What’s So Special About GMT Watches And Should You Own One?

For most of us here, Geography classes in the early years of elementary school were a reasonably long time ago. As a result, it’s perfectly understandable if the term GMT only slightly rings a bell. To avoid any confusion on the matter, we’ll start the intriguing story about GMT watches with a brief reminder of what the GMT abbreviation stands for.

GMT, or Greenwich Mean Time, is the time shown by the Shepherd Gate Clock at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London, UK. That’s the time measured at the Prime Meridian, which is a line that divides the Earth into the Eastern and Western hemispheres at 0° (0 degrees) longitude.

The term was coined in 1884 as an international convention for the reference point for dividing the world into 24 time zones. Since, at that time, traveling speed was slow, GMT devices had limited application. However, once the international railroad network became frequently used and jet planes occupied the skies, things dramatically changed.

GMT watches became a necessity. They were essential for the transportation personnel, especially the pilots who needed to know the exact time at any moment they went through different time zones. That’s when the first GMT watches came to light.

What is a GMT Watch?

That’s an easy one; a GMT watch is a watch that displays both the GMT and the local time. To do so, a GMT watch features a GMT complication, an additional hour hand, and a 24-hour scale.

Looking at the dial, the user can see both the local time displayed on the 12- hour scale and the GMT pointed by the additional hour hand, usually referred to as the GMT hand, on a 24-hour scale. For better visibility, the GMT hand is often of a different color than the rest of the hands.

Grand Seiko Boutique Limited Edition SBGJ235 Hi-Beat 36000 GMT : dial close-up view

Grand Seiko Boutique Limited Edition SBGJ235 Hi-Beat 36000 GMT : dial close-up view

In addition, the GMT hand can be either static or independent, meaning that it moves and can be set either along with the hand that tells the local time or independent of it. Now, what does that mean from the user perspective?

How to use a GMT watch?

As you know by now, a GMT watch has two hour scales. The GMT hand shows hours on the 24-hour scale, while the standard hour hand operates regularly, showing hours on the 12-hour scale. As a result, you can tell the time in two different time zones at any moment.

However, it takes some preparation to be able to use the GMT watch properly and fully benefit from everything it provides. The most important one is setting up the GMT hand and the standard hour hand. Now, there are several ways to do this, depending on the type of GMT watch you’re using

  • A GMT watch with two scales and no bezel
Pic-1-strapcode-watch-bands-omega-seamaster-aqua-terra-150m-23192432204001

OMEGA Seamaster Aqua Terra GMT 150m Ref. 231.924.322.04.001, photo credit: authenticwatches.com

Putting the crown to position three enables you to move the GMT hand to the desired position on a 24-hour time scale. Usually, the GMT hand is set to show either GMT or the time in another time zone that interests you.

Position two of the crown enables you to move the hour and the minute hand on the 12-hour scale and set the local time. Having completed this, your GMT watch will display time in two different time zones.

  • A GMT watch with a 12-hour scale and a 24-hour bezel
Pic-2-strapcode-watch-bands-Grand-Seiko-Evolution-9-Sport-Spring-Drive-GMT-Snowflake-SBGE285

Grand Seiko Evolution 9 Sport Spring Drive GMT Snowflake SBGE285, photo credit: monochrome-watches.com

If you happen to have such a GMT watch, you’ll also be able to display time in two different time zones. But with a slightly different setup.

You’ll use the hour and the minute hand to display the local time, just like the previous example. On the other hand, since there’s no 24-hour scale on the dial, you’ll use the bezel to set up the GMT hand. Simply move the bezel clockwise or counterclockwise until the GMT hand displays the desired hour.

  • A GMT watch with two scales and a bezel
Pic-3-strapcode-watch-bands-Grand-Seiko-Sport-GMT-SBGJ235

Grand Seiko Sport GMT SBGJ235, photo credit: The Value Proposition@ carousell

That GMT watch allows you to display time in three different time zones. Setting it up is a combination of the two previously described methods. The 12-hour scale shows the local time, while the 24-hour scale and the bezel can be independently set up to display time in two additional time zones.

Seiko 50th Anniversary SUN043 Seiko Prospex Land Master GMT

Left : Seiko 50th Anniversary SUN043 Prospex Kinetic GMT paired with MiLTAT Horween Chromexcel Matte Brown Watch Strap for improved elegance; Right : Seiko Prospex Land Master GMT Mechanical 25th Anniversary Limited Titanium Model SBEJ003 with MiLTAT Zizz Collection Denim Watch Strap as a perfect addition to casual dress code applications

Seiko GMT watches

Seiko is one of the leading companies that regularly features GMT watches. On this occasion, we’ll mention two models out of many popular and exemplary GMT models featured in their rich catalog.

The first one is Seiko Prospex Kinetic GMT Diver SUN023. It’s a GMT watch with a kinetic mechanism that offers a 200m diving ability. And features all the design elements to meet those requirements. 

Seiko Prospex Kinetic GMT Diver SUN023 Seiko Prospex Special Edition PADI Kinetic GMT Diver SUN065

Left : Seiko Prospex Kinetic GMT Diver SUN023 sporty looks complemented by MiLTAT Grey, Black & Red ballistic nylon watch strap; Right : Seiko Prospex Special Edition PADI Kinetic GMT Diver SUN065 marine style enhanced by MiLTAT Navy Blue & White ballistic nylon watch strap

The SUN023 has two dials, a blue 24-hour dial with a matching color GMT hand, and a LumiBrite 12-hour dial and hour and minute hands. In addition, the bezel is of orange color. As a result, both dials and the bezel’s 60s scale are clearly visible both on land and underwater.

Pic-4-strapcode-watch-bands-Seiko-World-Time-6217-7000

Seiko World Time 6217-7000, photo credit: fromjapan.co.jp

The second one is Seiko World Time 6217-7000. It was released in 1964 to commemorate the Tokyo Olympics of the same year. That’s the first-ever GMT watch Seiko produced, and a watch that made a huge impact on the future success of Seiko.

It was the milestone of the successor GMT watches Seiko has been designing and producing ever since. Why? Because it featured Caliber 6217A.

That caliber inspired 6217-8000 (62MAS) that propelled the Seiko diver family of watches. As a result, this collection skyrocketed Seiko’s already firm position to entirely new dimensions.

Another neat design feature is that a different city in the world represents each hour on Seiko World Time 6217-7000 24-hour scale. It’s a marvel of horology design and craft that still stands out among GMT watch family.

Grand Seiko GMT watches

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the first Grand Seiko GMT watch. Since its release, Grand Seiko GMT watch has received high acclaim from its users. Such a warm welcome was a great inspiration for Seiko’s master horologists. As a result, it yielded many successful releases in the next two decades. 

Grand Seiko Boutique Limited Edition SBGJ235 Hi-Beat 36000 GMT's ultimate smoothness aided by a Custom fitted ASTEROID watch strap

Grand Seiko Boutique Limited Edition SBGJ235 Hi-Beat 36000 GMT’s ultimate smoothness aided by a Custom fitted ASTEROID watch strap

Two of the best representatives of the Grand Seiko GMT family are:

  • the Grand Seiko Boutique Limited Edition SBGJ235 Hi-Beat 36000 GMT and
  • the Sport Collection Grand Seiko GMT 20th Anniversary Limited Edition SBGE275
Grand Seiko Boutique Limited Edition SBGJ235 Hi-Beat 36000 GMT's modern elegance complemented by Q.R. Blue Tapered, Red Stitching Leather watch strap

Grand Seiko Boutique Limited Edition SBGJ235 Hi-Beat 36000 GMT’s modern elegance complemented by Q.R. Blue Tapered, Red Stitching Leather watch strap

The Grand Seiko Boutique Limited Edition SBGJ235 Hi-Beat 36000 GMT perfectly embodies Grand Seiko’s timeless elegance, pristine design, and superb craftsmanship. The deep blue dial mirroring the moonlight’s reflection on the Mount Iwate snow, the bronze-colored GMT hand, and the sapphire glass back case add to its uniqueness.

The Sport Collection Grand Seiko GMT 20th Anniversary Limited Edition is of a completely different nature compared to the Hi-Beat 36000 GMT. It’s an ultimate sports watch by design and ruggedness, with a snow patterned dial and blue and white-colored 24-hour bezel.

Pic-5-strapcode-watch-bands-Grand-Seiko-GMT-20th-Anniversary-Limited-Edition-SBGE275

Grand Seiko GMT 20th Anniversary Limited Edition SBGE275, photo credit: monochrome-watches.com

Another special feature of the SBGE275 is its spring drive GMT caliber 9R16. This outstanding caliber guarantees the accuracy of ±0.5 seconds per day. Add a 20bar water resistance to it, and you get a perfect model for traveling sportspeople.

GMT watches under 1000

As you figured out by now, GMT watches are not just any kind of watches. Given that they feature a GMT complication and often a rotating bezel, you may rightfully wonder if you can find one for under 1000$. Luckily, there is an excellent selection available in that price category.

Here are three models that deserve all the attention:

  • Maen Greenwich GMT
Pic-6-strapcode-watch-bands-Maen-Greenwich-38-GMT

MAEN Greenwich 38 GMT Watch, photo credit: maenwatches.com

A mid-sized case with four different dials to choose from, a Swiss automatic GMT movement, and a design that successfully merges the modern and traditional touches make this watch a highly universal wear. Sapphire crystal glass and 100m water-resistance are an icing to this 750$ list price horology cake.

  • Baltic Aquascaphe GMT
Pic-7-strapcode-watch-bands-Baltic-Aquascaphe-GMT

Baltic Aquascaphe GMT Watch, photo credit: baltic-watches.com

At 990$ list price, it barely makes it under the target price tag. And that’s the only spot where you can use the adverb barely to describe this fabulous watch.

It comes with a 24-hour bezel available in three different designs. The case is 39mm wide and only 12mm thick, making it easily wearable. RX GMT series-inspired design adds to the attractiveness. A 42-hour power reserve Swiss-made movement and an independently adjustable GMT hand secure top precision.

  • Seiko’s HYBRID Kinetic SUN053P1 GMT Landmaster
Seiko's HYBRID Kinetic SUN053P1 GMT Landmaster

Seiko’s HYBRID Kinetic SUN053P1 GMT Landmaster with MiLTAT Grezzo ZULU Watch Strap

Featuring a hybrid electro-mechanical movement that guarantees high accuracy and a power reserve of six months, a Hardlex Crystal glass, rotating bezel, the Seiko’s HYBRID Kinetic SUN053P1 GMT Landmaster has a lot to offer.

Add luminous hands and markers, a transparent case back, and 100m water resistance capability, all at the list price of under 400$, and you get one of the most attractive and reliable GMT watches available.

Seiko Mens Land Kinetic SUN053P1 GMT ultimate elegance put on an even higher level with MiLTAT HORWEEN Black Lizard Emboss watch strap

Seiko Mens Land Kinetic SUN053P1 GMT ultimate elegance put on an even higher level with MiLTAT HORWEEN Black Lizard Emboss watch strap

The best GMT watch

All GMT watches you read about in this blog were chosen for a number of great features they provide and come highly recommended. However, these don’t even remotely complete the list of outstanding GMT watches available.

Naming a single best GMT watch would be as tricky and as personal as picking the best ice cream or the best basketball team of all times, to name just a few examples of impossible choices. Even making the top 10 list is futile. Why is this so?

Because almost every GMT watch available perfectly does what it’s supposed to do in the first place: it accurately shows GMT and local time. Although important for the overall impression, everything else, such as the materials used, wearability, design, and value, comes second.

Therefore, picking the best GMT watch is highly subjective and strongly dictated by individual taste, aesthetics, and, equally important, your budget.

The low-end price assortment of GMT watches is ever-expanding. As one of great representatives of that group, the SEIKO Sportura SUN025P1 has it all: the Sapphire Crystal Glass, the revolutionary kinetic mechanism, the 24-hour bezel, the transparent case back, and 100m water resistance, coupled with elegant appearance and universal wearability, all for around 400$.

SEIKO Sportura SUN025P1 Kinetic GMT equally at home with sporty and elegant dress code with Black with orange stitching Italian Suede Leather Watch Strap

SEIKO Sportura SUN025P1 Kinetic GMT equally at home with sporty and elegant dress code with Black with orange stitching Italian Suede Leather Watch Strap

Pic-9-strapcode-watch-bands-Omega-Planet-Ocean-600M-GMT-21530442201001

Omega Planet Ocean 600M GMT Ref.215.304.422.010.01, photo credit: atsoutpatientrehab.com

When mid-priced GMTs are concerned, the Omega Planet Ocean 600M GMT ref. 215.30.44.22.01.001 is one of the GMT watches that deserves a spot among the best. It comes with a bidirectional ceramic bezel, Sapphire Crystal Glass, the infamous Omega Caliber 8906, and a staggering 600m water resistance for 6,500$ – 9,000$, depending on the model.

When it comes to the top price range GMTs, the Patek Philippe Calatrava Pilot Travel Time is by all means dominant. That marvelous specimen of ultimate elegance, accuracy, and reliability comes in a white gold case, with a typeface and a subdial featuring a data complication, all for around 55 000$.

You see the bigger picture, right?

As for the title question, getting a GMT watch is highly advisable and helpful if you are a frequent or occasional traveler. However, wearing one can also be both a fashion statement and a symbol of high class if you opt for one of the top-priced GMT watches.

So, check the specifications in detail and go with the one that falls within your budget and whose features and appearance appeal to you the most.

External ref :

Written by S.K. , images by Toni and others as noted

www.strapcode.com

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