Next to a global Soho House membership and blackout shades, few things are more useful for travel than the best GMT watches. Also known as second or dual time zone, a GMT watch keeps track of the time where you’re at and in a second time zone. It’s the favorite complication among connoisseurs and novices alike, thanks to its practicality.
It’s a great time to get acquainted with GMT watches now that globe-trotting is the norm. From massive to micro, tons of brands are making them, and at low price points, making it easier than ever to keep track of more than one time zone.
Whether you want to stay up to date with mom or the office back home as you travel, scoring a handsome GMT watch on a budget is no longer a pipe dream—but not all are created equal.
A truly stand-out GMT watch needs to have a legible dial and reliable, high-quality movement. While it doesn’t necessarily need to have any other features, it does need to look good (at least to the wearer). Whether it’s got a fourth hand on the dial or a bi-rotational bezel, the best GMT watches need to keep track of a 24-hour time scale with grace and ease.
The Baltic Aquascape is one of the best GMT watches, thanks to its precise movement, nostalgic yet unique look, and easy-to-read dial, all at a great price point.
Reasonably priced and beautifully rendered, Baltic’s Aquascaphe GMT pays homage to the near unattainable 60’s Rolex Pepsi GMT without feeling like a rip-off. Considering it’s also a French microbrand, a purchase from Baltic feels special. The Aquascaphe has everything you could want from a traditional GMT with its own unique style and look.
Coming in gray, green, or orange, it features a bi-directional bezel, iconic rubber tropic straps, and self-winding Swiss Soprod movement. Against a black dial finish, white Super-luminova hands are easy to read at a glance, especially in the dark. And there’s a sapphire insert for scratch resistance and a neat little date window at 6 o’clock.
Easy to find and of great value, the Aquascahpe is quickly becoming an icon on its own.
Diameter: 39mm | Case Material: Stainless Steel | Strap: Rubber | Movement: Automatic
Perhaps the cleanest face on this list, Iota’s GMT watch exemplifies minimalist beauty. The collection offers four different models representing different cities in different time zones around the world, but I’ve chosen New York because it’s where I live. The brownstones of each borough serve as inspiration, coupled with a tan strap and golden case against a crisp matte white dial with golden lines. Choose from a variety of strap colors.
As a brand, Iota combines minimalist British design cues with Swiss manufacturing and Swiss-made Ronda 515.34H movement. Each watch is crafted from stainless steel with a glossy brushed metal finish for a clean, expensive look. Oh, and don’t forget easy quick-release straps.
Diameter: 40mm | Case Material: Stainless Steel | Strap: Leather | Movement: Automatic
It’s hard having expensive taste, but even the Tangomat GMT comes in at a decent price point considering all you’re getting. This watch is absolutely beautiful, from clear lines and angular form to the tempered blue steel hands and touch of red against the oversized white face. The beautiful strap is crafted in Horween genuine shell cordovan leather.
But my favorite feature is the window display where airport codes denote the 24 time zones. All it takes is one push of a button to switch your location moments from NYC to RIO before you land. It’s different, but that’s what makes it fun.
Diameter: 31mm | Case Material: Stainless Steel | Strap: Leather | Movement: Automatic
Long gone are the days when you had to spend big on a GMT watch. Citizen proves that quality at a low price point that’s not only attainable but downright attractive. Ideally, Citizen Promaster Diver is a great summer sports watch, thanks to bright colors and 200 meters of water resistance. But regardless of season, it’s a feature-packed timepiece for a staggeringly great price.
Anti-reflective sapphire is common on more expensive watches. But luminous white hands and markers against a clear face make the dial easy to read. The band also happens to be extremely comfortable.
But perhaps its coolest feature is the Eco-drive movement, the first of its kind. This means the watch is powered by light, and not just sunshine, but any light, including artificial. Now that’s a feature worth getting used to.
Diameter: 44mm | Case Material: Stainless Steel | Strap: Stainless Steel | Movement: Eco-drive
The Seiko 5 Sports line has put out some fantastic variations since its reintroduction in recent years, but an automatic watch with a fourth hand for GMT? Talk about balling on a budget. The brand pulls it off beautifully by simply modifying the movements for the world traveler, who is concerned with function above all else.
True to Seiko form, it’s a well-built watch with excellent details and movement you can count on. The deep blue and black bezel against a shiny steel bracelet is eye-catching. And for under $500, quite frankly, it feels like a steal.
Diameter: 42.5mm | Case Material: Stainless Steel | Strap: Stainless Steel | Movement: Automatic
These days, getting your hands on the Timex Q is a struggle. The Waterbury Traditional GMT is a great fill-in with a slightly higher-end look, in my opinion. The green, red, and white hands are particularly attractive. And because it’s easy to dress up or down, it’s great for daily wear.
A colored rotating bezel that tracks an additional time zone, 100 meters of water resistance, and a quick-release strap are all features found on higher-end watches. Oh, how I love traditional looks and functionality at dirt-cheap prices. Seriously, this affordable gmt watch will only set you back a couple hundred bucks.
Another modern iteration of a vintage body, the Waterbury pays homage to the original Timex, the Waterbury Clock Company, founded in 1854.
Diameter: 39mm | Case Material: Stainless Steel | Strap: Leather | Movement: Quartz
A rotating 24-hour bezel is a must-have feature for aviation. The Zodiac Super, a nod to the Zodiac Sea Wolf of the 1960s, is timelessly stunning, thanks to the gold bezel that can tell time in a third time zone and the matching middle strip of gold on the bracelet.
Pilots also need to be able to see well at a quick glance, so the reserved black dial provides the perfect backdrop for those white hands to really pop. Couple that with the deep 200 meters water resistance, and you’ve got one of the best GMT watches for flight.
Diameter: 40mm | Case Material: Stainless Steel | Strap: Stainless Steel | Movement: Automatic
If you’re going to go vintage, what’s better than the OG? This is the 1994 model, but there’s no mistaking the blue and red bezel, an iconic feature of the GMT Master Rolex launched in 1954. It holds the title of the first timepiece to track two time zones simultaneously. Perfect for pilots, why not you?
Actually, thanks to the bi-rotational bezel, it’s possible to track up to three time zones at once. A classic look in excellent condition, this model also boasts a chronometer and 100 meters of water resistance.
If purchasing vintage leaves you feeling unsure, just know that Tourneau has very strict certified pre-owned watch quality standards with a 30-point inspection. The retailer itself has been around since 1900.
Diameter: 40mm | Case Material: Stainless Steel | Strap: stainless Steel | Movement: Automatic
I love how the Tangomat captures the spirit of travel, but the Bulova Wilton takes an elegant stab at it as well. Handsome and refined, it resides in the premium tier of automatic self-winding movements, with a high-quality independently adjustable GMT hand. This makes it easy to set the hand to another timezone without affecting accuracy. Phew.
It’s not just movement that the Bulova offers up. A beautiful silver tone stainless steel case is quite the backdrop for a blue 4-hand GMT dial, striking Roman numeral markers, and a world map dial for some perspective. Pair it with the anti-reflective dome, and you’ve got one of the best GMT watches money can buy.
Diameter: 43mm | Case Material: Stainless Steel | Strap: Leather | Movement: Automatic
I could’ve included any number of automatic GMT watches, but there is something so special and unique about this one. Maybe it’s in the limited-edition name, the Amerigo Vespucci Special, a nod to the spirit of travel. Or maybe it’s the Bugatti-esque appearance, that eye-catching combo of black and yellow that comprises the inner dial second time zone ring.
Either way, like a fine Italian car, Bulgari’s Aluminum is not only beautiful but comfortable, too. You can thank rubber for that. The black rubber strap locks at the center of the case for a flexible, secure fit. There’s also a black rubber bezel with the BVLGARI engraving and an added rubber insert for shock resistance.
Meanwhile, the hands are rhodium plated for extra strength and luster. No matter how you spin it, this is clearly one of the best GMT watches.
Diameter: 40mm | Case Material: Aluminum Titanium | Strap: Rubber | Movement: Automatic
As the name implies, the Mido Ocean Star is one of the best GMT watches for aquatics. Again, here’s another well-priced watch with loads of features. But its most stand-out accomplishment is time-keeping. Imagine that.
Here is a solid yet refined dive watch from an established Swiss brand. Mido is a part of Swatch Group and gets its 80-hour power reserve automatic movement from the premier sister company, ETA. It’s also serving precision with a Nivachron balance spring, a titanium-based alloy that protects against shocks and the effects of time.
As for looks, a rich attractive navy bezel with a deeper navy dial matches the beautifully woven strap, made from a leather front and synthetic back. Perfect for breathability and comfort. For just over the $1,000 price tag, I think it’s a yes.
Diameter: 44mm | Case Material: Stainless Steel | Strap: Leather Front, Synthetic Back | Movement: Automatic
With all the trappings of luxury at an attainable price point, the Monta Atlas is one of the best GMT watches out there. Whether you’re traveling, working, or out exploring, it’s a utilitarian looker that puts in work.
Seriously, this thing is built like a tank. Not only is the bracelet strong, but it’s comfortable, thanks to a highly adjustable clasp and two half-links to create your perfect fit. A 56-hour power reserve makes it ideal for daily wear and refined Sellita SW330 automatic movements means it runs like a charm.
To me, function must meet form to be considered the best. And boy, does the Atlas hold up. Red entails and rhodium-plated diamond-cut sword-style hands with Super-LumiNova pop against the deep charcoal dial. Polished bevels and a brushed sunburst finish on the bezel bring high shine. If you’re going to add one GMT watch to your wardrobe, this should be it.
Diameter: 38.5mm | Case Material: Stainless Steel | Strap: Stainless Steel | Movement: Automatic
What To Look For In A GMT Watch
A watch is no good if you can’t even read it. A cluttered dial isn’t ideal. The best GMT watches have either a dark dial and light-colored hands or a clean, light dial and hands that pop.
Generally, a fourth hand indicates the GMT time zone denoted on the bezel, while a rotating bezel allows for keeping track of an additional time zone. The Tangomat even created an entirely new style of time zone tracking with an airport code window.
If you’re flush with cash, by all means, feel free to splurge on the best GMT watches. However, there are some truly amazing watches in the $1,000-$3,000 price range and even lower, so it’s really not necessary to spend a ton unless you want to.
Without a doubt, the Baltic Aquascaphe is a top-tier choice. From its attractive price point, iconic vintage style, and bevy of features, including Super-LumiNova hands and Swiss movement, it’s one of the best GMT watches to put on your wrist.
“Greenwich Mean Time,” meaning the solar time at the Royal Observatory in London. It’s how the rest of the world’s time zones are compared. However, GMT watches can typically be set to any other additional timezone of your choosing.
GMT is always set to 0 on a watch and follows a 24-hour clock. It’s geared to turn half as quickly as 12-hour hands. To set your time zone, simply turn the hand according to the corresponding number of your time zone (Germany is +1, for example).
As global travel increases, it’s common to be in multiple time zones throughout the week. Whether you’re keeping time as you travel from home or work or want to keep track of a loved one living abroad, the best GMT watches are essential.
Why not? Depending on your needs, you could use it infrequently or daily. Considering the affordable price points on some fine watches, there’s no reason a GMT watch can’t be a part of your typical repertoire.