With summer around the corner, quite a few of the Fratello team members will fly to different destinations all over the globe. I’m sure a lot of you, our readers, will also spend the summer in different time zones, so we’ve come up with a list of the best GMT watches currently available. These are perfect companions for a summer vacation or a business trip, and they all have one of the most practical complications out there. Let’s check out the best GMT watches of recent times.
Ask me what my favorite watch complication is, and I will answer “the GMT” every time. I love the fact that it is a practical complication that I can actually use on a regular basis. On top of that, the design of many GMT watches is interesting. The tone for modern GMT watches was obviously set by the iconic Rolex GMT-Master. Nothing beats a Rolex GMT-Master ref. 1675 in my book. Preferably with a bit of wear and tear, it is the best out there. But there have been many different designs that incorporate the display of a second and sometimes a third timezone with spectacular results. Although the influence of the GMT-Master is still very much present, the landscape of choices has broadened significantly.
A varied list of options
When it comes to compiling a list, the only criterion that we set was that the watches have to technically be available now. So, that leaves plenty of room for different options from affordable to expensive. Unfortunately, it excludes out my favorite (semi-)recent GMT watch, the sold-out Laventure Transatlantique GMT. While I am still hoping for a return in some shape or form, it is a no-go for now. But that still leaves plenty of other great options. Additionally, you will find both “office GMTs” and “traveler’s GMTs” on this list. As most of you know, the more affordable options are often not true traveler’s GMTs. But that should not spoil the fun of the concept of a watch that can display the time in two or more time zones. So with that out of the way, let’s see what’s out there.
Seiko 5 GMT Series
A week ago, Nacho wrote about the new Seiko 5 GMT watches, available with either black, blue, or orange dials. The three new Seiko 5 GMT models borrow the same overall aesthetic from the illustrious Seiko SKX series and will likely be a hit with many Seiko enthusiasts. The watches feature a 42.5mm case that is 13.6mm thick and water-resistant to 100 meters. Inside the case, Seiko equipped the watches with the 4R34 movement, which is visible through the display case back. This 24-jewel workhorse movement provides 41 hours of power reserve and runs at 21,600vph. These watches are known as “office GMTs”, so they have an independently adjustable 24-hour hand. Equipped with a familiar Seiko jubilee-style bracelet, the Seiko 5 GMT models will retail for €470 when they come out in July. This makes them a perfect affordable choice and just in time for those summer holidays.
Longines Spirit Zulu Time
Another recent introduction was the Longines Zulu Time. I had the pleasure of wearing the green-bezel version on the bracelet, and I was very impressed by it. Both in terms of looks and quality, these watches are great picks. As Nacho explained in his review, Longines offers three different variations that have a retro-inspired look that is characteristic of the Longines Spirit line. The first comes with a black dial, a dark green bezel, and gilt accents. The second features a black dial and bezel with blue accents. The third comes with a blue dial and bezel and an orange-tipped GMT hand. Inside the 42mm case, which is 13.9mm thick, you will find the Longines COSC-certified caliber L844.4 (A31.L411) with a 72-hour power reserve and 25,200vph frequency. The watches are available with a leather strap for €2,800 and on a stainless steel bracelet for €2,900. This “true” flyer GMT in green and black is a personal favorite of mine.
Tudor Black Bay GMT
Another popular GMT watch is the Tudor Black Bay GMT. Back in 2018, Tudor introduced the stainless steel version of the Black Bay GMT to much acclaim. At Watches And Wonders earlier this year, the brand added the two-tone Black Bay GMT S&G to the line-up. If you are looking for that vintage Rolex GMT-Master vibe from the 1950s, the stainless steel version is the perfect pick. But if you are more into the over-the-top style of the 1970s and ’80s, this new steel and gold “Root Beer” version might just be the right pick for you. Both watches feature a 41mm case that is 14.6mm thick with a water resistance of 200 meters. Inside the case, Tudor equips the watches with the caliber MT5652. This COSC-certified automatic movement operates at 28,800vph, has 26 jewels, and provides 70 hours of power reserve. The two-tone version has a €5,270 list price on the bracelet or €4,080 on the leather or fabric strap. The stainless steel “Pepsi” version is €3,920 on a bracelet and €3,630 on a leather or fabric strap.
Tudor Black Bay Pro
This list would not be complete without the most talked-about watch on Fratello of the last couple of months. The new Tudor Black Bay Pro was the cause of a lot of controversies after Lex shared his opinion on it. After that, Nacho explained why it could be the perfect watch to put an end to his quest for the Rolex Explorer II ref. 16570. Whichever side you are on, the new Black Bay Pro looks to be a new hit for Tudor. With looks clearly inspired by the legendary Rolex Explorer II ref. 1655, the watch strikes a chord that many watch fans like. It features a 39mm case that is 14.6mm thick. The thickness is a point of criticism for many, but the people that have worn the watch don’t seem to be bothered by it. Inside the case, Tudor equips the watch with the same COSC-certified caliber MT5652 as the Black Bay GMT. If you love the aesthetic of the Black Bay Pro with its steel fixed 24-hour bezel and orange GMT hand, it can be yours for €3,770 on a bracelet or €3,480 on a strap.
Ball Roadmaster Pilot GMT
I had the pleasure of reviewing the Ball Roadmaster Pilot GMT earlier this year. The Ball Roadmaster Pilot GMT watches stand out because of their dial design with Ball’s characteristic luminescent micro gas tubes. Additionally, they feature two pushers on the left side of the case. With these pushers, you can operate the GMT module that Ball specially developed for these watches. Add the great variety of available dial and bezel colors, and the Roadmaster Pilot GMT is an interesting offering from Ball. The watch features a 40mm titanium case that is 14mm thick and has a lug-to-lug length of 47.8mm. It is also water-resistant to 300 meters, and it comes on a titanium-and-stainless-steel bracelet. Ball equips the Roadmaster Pilot GMT with the automatic BALL RR1204-C movement, a COSC-certified version of the Sellita SW220-1 or ETA 2836-2 with a special mechanism to set the local hour hand through the two pushers on the left side of the case. With a great number of color variations, the Roadmaster Pilot GMT is a great pick at €2,900.
Grand Seiko SBGE285G “Mist Flake”
Another recent release is the brilliant Grand Seiko SBGE285G “Mist Flake”. The watch is part of Grand Seiko’s new Evolution 9 series of watches that also features the White Birch and White Birch II. As I explained in last week’s Sunday Morning Showdown, this is probably my current favorite GMT watch. It was love at first sight when Grand Seiko introduced this model at Watches And Wonders this year. And it’s the perfect example of a GMT watch that does not follow the classic Rolex GMT-Master aesthetic. The monochromatic style of the watch is what makes it so great for me. It comes with a 41mm × 13.9mm titanium case that I love and a titanium bracelet. The sculpture looks amazing with the wide lugs that flow into the crown guards on the right side of the case. Add the incredible grayish-white “Mist Flake” dial and the steel 24-hour bezel, and this is a stunner of a watch. Inside the case, you will find the Spring Drive caliber 9R66 with 72 hours of power reserve, making this one of the best GMT watches currently available at €8,500.
Rolex GMT-Master II
You didn’t think I was going to feature the newly introduced “Destro” version of the GMT-Master II, did you? It really felt like Rolex was testing its audience by introducing that awful version of the GMT-Master II. But it is a recent introduction that gives me the leeway to feature the GMT-Master II. And let’s be honest, it is the original GMT watch that still looks amazing. Especially when it comes in white gold with a beautiful meteorite dial as you see in the picture. But the stainless steel models and the modern steel and gold “Root Beer” are just as impressive. The current stainless steel GMT-Master II comes in a variety of different model options. My personal favorite will always be the “Pepsi” version. But I must say that the choice of a Jubilee or an Oyster bracelet is a tough one. I used to be Team Oyster until a few years ago when I had the pleasure of wearing the latest Jubilee bracelet. I was so impressed by the quality and comfort that I would seriously consider it. Inside the case, Rolex uses the in-house automatic caliber 3285 for 70 hours of power reserve. While getting one at its list price of €10,200 on a Jubilee or €10,000 on an Oyster is basically impossible, it still deserves a spot on this list.
Rolex Explorer II ref. 226570
If we include the GMT-Master II, we also have to include the Rolex Explorer II ref. 226570. Introduced last year during Watches And Wonders, it was a modest update that mostly stood out because of the new movement. Rolex updated the Explorer II by equipping it with the in-house caliber 3285 that also powers the GMT-Master II. Furthermore, the brand updated the 42mm case design with very gentle sculpting on the case and lugs. I like the fact that Rolex didn’t make any major updates to the design. I like the Explorer II and very much appreciate the current aesthetics, so updating them just slightly was the perfect move. When it comes to picking an Explorer II, I always notice in conversation that there only seems to be one version — the “Polar”. Personally, though, I would pick the black-dial version over the white-dial version any day. Unfortunately, that is only a theoretical discussion as the Explorer II is almost impossible to get for its €9,000 list price. Although premiums are not sky-high, it’s a matter of principle for me. That doesn’t make the Explorer II any less awesome, though.
Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT
The Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT is a bit of an oddball pick. It combines a chronograph with a GMT complication successfully, and there are not many watches out there that do that. I had the pleasure of reviewing the Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT a year ago and was deeply impressed by how comfortable this watch sat on my wrist. As most of you will know, the Octo Finissimo concept is all about ultra-slim designs, most of which are record-breaking in some way. The Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT features a 42mm case that is only 6.9mm thick, making it the thinnest mechanical chronograph ever. The watch comes with a deep black opaline dial that contrasts nicely with the gray elements. The layout and contrast create great readability despite its stealthy appearance. The ultra-thin caliber BVL 318 that powers the Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT uses a peripheral rotor in aluminum and platinum. It operates a 28,800vph and has a power reserve of 55 hours. The GMT function is operated by the pusher at the 9 o’clock position. Add the very comfortable rubber strap, and this is a great GMT chronograph that is the full package at €17,400.
Patek Philippe 5326G Annual Calendar Travel Time
The last watch on this list is the impressive Patek Philippe 5326G Annual Calendar Travel Time that was introduced at Watches And Wonders this year. The watch presents a Patek first by combining an annual calendar complication with a travel time complication. The two complications come together with a retro-inspired aesthetic that I absolutely adore. The watch features a 41mm white gold case with a hobnail pattern around its entire flank. It’s an absolute joy to see in combination with the charcoal-gray vintage dial with a beautiful grained pattern for extra depth. As Lex explained, its presence is stunning in the metal with the different apertures for the annual calendar perfectly placed on the dial. Patek Philippe equipped the watch with the all-new caliber 31-260 PS QA LU FUS 24H. It is a stunning movement equipped with a decentralized micro-rotor that is executed in 950 platinum. Additionally, both the local and home time zones are adjusted through the crown, making it a joy to use. And on the nubuck leather strap, it is a joy to see as well. At €69,930, this is an expensive option, but it is a stunning one nonetheless.
There you have it — my list of the 10 best GMT watches right now. This is obviously only the tip of the iceberg. Watches with GMT complications have become extremely desirable over the last few years, and I expect to see more stunning options in the near future. It only makes sense that brands are investing time and money in the development of GMT watches. Their popularity is based on the combination of practicality and aesthetics that makes for a great category of watches.
Now, it’s over to you guys. What do you think? Are the ten options I mentioned really the best recent options that are currently available? Please tell us what your favorite current travel watch is in the comments section.