We’ve all got our list of essential travel companions, from those perfectly worn-in shoes to the gear bag with a spot for your tripod. All that’s left is that bare spot on your wrist. A great travel watch can do more than complete your outfit, though. An appropriate mechanical watch for the road weary and globe trotters among us can make for seamless transitions between time zones thanks to added complications such as a 24-hour GMT hand, or a more dedicated dual time display.
The first GMT watch was born at the behest of Pan Am pilots hoping to keep tabs on their home time zone concurrent with their destination cities. The result was the Rolex GMT-Master, which had a fourth hand that tracked time against a 24-hour, rotating bezel (its red and blue colors spawned the nickname “Pepsi”). While Greenwich Mean Time was replaced in 1972 by Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), the Rolex had already sealed its place in history, and GMT is a label still used by the rest of the watch industry to this day.
The core appeal of the travel watch has survived since the first Rolex GMT hit shelves in 1954. These days, travelers are spoiled for choice, but we’ve gathered 10 of our favorites that will see you through to your destination of choice in style and on time.
Additional contribution by Jason Heaton.
Bell & Ross BR 123 GMT
The BR 123 GMT distills the useful components of the GMT into a simple, straightforward watch. The dial has been stripped down to the basics of a true tool watch, leaving highly legible hour markers between applied 12, 3, 6 and 9 numerals. An orange-tipped 24-hour hand will track a second time zone against the non-rotating bezel, and a domed crystal adds throwback personality to the 42mm case. This all captures much of the charm of the Rolex Explorer II, but the Swiss ETA 2893 automatic movement inside means it’ll be a lot easier on the wallet.
TAG Heuer Carrera Twin Time Cal. 7
The TAG Heuer Carrera Twin Time also has roots that date back to the ‘50s. There’s been a gap or two in its lineage, but the new model offers a simple, classic take on the GMT complication. Adjusting the GMT hand requires a single pull of the crown, which adjusts the date with a counter-clockwise rotation, the GMT hand with a twist opposite. The 24-hour demarcations are read along a beveled chapter ring within the dial, adding an air of formality to the 41mm case. There are three dial variants, all of which look good on both leather and steel strap options. An ETA-based calibre keeps this dressier alternative on the accessible end of the cost spectrum.
Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean GMT
Omega’s Seamaster Planet Ocean is a perennial favorite among dive watch enthusiasts — and now you can get one with the added practicality of a GMT hand. Case sizes range from 42mm to 45mm, and each will get you 600 meters’ (2,000 feet) worth of water resistance (including a helium release crown at 10 o’clock). The design is sporty and unique to Omega, with an orange GMT hand working with the 24-hour bezel done in blue and orange. Inside you’ll find Omega’s own Caliber 8605, a co-axial affair whose well-decorated movement can be seen through the exhibition case back.
Bremont Boeing Model 247 GMT
When Bremont partnered up with Boeing last year, it opened the door for the former to use the latter’s aviation-grade titanium. Coupled with two GMT variants this year, the Boeing watches represent understated utility and practicality thanks to subtle textures and two-piece cases. In addition to their top-notch cases, the Boeing Ti-GMT watches are chronometer grade, providing exceptional day-to-day accuracy. The Boeing Ti-GMT can be had in either chronograph or four-hander configurations, each with ETA-based calibres.
Vacheron Constantin Harmony Dual Time
When you need to make a statement on your travels, the Vacheron Constantin Harmony Dual Time will up your suit-and-tie game to the next level. You won’t find any sporty GMT hand here; Vacheron’s dual time sub dial between 4 and 5 o’clock provides a second set of hour and minute hands to be set independently. There’s also a day-and-night indication opposite the dual time display, which adds another layer of beauty and usefulness. Better yet, all settings can be made through the single crown. Turn the watch over for a truly special sight: a hand-decorated Vacheron automatic caliber that also provides 40 hours of power reserve.