With the possible exception of the chronograph — which, let's face it, only we few watch nerds make use of today — if there's a complication most beloved by aficionados and the general public alike, it would have to be the GMT. (Yes, the date window is technically a complication, and no — we're not counting it.)

Why, you ask? Because with the simple addition of a fourth hand on the dial and a 24-hour scale or bezel, a GMT allows you to track the time in another (or multiple) time zone(s). And in a 21st century in which plenty of people are jetting around the world multiple times a month, or keeping track of colleagues or loved ones in far-flung locales, nothing could be more convenient.

The Short List

The GMT watch used to be the purview of large, blue chip brands who had the money and manufacturing capability to either build or invest in relatively complicated movements — not so any more. While you can of course still pay close to $10,000 for a Rolex GMT Master II, the gold standard of GMT watches, today's microbrand scene has made for an entire landscape of more affordable alternatives. (See here for particularly affordable models).

Here, we've endeavored to bring you the best in GMT watches across all price categories, from under $1,000 to $10,000. And while you don't have to spend several month's paychecks for a decent watch, there are a few things you should know before you choose your ideal travel timepiece:

Types of GMT Movement

There are two real types of modern GMT movement: one with an independently adjustable local hour hand, and one with an independently adjustable GMT hand. Some consider the former (which is the system used by Rolex) to be the "true" GMT style, as in this case, you can land in a new time zone, quickly update the local time, and go about your business. An independently adjustable GMT hand, however, can be more useful if you're stationary and tracking someone else who's perhaps crossing multiple time zones, as you can retain your local time on the watch but easily update a secondary zone. (See here for a more detailed explanation of these two systems.)

Independently adjustable hour GMTs tend to be rarer, and more the purview of established such as Rolex, Tudor, Omega, etc. (They also tend to make a watch more expensive). Common third party GMT movements such as the ETA 2893, Sellita SW330 and Soprod C125 tend to be of the independently adjustable GMT hand variety, and are more affordable. Which brings us to another point...

Mechanical vs. Quartz

It's perfectly possible to buy a quartz GMT watch — plenty are available by tool watch manufacturers such as Luminox, Citizen, etc. (You can even but yourself a high-end quartz GMT from the likes of Grand Seiko that puts many mechanical watches to shame.) Most of these are wildly affordable and rugged and will get the job of tracking a second time zone done just fine — or better than fine. In fact, for many people, a quartz GMT may be the better route to take.


best gmt watches movements
Grand Seiko Caliber 8F86 Quartz Movement
Grand Seiko
best gmt watches movements
Rolex Caliber 3285 Automatic Movement
Rolex

Two Vs. Three Time Zones

While most GMT watches allow you to easily track two time zones (one via the main time, and a second that is calculated by using the 24-hour bezel in concert with the GMT hand), certain models can actually calculate three. The Monta Skyquest, for example, has both an external, rotating 24-hour bezel and an internal 24-hour rehaut. Thus one can calculate a first time zone using the local hands; a second by where the GMT hand is pointing on the rehaut; and a third by calculating an offset of the bezel against the GMT hand. Watches like this are rarer, but supremely useful if for some reason you need to keep track of three zones.

Tool vs. Dress

While the GMT watch as envisioned by Rolex was a tool watch made for pilots, today there are many varieties of GMT, including dressier varieties made by the likes of Grand Seiko, or those that are included as complications on classic models by firms such as Jaeger-LeCoultre. If you want a GMT complication in a dive watch package, there are plenty of those — if you want something to wear in the office, you can have that, too. There's never been more choice.

Other Travel Watch Options

The GMT isn't the only way to display a second time zone, however: there are world timers, which display multiple time zones at once, and there are digital watches, which allow you to scroll through multiple time zones. In short: do some research on the different systems and see which might be right for you before springing for a GMT, as they're far from the only game in town.

Monta Skyquest

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This is hands down one of the most utilitarian, badass GMT watches on the market. Because it has a 24-hour scale within the rehaut — plus a rotating 24-hour bezel — you can easily use it to track three different time zones. Built like a tank and water-resistant to 304m, it can take anything you can throw at it. Wear it to work, bring it with you traveling, wear it in the water — the Skyquest is a watch that was made to be abused. It doesn't hurt that it's pretty damn good looking, too.

Diameter: 40mm

Movement: Sellita SW330 automatic

Water Resistance: 304m

Price: $2,190

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Baltic Aquascaphe GMT

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Baltic's Aquascaphe checks so many boxes that besides being the best budget GMT, it may also be amongst the best recent GMTs, period. You get a perfectly sized 39mm case that's only 12mm thick, three handsome bezel color options, an automatic Swiss movement, a dive-ready water resistance rating of 100m, and either a super comfortable beads-of-rice bracelet or a Tropic-style rubber strap. If you're on a budget, just pick one of these up and move on.

Diameter: 39mm

Movement: Soprod C125 automatic

Water Resistance: 100m

Price: ~$1,105+

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Rolex GMT Master II

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The OG. Rolex's GMT Master debuted in 1954 and accompanied Pan Am pilots on their transcontinental flights during the beginning of the Jet Age. Of course, the modern watch is fair game for anyone, so long as you can get your hands on one. It features the Rolex cal. 3285 automatic movement with independently adjustable hour hand, a 40mm case, and your choice of bezel configuration and metal. (Keep in mind that the steel versions are currently only available on Jubilee bracelets.)

Diameter: 40mm

Movement: Rolex cal. 3285 automatic

Water Resistance: 100m

Price: $9,700+

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Farer Lander III

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Farer's range comprises numerous GMT watches, but to our mind, the Lander III is amongst the most simultaneously unique and wearable. Svelte at 39.5mm by just 10mm in depth, it boasts a striking blue dial that completely changes color depending on how the light hits it. It's further got a Swiss automatic movement, a fixed bezel with inner 24-hour ring and a wide variety of straps. If you're looking for a dressier GMT — or something a bit different — this could be the watch for you.

Diameter: 39.5mm

Movement: Sellita SW330 automatic

Water Resistance: 100m

Price: $1,445+

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Yema Superman GMT

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While the Superman GMT definitely has some Rolex vibes going on, it's essentially a travel version of the brand's popular dive watch, which has been around in various forms since the 1960s. With two choices of case diameter (39mm or 41mm), three bezel color choices, an automatic Swiss movement and a whopping 300m of water resistance, the Superman GMT packs quite a punch for its price. (The bezel-locking device is sort of overkill on a GMT model, but it's true to the original Superman watches.)

Diameter: 39mm/41mm

Movement: ETA 2893-2 automatic

Water Resistance: 300m

Price: $1,499

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Zodiac Super Sea Wolf GMT

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Echoing the historical Zodiac GMT models from the 1960s, the Super Sea Wolf GMT melds a Swiss movement to a reserved black dial, a steel, rotating 24-hour bezel, 200m of water resistance and a matching steel Oyster-style bracelet. With the exception of the modern 40mm case size and a few other subtle cues, you'd be hard pressed to peg this beauty for a modern watch, it so closely resembles its historical brethren.

Diameter: 40mm

Movement: ETA 2893-2 automatic

Water Resistance: 200m

Price: $1,795

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Grand Seiko SBGN009

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Now if this isn't one of the most gorgeous GMTs on the market, we're ready to eat our collective hat. The SBGN009 is powered by a quartz movement, but it's a Grand Seiko quartz movement, and one of the best in the world. Devoid of a rotating bezel, it's incredibly versatile and should look great with casual wear or something more formal. And if you're not mesmerized by that incredible dial, you may not have a soul.

Diameter: 40mm

Movement: Grand Seiko 9F86 quartz

Water Resistance: 100m

Price: $3,000

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Bell & Ross BR V2-93 GMT

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Just a wildly cool-looking GMT, built to Bell & Ross's exacting standards but not outrageously priced. Powered by a Swiss automatic movement, it's a tad on the larger side at 41mm, but with its well designed case and satin-polished steel bracelet, it'll wear like a charm. A bright orange GMT hand and bright white lume ensure great legibility, while a cool black and grey, bi-directional bezel paired with a black dial makes for an understated look.

Diameter: 41mm

Movement: ETA 2893-2 automatic

Water Resistance: 100m

Price: $3,500

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Tudor Black Bay GMT

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When the Black Bay GMT debuted in 2018, it stunned the watch world. A beautiful amalgam of Rolex and Tudor watches, it provided an alternative to the stupidly expensive and hard-to-obtain GMT Master. The only problem? The Black Bay GMT has itself become difficult to obtain. Nonetheless, it includes Tudor's in-house GMT movement, 200m of water resistance, and an awesome steel bracelet. The one rub: at 41mm wide by roughly 15mm thick, it's a big watch, and doesn't work well for the thin-wristed among us.

Diameter: 41mm

Movement: Tudor cal. MT5652 automatic

Water Resistance: 200m

Price: $3,725+

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Grand Seiko SBGM221

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Like we said, Grand Seiko knows how to craft a beautiful watch, and their dressier GMTs are amongst the best-looking on the market. The SBGM221 features a mechanical movement with a 3-day power reserve, a deep ivory dial with a blue GMT hand, an inner 24-hour track and a brown leather strap. While it features just 30m of water resistance (unlike many of the models on this list), this is clearly a GMT so beautiful that you wouldn't dare want to get it wet, anyway.

Diameter: 39.5mm

Movement: Grand Seiko 9S66 automatic

Water Resistance: 30m

Price: $4,600

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Rolex Explorer II

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The other Rolex GMT. Though we prefer the Explorer II in its earlier 40mm iterations, the current reference still features your choice of black or white dial and fixed 24-hour bezel. Why a fixed bezel? The Explorer II was originally developed for spelunkers (cave divers) so that they could distinguish between day and nighttime hours in the complete darkness of a cave — not to track a second time zone. However, the modern versions feature a fully independent GMT hand, meaning you can absolutely use them for travel.

Diameter: 42mm

Movement: Rolex cal. 3187 automatic

Water Resistance: 100m

Price: $8,350

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Patek Philippe 5524G

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Oh, so you wanted a true baller GMT watch, did you? We got you. You want a Travel Time. Sure, the 5524G is part of the elegant Calatrava line that's been around since the 1930s, but it ups the interest with a white gold case, pilot's watch-style dial and typeface, a date complication contained within a subdial, two local and home day/night indicators, and of course, a GMT hand. Matched to a handsome brown leather strap, this is the GMT watch you wear once you've arrived.

Diameter: 42mm

Movement: Patek Philippe cal. 324 S C FUS automatic

Water Resistance: 60m

Price: $53,820

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