Let’s be honest, the GMT is one of the most practical complications. However, we often tend to relate the term “complication” to feats of technical wizardry like the tourbillon, perpetual calendar, or minute repeater. But it’s important to remember that something as simple as a date display is also considered a watch complication. The easiest way to define it is that any function that goes above and beyond displaying the time is a complication. So, the date display, power reserve indicator, chronograph, or GMT are all watch complications. The latter is one of the most exciting and cool-looking, if you ask me.
If you are someone who travels a lot, you will understand the added value of a GMT watch displaying a second or even third time zone. On top of that, many of the GMT watches out there simply look fantastic. This partly comes down to the ultra-cool look of the Rolex GMT-Master, which started the aesthetic many of us watch fans have come to know and love. Plus, watches with an extra GMT hand look visually intriguing.
So, now it’s time to look at some of the leading brands in the world of GMT watches and some of their most popular models.
There’s obviously only one brand that could start this list off. When Rolex introduced the GMT-Master in 1954, they probably could have never anticipated how impactful the release would become. The watch, with its 24-hour bezel and red and blue colors inspired by the Pan Am logo, has become an icon in the industry and a blueprint for how GMT watches should look. I am a big fan of the Rolex GMT-Master. Over the decades, Rolex has consistently improved the watch without losing the charm or DNA of the original model – an approach that Rolex is widely known for. While the modern GMT-Master II models with a ceramic bezel insert have lost some of the original charm, you get top-notch, modern-day quality in return. The current GMT-Master II ref. 126710 is still an amazing timepiece that makes a perfect and very cool travel companion. You don’t have to opt for the classic “Pepsi” bezel, because the steel model also comes with a black and blue bezel. This variant is known as the “Batman” or “Batgirl,” depending on the band choice. Additionally, there is a watch with a black and green bezel that was introduced in a left-handed version this year. If you don’t want a stainless-steel watch, there are also two-tone and gold options available.
But the GMT-Master isn’t the only GMT watch Rolex has in its collection. The second is the Rolex Explorer II, a watch that was originally developed for cave explorers, but in reality, has found its way onto the wrists of explorers, travelers, and watch fans in general. At 42 mm, the current Rolex Explorer II ref. 226570 is slightly bigger than the GMT-Master II and features a fixed stainless-steel bezel with a 24-hour scale. The watch is available with either a white or black dial and features a bright orange GMT hand for ultimate contrast. Over the decades, the Explorer II has become popular with those who like their GMT watches somewhat simpler and easier on the eye. There’s no question that this is a stunning watch to accompany you on your travels.
The second brand that is known for creating some of the best GMT watches is Grand Seiko. This high-end Japanese watchmaker has seen a massive increase in recognition and appreciation over the past few years. You will find a wide variety of GMT watches in the Grand Seiko collection, ranging from sportier models to stunning, classic-looking GMTs. Grand Seiko is known for its technical craftsmanship, and the brand’s movements are among the best value for money. On top of that, the diverse selection means there will definitely be a GMT watch for you, whether it’s powered by a mechanical movement, an impressive Spring Drive movement, or one of the brand’s high-end quartz calibers. Here are some of the highlights: If you like the classic Rolex GMT-Master look, then the Grand Seiko SBGJ237 and SBGJ239 could be the perfect picks for you. These two models feature the iconic two-tone, 24-hour bezel indicating day and night. But these are not your standard ceramic or aluminum bezels; both are made of sapphire crystal, creating a distinctive look. Together with Seiko’s LumiBrite luminous material, they light up spectacularly in dimmer lighting conditions. Powered by a Grand Seiko Hi-Beat movement for greater accuracy, these watches combine stunning looks with technical perfection and brilliant craftsmanship.
Another pair of great GMT watches from Grand Seiko are the Evolution 9 GMTs. The SBGE283 and SBGE285 were released during Watches & Wonders earlier this year, introducing a new modern 41-mm titanium case that looks simply spectacular. The SBGE283 comes with a stunning black dial, but it’s the SBGE285 that takes first prize with its so-called “Mistflake” dial. This white-gray dial features an absolutely gorgeous texture, which gives the watch incredible visual depth. Both watches have a monochromatic color scheme, but if that’s your thing, they do it amazingly well. These timepieces are powered by the Grand Seiko 9R66 Spring Drive caliber. This special movement offers top-notch technical ingenuity, resulting in incredible accuracy and meaning the watches will serve you well in any time zone you might find yourself in. These are just a few of the many great options that Grand Seiko has to offer. Go and search through the brand’s wider portfolio and you will find a large number of stunning GMT watches. This is what makes Grand Seiko the master of GMT watches in my book.
The final brand I want to mention today is Tudor. Rolex’s sibling company has earned an incredible reputation for creating some amazing, vintage-inspired watches with their Black Bay line. Tudor offers two GMT models in the Black Bay collection, both of which clearly get their inspiration from past Rolex models. But don’t let that spoil the fun, because the vintage Rolex icons these watches are based on cost a lot of money. Tudor has managed to successfully bring back the same vintage aesthetic and combine it with modern-day technology at an affordable price, making the brand really popular with a wider and younger audience that doesn’t have a lot of money to spend on vintage timepieces. The first of the two models is the Tudor Black Bay GMT. The stainless-steel version of this watch perfectly captures the spirit of early Rolex GMT-Masters with its 41-mm case and blue and red “Pepsi” bezel. The brand gives the watch its own twist with the dial design and recognizable Tudor snowflake hands. These features make sure the Black Bay GMT strikes its own course separate from the classic Rolex looks. In addition to the stainless-steel model, Tudor introduced a two-tone Black Bay GMT S&G earlier this year. This watch is inspired by the famous Rolex GMT-Master “Root Beer.” Tudor offers it with a steel case, gold bezel, and a two-tone bracelet. Together with the black dial, black and brown bezel, and gold accents, the overall watch has a stunning retro look.
The Tudor Black Bay Pro was introduced alongside the Black Bay GMT S&G earlier this year during Watches & Wonders. The watch brings back the aesthetic of the classic Rolex Explorer II ref. 1655 from the 1970s, which has become an industry icon. Tudor draws on the popular looks of the historic model and combines it with a characteristic Tudor dial and set of hands. The great design combined with a 39-mm stainless steel case and comfortable stainless steel bracelet have made the Black Bay Pro one of the most talked-about watches of 2022. It’s the perfect proof that Tudor has more than just one seriously nice-looking GMT watch on offer. Either of these timepieces could become your next travel companion.
There you have it! Three leading brands for some of the best GMT watches currently on the market. Don’t worry if you can’t find the GMT watch of your dreams from one of these three manufacturers. There are plenty of other GMT watches out there to choose from. If you are on the lookout for one, make sure you check out the latest GMT offerings from Longines, Zodiac, Oris, Seiko, Bulgari, Christopher Ward, and Sinn, to name a few. There are simply too many great options – you are bound to find a watch you love. Happy hunting!