With the world opening up again, now is the perfect time to dust off your passports, pack your bags, and head off to finally experience those dream destinations in the flesh.
But whether you pack your summer gear or winter gear, travel light, or bring everything but the kitchen sink, there is one thing that you should never leave without: your trusty GMT watch (don’t have one yet? Read on for my top four recommendations!).
GMT watches are the ideal travel companions. Originally developed for pilots flying across time zones, their dual time function has its roots back in maritime navigation. Back then, sailors determined where they were using marine chronometers, and eventually, the need for standardized time zones arose. This led to the establishment of the Greenwich Mean Time — the arbitrary zero-degree meridian passing through the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London — in 1884.
Fast-forward nearly a century to the age of international airplane travel. Pan Am Airlines approached Rolex to create a watch that would help its pilots keep track of home time and local time — and the Rolex GMT-Master was born.
Today, you will be spoiled for choices on the variety of GMT watches in the market. However, keep the following in mind so that you’re guaranteed to have the perfect travel watch.
True GMT. Not every watch with more hands than the basic three is a GMT watch. A true GMT is equipped with an additional 24-hour hand that indicates your home time and remains unchanged when you adjust the regular hour hand forward or backward to reflect your current local time. The home time indicated by the 24-hour bezel assures you that you won’t wake your loved ones or your business associates in the dead of the night.
Micro-adjustment clasp. The fit of your watch can change depending on the ambient temperature and humidity. This feature allows for small adjustments to ensure a comfortable fit all the time.
Self-winding movement. Finding a repair shop in a foreign country to replace your dead watch battery is a huge inconvenience, not to mention potentially expensive. You won’t have that problem with a watch that keeps itself powered automatically through your wrist movements.
Date function. It’s very easy to lose track of the date when traveling through time zones. A good GMT watch should allow you to easily adjust the date display forward or backward depending on your destination.
70-hour power reserve. This is useful to keep your watch running for three days, or over the weekend if you choose not to wear it while traveling.
Accuracy. Watches today are fitted with a silicon hairspring, making them resistant to magnetism and therefore highly accurate. These watches are usually COSC-certified.
Discreetness. You wouldn’t want to attract unnecessary attention to your watch no matter how cool it may be, especially when you’re traveling through unknown areas. A good GMT watch from a dependable watch brand is low-key, yet well-made and reliable.
Affordability. There are many GMT watches in the market, and they come in many different price points. A lower cost does not necessarily mean lower quality.
And speaking of well-built, reasonably priced, and available GMT watches, here are my four recommended models that will keep their value for many years to come.
Tudor Black-Bay Pro: 39mm diameter 39mm diameter with fixed 24-hr bezel, 70-hr power reserve, COSC chronometer-certified, 200m water resistant, Tudor “T-fit” rapid adjusting clasp, silicon hairspring, domed sapphire crystal, GMT with date at P206,500.
Tudor Black-Bay GMT: 41mm diameter with 24-hr rotatable bezel, 70-hr power reserve, COSC chronometer-certified, 200m water reserve, domed sapphire crystal, GMT with date at P214,500.
Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean: 43.5mm diameter with rotatable 24-hr bezel, 60-hr power reserve, Master chronometer-certified, 600m dive water with helium escape valve, folding clasp with comfort setting, silicon hairspring, domed sapphire crystal, GMT with date at P423,400.
Longines Spirit Zulu Time: 42mm diameter with rotatable 24-hr bezel, 72-hr power reserve, COSC chronometer-certified, 100m water resistant, Interchangeable bracelet/strap system, silicon hairspring, domed sapphire crystal, GMT with date at P171,800.
Today, the GMT watch has gone beyond pilots’ wrists. And it has many uses beyond traveling. For example, keep in touch with foreign clients at an appropriate hour or wait for your next online conference call. Even keeping track of a loved one living abroad can be done with a quick glance. So even if you don’t have any immediate travel plans, a GMT watch is still a wise investment to add to your watch collection.