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They zig and zag as needed to keep islands, smaller countries and large metropolitan areas on the same clock time — an obvious concession to convenience.
By 1900, the global system of time zones we use today was fairly well established.
Latitude was less an issue than longitude, since there was no dispute about where the poles (latitude 90 degrees north and 90 degrees south) and equator (latitude 0 degrees) were located.
However, the selection of a starting point for longitude measurement (the 0-degree meridian) was arbitrary.
It was based more on national pride and convenience.
In 1851, England designated the Prime Meridian (0 degrees longitude) as the meridian running through Greenwich Observatory.