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The 9 Best Mechanical Watches to Wear When Traveling

Whether you’re driving coast to coast or flying from JFK to Narita, here are the watches that will keep you on time.

10 best mechanical watches for travel gear patrol lead full

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 (or dual time) 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.


Farer Lander IV


Farer, a young British upstart, makes watches inspired by those worn by great 20th-century explorers. Naturally, that means the Lander here definitely owes some debts to Smiths and the Rolex Explorer, but the result is nevertheless handsome and distinct. Its automatic movement is housed in a subtle 39.5mm x 10mm case (perfectly proportioned, if you ask us), and it’s paired with a bronze crown and a beautiful blue mid-century-inspired dial design. At $1,425, it’s not quite the cheapest mechanical GMT you can find (it’s damn close, though), but its excellent design makes it a standout in the entry-level price bracket.
Movement: ETA 2893-2 automatic
Case diameter: 39.5mm
Water Resistance: 100m


Monta Atlas


It can be tough to find a “tool watch” GMT for less than several thousand dollars, but the Atlas from Monta is certainly a value proposition if ever there were one. For less than $2k you get a steel GMT with 150m of water resistance, automatic Sellita SW330 movement with 42-hour power reserve and jumping GMT hand, steel bracelet or rubber strap designed by sister company Everest Horology Products (plus a very nice Nato), and much more.
Movement: Sellita SW330 automatic
Case diameter: 40.7mm
Water Resistance: 150m


Sinn 857 UTC VFR


If your travels take you to someplace …unforgiving, this is the watch to have. The automatic movement inside is protected by a burly stainless steel case with Sinn’s “Tegiment” case-hardening technology and built to satisfy DIN 8330, a certification for pilot’s watches that Sinn and the German Institute for Standardisation co-developed. As such, the brand states the watch is exceptionally shockproof and can reliably operate at temperatures between -49 degrees and 185 degrees Fahrenheit. And while this is ostensibly a pilot’s watch, given that it has a ratcheting bezel, loads of lume and a 200-meter depth rating means it could easily do double duty as a diver, too.
Movement: ETA 2893-2 automatic
Case diameter: 43mm
Water Resistance: 200m


Oris Big Crown ProPilot Worldtimer


Though it says “worldtimer” in the name, this pilot’s watch from Oris is more of an advanced dual-time watch, though it does go a step further than a standard dual-time or GMT in terms of convenience. It displays the wearer’s home time in the three o’clock subdial and the local hours and minutes on the main dial. When you twist the watch’s bezel, it moves the hour hand on the main dial, meaning that when traveling you don’t need to fiddle with the crown when you change time zones. It may seem trivial, but for frequent travelers, it eliminates the only real hassel of a GMT watch.
Movement: ETA 2836-2 automatic
Case diameter: 44.7mm
Water Resistance: 100m


Nomos Zürich World Time


Similarly, Nomos’s Zürich World Time isn’t actually a world timer, but rather more of an advanced GMT. Yes, it has a world city ring, but it doesn’t display the hour for all 24 timezones individually. Instead, the city name at the 12 o’clock corresponds to the time shown on the main dial, and when the pusher at two o’clock is depressed the ring advances to the next city, while the hour hand advances one hour in synchrony. (The home time is indicated on the ring at three o’clock.) Though this complex take on the GMT function seems to fly in the face of the traditionallyBauhaus approach of “less is more,” the Zürich continues Nomos’s tradition of making incredibly beautiful and modern designs.
Movement: Nomos DUW 5201 automatic
Case diameter: 40mm
Water Resistance: 30m


Grand Seiko Heritage Hi-Beat GMT SBGJ201


Grand Seikos are loved by hardcore watch guys because of all of the unseen details that make them so technically impressive. For example, this SBGJ201 GMT rocks the brand’s lauded high-beat movement that ticks at 36,000 bpm (most high-end mechanical watches tick at 21,000 or 28,800 bph). This bolsters accuracy, but it also gives the watch a much smoother seconds hand than most of its peers. Enthusiasts will also love the expertly-finished dial and the almost paper-like texture of the dial.
Movement: Seiko 9S86 automatic
Case diameter: 40mm
Water Resistance: 100m


Rolex GMT Master II


Yes, it’s the obvious pick, but the Rolex GMT-Master II is the definitive travel watch and an all-time classic. Go for a "Pepsi" bezel or a "Batman" bezel and you've got an interesting and iconic look. 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. The only problem is that they're typically hard to get your hands on and cost more than retail, but they're worth seeking out.
Movement: Rolex 3285 automatic
Case diameter: 40mm
Water Resistance: 100m


World Timers

Montblanc 1858 Geosphere


The Montblanc 1858 Geosphere has a lot going for it. For starters, its world time display is decidedly unique. While world timers with Lambert projection maps only display one hemisphere (usually the north), this shows both on two globes at 12 and six o’clock. Further, while most world time watches have a dressy look to them, this has the look of a classic tool watch, thanks to a black and gold color scheme, a rotating ceramic compass bezel and a chunky case design. The best part, though, is the price: about $6,300, making it one of the most affordable world time watches you can buy.
Movement: Montblanc MB 29.25 automatic
Case diameter: 42mm
Water Resistance: 100m


Vacheron Constantin Overseas World Time


Vacheron Constantin’s Overseas World Time isn’t by any stretch of the imagination an affordable watch, but it seems to be the perfect convergence of class, durability, high watchmaking, and wearability. Part of what makes it stand out is its movement and world time display, which houses not the standard 24 time zones but rather all 37, including those that are offset by 15- and 30-minute intervals. While Vacheron Constantin is mostly known for exquisite haute horlogerie, the Overseas has the makings of a utilitarian timepiece (as far as the Swiss Big Three are concerned), thanks to a solid 150-meter depth rating, and anti-magnetic build and a convenient, quick-release strap-changing system.
Movement: Vacheron Constantin 2460 WT/1 automatic
Case diameter: 43.5mm
Water Resistance: 150m


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