hashmarks next to it like those on the 6 o’clock position of the old altimeter gauge. There’s also an up arrow to the left of the marks. On the gauges these marks indicate low altitude. Different sources give different altitudes at which the marks appear on the gauges, below 10k feet, below 15k feet, depending on manufacturer. Another manufacturer uses them to indicate above 0 feet – to help tell the difference between -1000 and 10,000 feet. The point of these marks is to avoid the errors of reading the gauge.altimeter12-78

All these things sound good on paper. Let’s talk about why they make me concerned. One, this is being pitched as a watch for air traffic controllers to keep track of UTC, as if that were a critical part of their job. The air traffic controller’s job is to keep aircraft separated to prevent collisions. The air traffic controller uses radar and computer systems that were originally based on IBM System/360. If tracking UTC were a critical part of the job, they’d just display it on clocks or computers around the tower, no?

The reason I bring this up is, the dial is complex, with lots of decoration. Air Traffic Controllers need to be able to see information quickly. You’d think the dial would be decluttered, if Techné’s pitch were at all serious. Get rid of the hashmarks next to the date window, extend the 24h hand to the edge so that it points to the hour it’s meant to indicate, rather than to a marker inside the minute track, and then declutter by getting rid of the marker that the 24h hand barely reaches to currently. What I’m suggesting here is, pilots never looked at such a cluttered gauge when flying, and actual air traffic controllers need information to be legible quickly – they’d use a clock. If they’re going to use this watch as the PR suggests, make the watch easier to read. There’s just too much going on here.

The case is a 41mm BPA-nylon with carbon reinforcement. It’s equipped with a sapphire crystal. The back, crown, stem, and buckle and pin on the strap are stainless steel. The strap is a yellow-gray leather, and the watch is water resistant to 100 meters.

Techne-Harrier-Carbone-3Did I say, ‘the watch’? There’s a second watch. The TE-367 is a 3-hander using the Ronda 515 quartz movement. Here, the dial is a little less cluttered, not having the 24 hour numerals at the periphery, or the 24 hour indices inside the minute track. The hashmarks borrowed from the altimeter are still present, and the up arrow is still present. This watch formerly was made as a different Techné model, which had an anti-gang symbol at the 9 position. Here, it’s reborn as the Harrier QUARTZ. It’s not terrible, but it’s also not inspiring. We know it’s a pilot watch from the handset shape, and the large numerals, much like a SINN might use, and I don’t need the altimeter hashmarks and up arrow crowding the hands.

The Techné Harrier watches are available for $280 and $275 for the TE-368 UTC, and TE-367 respectively.


Update: Techne responded, letting me know that the Harrier UTC was designed in cooperation with an air traffic controller, and that together, they drew inspiration from historic gauges. The up arrow next to the date window serves a purpose: to let the wearer know which way to turn the crown to adjust the date, rather than the UTC hand. Techne also wanted us to know that the case is BPA-free nylon with carbon fiber, should little mouths get ahold of the watch. As a parent, and someone who’s made CPSIA-tested  products intended for children in the past, I get it. 

Harrier Inspiration
The different gauges and historic watches that inspired Harrier UTC

Watch Overview

  • Brand & Model: Techné Harrier Quartz Carbone and Harrier UTC Carbone
  • Price: $280 for the UTC model, $275 for the 3 hand
  • Who we think it might be for: You like the carbon watch case, you like the UTC hand, and you are NOT an air traffic controller.
  • Would I buy one for myself based on what I’ve seen?: I like the UTC hand. I wish it were longer. I’d have to see it in person before I could say yes.
  • If I could make one design suggestion, it would be: I wonder what a simplified dial from Techné would look like? What slightly longer hands would look like?
  • What spoke to me the most about this watch: The big green hand is delightful.

Tech Specs from Techné

  • Case size: 41mm
  • Case material: carbon-reinforced BPA-free nylon
  • Crystal: flat sapphire
  • Strap: cowhide leather, pin buckle clasp
  • Movement: Swiss-made Ronda quartz – 515.24 (UTC) and 515 (3 hander)