Japanese brands Seiko and Citizen are competing to offer affordable automatic GMT watches. The winner? Consumers.
Just a month or so after the announcement of a beautiful GMT model in the Seiko 5 Sports collection comes a rebuttal from Citizen. But wait, aren't I looking at a Bulova watch? Don't be confused that the watch in front of you has Bulova on its dial: the company is owned by Citizen and so is Miyota who made the movement inside — and, while the Bulova Wilton GMT is a great-looking way to introduce it, the Citizen-developed movement is the star of this story.
Let's first recall that until these recent developments, automatic GMT watches were mostly Swiss and mostly priced starting well over a grand. It's easily one of the most popular and useful additional functions (or complications) a modern watch can have — offering the ability to track a second time zone via an additional, 24-hour hand. But even value-focused microbrands mostly haven't been able to offer it in the budget range. That's all changing now.
New affordable automatic GMT movements are exciting, but the Miyota 9075 movement gets us giddy for more reasons. It's a variation of Miyota's 9000 series, including popular examples like the 9015, and these are no cheap, low-end movements. They're Miyota's modern movements with solid build, decent accuracy and a premium feel more akin to the ETA 2824 movements they're intended to compete with than Miyota's older 8200 series of rather basic movements. You'll find them powering respectable watches mostly ranging from the upper hundreds into the thousands.
So, we feel confident about the overall quality of this movement, but there's more: the Miyota 9075 is what's often called a "true GMT" by nerdy collectors. That doesn't mean that watches like the Seiko 5 Sports aren't "real" or legitimate GMTs — what it does mean is that Miyota's functions a bit differently, and in a way that many collectors tend to view as more desirable, premium or at least often more expensive.
What's the difference? Both use a fourth hand to display a second time zone in 24-hour format, and many Swiss GMT watches work just like the Seiko 5 Sports: pulling the crown out to its second position, you set the date by turning it in one direction and advance the GMT hand in the other. A "true GMT," however, allows you to adjust the time without affecting the GMT hand, which is set separately. The use for this is that you can set the GMT hand to your home time and then conveniently update the main time as you travel. The most famous and prestigious GMT watches like the Rolex GMT Master II and Explorer II function in this way.
Here's what makes this all particularly exciting: just as the Miyota 9015 and related movements have powered some of the best affordable automatic watches from a range of third-party brands, it's easy to imagine that the new 9075 will also now be an option. (There are already some examples.) The same will presumably be true of Seiko's movement. We're talking a future of quality, affordable GMT watches for all! But what about the watch that debuts this movement, the Bulova Wilton?
It certainly is handsome, and you've got to love the classic map dial motif in relief. What not everyone will love, however, is the sizing at 43mm which places an otherwise classically styled watch such as this in a weird space that's probably a little too bold for a dress watch. Seiko might win for price (and, subjectively, size and looks) but Citizen brings a more premium-tier movement with "true GMT" functionality and valued features like sapphire crystal (whereas the Seiko 5 GMT uses Hardlex). The Wilton comes in two variations: a blue dial shown here costing $875 and a white dial version with a gold-coated case costing $20 more.
Following the Seiko 5 Sports GMT so closely means that the Bulova Wilton and Miyota 9075 aren't just a reaction to it: Citizen would have been developing the movement at the same time as Seiko before the announcement. Funny how the watch industry seems eerily coordinated sometimes. We can't wait to see these watches in person and, more so, how the new landscape of affordable automatic GMT watches continues to develop.