You’ve got your slip-on shoes, your handsome-yet-rugged duffel bag, your comfortable-yet-cool attire, your dopp kit, your tablet, your Nintendo Switch, your noise-canceling headphones, your camera, your guide book and hopefully your passport is in there somewhere. Yes, packing for a trip can seem overwhelming, but you can take solace in the fact that you only need one watch.
So what watch to wear on your globetrotting adventures? Well, traditionally the GMT has been the de facto travel watch ever since it was conceived in the mid-’50s for Pan Am pilots crossing several time zones at once. By allowing the wearer to monitor two separate time zones at once, the GMT frees its wearer from the grueling mental math required when keeping tabs on whatever is going on in your home time zone.
If you demand more time zones at once, you can opt for the world time watch which, though more mechanically complex (and thus more expensive) than the GMT, has actually been around longer, invented by watchmaker Louis Cottier in the 1930s. Here, the watch denotes the current time for every time zone in the world all at once. So if you’re in Tokyo, need to call a client in London and inundate your mother in Chicago with texts about your trip, no arithmetic is required to keep all that in check.
Whichever you choose depends on your own needs (and the state of your bank account), but rest assured there are options aplenty for the jet setter. The best of them combine value, durability, good looks and, of course, functionality, all into one handy watch — so there’s no need to burden your carry-on any more than you already have.
Young British upstart Farer’s whole thing is watches inspired by those worn by great 20th-century explorers. Naturally, that means the Bernato here definitely owes some debts to Smiths and the Rolex Explorer, but the end result is nevertheless handsome and distinct. The watch is powered by a Ronda quartz GMT movement housed in a subtle 39.5mm case, and it’s paired with a bronze crown and a colorful, mid-century-inspired dial design.
Alpina Alpiner 4 GMT
On the affordable end of the mechanical GMT spectrum is the Alpiner 4 GMT, rocking the brand’s self-winding caliber AL-550 ticking at 28,800 bph with a 38-hour power reserve. Alpina’s “4” series is sold on its four alleged tough attributes: antimagnetism, water resistance, shock resistance and a stainless steel case. That last bit isn’t so remarkable. But what is remarkable about the Alpiner 4 GMT is its “Pepsi” chapter ring and compass bezel, in case you need help navigating abroad, too.
Nomos Zurich Weltzeit
German watchmaker Nomos is known for its minimal, Bauhaus-influenced designs, but the Zurich Weltzeit is a bit of a departure. Though it has the appearance of a world timer (with a ring of time zones around the dial), the watch is actually a GMT, reading off the additional timezone’s name at the 12 o’clock position and its corresponding hour at three o’clock. Though this complex take on the GMT function seems to fly in the face of the traditionally Bauhaus approach of “less is more,” the Weltzeit still continues Nomos’s tradition of making deeply beautiful and modern designs.
Rolex GMT-Master II
It might seem like an obvious pick, but the Rolex GMT-Master is the definitive travel watch and an all-time classic. Gone is the old-school “Pepsi” rotating bezel of the original (unless you want to shell out $40,000 for the white gold version), replaced by a ceramic black number (Rolex also makes a black and blue variant). Driving the watch is a COSC-certified automatic GMT movement, and the watch comes with classic Rolex details like an oyster bracelet and cyclops date magnifier.
IWC Pilot’s Watch Timezoner Chronograph
The first watch of its kind, the Timezoner Chronograph actually mechanically links the bezel with the watch’s movement. This means that changing time zones is as simple as a twist of a bezel. Place your preferred timezone on the bezel at twelve o’clock and the GMT hand moves to indicate the current hour in said timezone. It’s some pretty nifty stuff, as is the additional chronograph function with a flyback second hand.
Girard-Perregaux 1966 WW.TC
Though world time watches tend to have big cases and crowded faces, Girard-Perregaux’s latest take on the style has a relatively uncluttered design and a well-proportioned 40mm case diameter and 12mm thickness. What’s more, it’s relatively well priced, considering that for around $13,000 you’re getting an in-house automatic world time movement (not exactly easy to manufacture) from a highly regarded legacy watchmaker.
Vacheron Constantin Overseas World Time
Vacheron Constantin’s Overseas World Time isn’t exactly cheap, but as far as travel watches go, it seems to be the perfect convergence of class, durability, high watchmaking, and wearability. For 37 large you get 37 time zones (including ones offset by 15 or 30 minutes) — not to mention water resistance to 150 meters, an antimagnetic case and an incredibly convenient and easy-to-use strap-changing system.