It’s hard to believe that less than 150 years ago, there was no standardization of time. Cities had their own local times, and some travelers carried multiple timekeeping devices on their journeys. Today, with a world clock just a few clicks away on our smartphones, it’s tough to imagine how revolutionary the GMT watch was when it first debuted in the 1950s.
Now, thanks to the aforementioned smartphones, we don’t necessarily need the GMT complication. Still, for those avid jetsetters who enjoy wearing a watch, the GMT comes in handy to keep track of local and home time. When you think of a complication, like the GMT, you might automatically assume it raises the price tag to an unattainable level. However, here we have two handsome GMT models that won’t break the bank. Let’s see how they match up.
Farer Lander II
Designed in London and handmade in Switzerland, Farer’s Lander II is a GMT with English lineage and classic Swiss watchmaking know-how. (The model gets its name from a Cornish explorer who was among the first to follow the course of the River Niger and discover that it led to the Atlantic Ocean.) The Lander II embodies this spirit of adventure with a GMT function that allows you to track time in a second time zone with ease.
Aloha GMT 40
The Aloha GMT 40 also has hybrid roots. Avid collector and Aloha founder Spencer Leu designed the GMT 40 with an understanding of traditional Swiss watchmaking while incorporating his own traditions from the USA. It’s available in three different iterations with either a leather strap or a mesh bracelet.
The functionality of the Lander II certainly doesn’t overshadow its design. In fact, its unique triple-step dial might just be its most striking feature. During the day, the bold, white, Arabic numeral hour markers pop against the sea green sunray dial. Depending on the light, the color ebbs between deep blue and turquoise like ocean waves, almost begging you to take a coastal vacation. The model is equally adept at night, with a healthy coating of Super-LumiNova on the hour markers and syringe-shaped hands. Additionally, there are two contrasting pops of color with the 24-hour GMT hand and sweep seconds hand, the former in British pillarbox red and the latter in burnt orange, tipped with the Farer “A.”
The Aloha GMT 40 is currently available in two colorways — blue sunburst and black gloss gilt — with a third gradient dial available for pre-order. Of the two current iterations, I immediately found myself drawn to the black. Call me a classic New Yorker, but there’s something a bit more refined about this variation. It features yellow gold accents as opposed to silver and Roman numerals on the 24-hour GMT track as opposed to Arabic numerals, with a GMT hand and sweep seconds hand in a deep, rich reddish hue as opposed to bright orange. Even with the domed sapphire crystal, the watch is only around 10mm thick, making it just as comfortable under a shirt cuff for business travel as it is on vacation.
The Lander II comes equipped with a solid bronze tapered crown complete with an embossed Farer “A.” From here, you can easily operate the time, date, and GMT functions in each of the different positions. Sadly, I wasn’t able to travel to a different time zone during my stint with the Lander II thanks to the coronavirus. However, I enjoyed test-driving the GMT complication and found it fitting to sync the second time zone with London in honor of the brand. With all the functions set, you can flip the watch over to see the ETA 2893-2 “Top Grade” automatic movement through the exhibition case back. Here, you’ll notice a high degree of finishing and quality components as well as a customized, open-worked rotor.
Alternatively, the Aloha GMT 40 features a screw-down crown. From a functional standpoint, this makes me feel more confident about the model’s 100 meters of water resistance, though solely based on personal preference, I tend to favor a tapered crown. Still, with the GMT 40, the experience of operating the time, date, and GMT functions is seamless. The Lander II’s Arabic numeral 24-hour track perhaps makes reading the second time zone easier — however, I really enjoy the more minimal markings of the Aloha GMT, particularly the moon and sun representing 24 and 12, respectively. On the reverse of the GMT 40, you’ll also find an exhibition case back displaying the exact same 2893-2 “Top Grade” automatic movement with — you guessed it — a bespoke Aloha oscillating rotor featuring the Flower of Life.
Looking at build quality from the inside out, both models come equipped with a stellar movement. The ETA 2893-2 “Top Grade” is adjusted in five positions for chronometer-like timekeeping. This caliber has hacking seconds, greater accuracy, and better shock resistance than a standard grade ETA 2893-2 as well as a 42-hour power reserve. All in all, both Farer and Aloha made an excellent choice with the ETA 2893-2 “Top Grade.”
Moving outward to the structure of the two watches, the Lander II is relatively lightweight and easy to wear without being low quality or flimsy. The Barenia bridle leather strap holds its structure while being just supple enough for comfort. The biggest bonus here was the number of sizing options to fit a smaller wrist like mine as well as a larger one.
The Aloha GMT 40 feels as if it has a more robust build with a more substantial weight to it. I love a watch with a comforting heft, which gives the feeling of a big bear hug for the wrist. That said, I wasn’t as big of a fan of the GMT 40’s leather strap. From a sizing perspective, the strap was too large, even on the smallest setting. Additionally, I feel the black iteration of this model could straddle the line between dress and tool watch, but not on this strap. The overall texture and design of the strap felt far more casual than the watch itself. The good news is that the new gradient version will also be available with a Milanese bracelet by Staib, which will definitely be a welcome addition to this collection.
On paper, the Farer Lander II and Aloha GMT are nearly identical. Both feature a similar build: the Lander II coming in at 39.5mm and the GMT 40 coming in at, of course, 40mm. Each model has a 316L stainless steel construction, domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating, 10mm thickness, and 100 meters of water resistance. These two watches house the exact same movement, visible through a sapphire case back and accented with custom rotors.
Functionally, they offer everything a GMT should and more, from Super-lumiNova-coated hands and hour markers to date windows at the traditional three-o’clock position. Even the price of these two models only differs by $50. When choosing between the Farer Lander II and the Aloha GMT, it all comes down to the look and feel on the wrist. For me, the Lander II was an easy, go-to watch for everyday wear, with the bonus of a unique, pop-of-color dial and a GMT function. I could see myself traveling with this watch on a casual weekend getaway with my husband or an annual family trip to the mountains. On the other hand, the dial coloring, overall styling, and subtle details of the GMT 40 made it a classic GMT with a twist. With a different strap, I could see myself taking this watch on a business trip or a girl’s trip to a chic, urban metropolis.
Farer and Aloha provided these products for review.
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