7 of the best GMT watchesTom Austin
The relationship between timekeeping and travel is a close one. With its roots in maritime history, progressing into aviation and our ceaseless endeavour to make the world a much smaller place, the GMT complication plays an important part by keeping us close to other time zones. If you’re a regular flier, you’ll know that mild annoyance of resetting the time on your watch to the new local time zone once you land. If you’re like me, though, you’ll quickly forget what the time is back home. A GMT-equipped watch fixes this, providing the ability to track multiple time zones at once. Here are our picks of some of the best GMT watches out there.
Rolex GMT Master II Pepsi
In 1954, right in the middle of the jet-set era, Pan American Airlines, or Pan Am, to their friends, commissioned Rolex to produce a watch for their transatlantic pilots. The result was the GMT Master 6542, a watch with a rotating bezel showing 24 different time zones and a fourth hand, which rotated once per day, and could be set independently. Almost 70 years later, the original GMT Master has become an integral part of Rolex’s history, and continues to lead the pack with the current model, the GMT Master II, the Pepsi likely being its most popular variant. The core functions remain the same as the original, retaining the 24-hour hand and rotating bezel. In typical Rolex fashion, however, the design and build of the 40mm watch has slowly progressed, introducing things like the ceramic bi-colour bezel, with one colour representing day, and the other night. The red and blue Pepsi has become one of the most replicated designs in the watch world, with almost every mainstream brand featuring a watch with a similar colour palette, however there can only be one true GMT Master, and that’s from Rolex.
Greubel Forsey GMT Sport Titanium
For most brands, creating a GMT is easy, the instructions are as follows: take your best selling diver, add a GMT hand and perhaps a two colour bezel, and bingo! You have yourself a best-selling GMT. Greubel Forsey didn’t take the easy route with the GMT Sport – in fact, quite the opposite. GF took the bespoke approach with this hand-finished, 33-piece limited edition, with an openworked dial showcasing the suspended tourbillon and eye catching globe which rotates once every 24 hours to cleverly indicate the time in any particular part of the world. The GMT Sport is a statement piece, with a case size of 42mm and a 17.8mm thickness it’s not fitting under any cuffs, but its bright colours, details, level of finishing, and even the paraboloid shaped sapphire crystal are unique, coming together to make a desirable and functional GMT watch for the more discerning (and cashed-up) traveller.
Baltic Aquascaphe GMT
Baltic took the aforementioned GMT recipe and added a flavour of nostalgia to create the Aquascaphe GMT. Size-wise, the 39mm case is slender and well-proportioned, framed with a blue and green sapphire bezel reminiscent of the old Bakelite bezels from way back when. The whole look, even down to the lumed indices in the bezel too – the old-school details are superb. Combine that with a domed sapphire crystal, large, guard-less crown and drilled lugs and you have an ideal, classically inspired GMT. Powered by the Soprod C125 GMT movement, and priced at a reasonable A$1,750, it makes for a combination that is hard to overlook. It’s not a coincidence we’re offering it in the Time+Tide Shop – you’re welcome.
Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF GMT Rattrapante
Released at Watches & Wonders 2022, the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF GMT Rattrapante took centre stage as their new complication, and was incredibly well-received. It’s ditched the normal GMT trend of bold colours and large bezels, opting for a much more minimalist and luxurious approach, featuring a gorgeous blue guilloché dial, uncluttered by text and logos, other than the simple PF emblem applied below 12 o’clock. The sleek integrated bracelet is just about the best in the business, flowing into the case seamlessly. The beautifully finished PF051 calibre is showcased beneath an exhibition sapphire caseback, and the movement’s party trick is its GMT function. Unlike conventional GMT mechanisms, it’s activated by a sculpted side pusher and golden pusher integrated into the crown. A single press of the left button elegantly advances the GMT hand by an hour with a soft glide, making those post-flight time zone changes a joy. Once you return, the crown pusher snaps the GMT hand back underneath the main hour hand. Prefer your Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF GMT with a little more precious metal? The option of solid 18K rose gold may be more to your taste.
Grand Seiko GMT Sport SBGM245
Sometimes the notion of the GMT watch being a travel companion doesn’t have to be a flashy one. It doesn’t have to have a fancy way to set the time zones, or be made of a never-before used material. A GMT watch is a tool, after all, and this is exactly where the Grand Seiko GMT Sport SBGM245 comes in. It’s the perfect mix of do-it-all design, with just enough understated details to show that the watch means business. At 40.5mm, it’s a purposeful size without being too big, and uses colour but only in a relatively subtle way – like the bright GMT hand and matching dial text. The finishing on the case and bracelet is typical Grand Seiko in the sense that it’s perfect throughout, with especially the polishing being of the highest level. This isn’t the watch reserved for the jet-setting, business-class travellers, as it’s ready for exploring to uncharted territories, too.
Nomos Glashutte Tangomat GMT
Nomos took another different approach with their GMT, doing their best to retain the minimalist aesthetic the brand is well-known for. At first glance, you’d be forgiven for not noticing the Tangomat GMT was a GMT watch at all, but looking a little closer reveals its secrets. There are two apertures on either side of the dial. At 9 o’clock, we have 24 different airport codes to denote each time zone, changeable at the press of a button. At 3 o’clock sits a 24-hour indicator which moves in time with the cycle of one day. This makes for a simple, but very clever way of tracking time wherever you are in the world. All of these features are squeezed into a slender, 10.9mm-thick stainless steel case, which is only 40mm in diameter. Being a Nomos, however, expect it to wear on the large side due to the thin bezel and strut-like lugs.
Patek Philippe 5524G Calatrava Pilot Travel Time
The Pilot Calatrava was met with some controversy in 2015, as it didn’t seem to fit what everyone anticipated of Patek Philippe to release as part of the Calatrava collection. The unexpected military design and odd pusher setup confused enthusiasts in the early moments of its release, but in time, the 5524G has proven to be a popular and highly coveted model in Patek Philippe’s line up. The 42mm white gold case is well-proportioned at just over 10mm in height, while the rounded lugs lightly sweep down. A sapphire exhibition caseback displays the typically stunning Caliber 26‑330 S C FUS movement, which features dual time zones, day and night indicators and Patek’s famed travel time complication, allowing the wearer to neatly tuck away the GMT hand when not in use. The dial itself is a varnished dark blue, with some of the biggest numerals I’ve ever seen on a Patek Philippe, giving the 5524 a vintage, military-esque appearance, but in such a way that it doesn’t lose its elegance.