It’s hard to beat the appeal of a travel watch—even in a time when we’re travelling a whole lot less. First of all, they’re super functional, as someone who Googles ‘International meeting planner’ on a weekly basis, being able to glance down at the wrist and quickly gauge the time in some far-flung corner of the globe is surprisingly useful, and that’s even before getting to the on-the-ground benefits of a GMT when you’re actually travelling. The second key to the enduring popularity of the GMT watch is the romance of it all. There’s something about looking down at that orange GMT hand, or city name that you’ve only seen on a map that stirs the heart, that speaks to the possibility. Sure, you might be stuck at your desk at 4 pm on a Friday, but it’s a new day somewhere else, and I dare you to tell me that thought isn’t a little bit exciting.
So we’ve put together a list of seven of the best travel watches, across a range of prices — mostly your traditional GMT (which show at least one-time zone on a 24-hour scale), but we’ve snuck in a few dual timers in there as well. Now, this list isn’t definitive, by any means (for example Patek Philippe and Rolex were both consciously left off). Still, these watches either spark that excitement for travel or excite in other, more technical, ways.
Bell & Ross BR V2-93 GMT Blue
Once upon a time Bell & Ross was a square watch in a round world, but, with their ‘Vintage’ collection the brand has leaned into the circle quite nicely. This V2-93 GMT is a lovingly done take on the classic aviation watch, with a faded grey and blue 245-hour bezel, a bold red second hand and a starburst blue dial that’s pure B&R. The 41mm case and slender profile, along with the aluminium bezel insert give this watch loads of old-world charm. We can’t help but notice some Rolex Explorer II influence here, but we’ll allow it given how well excuted and smartly priced the piece is overall (starting from $3,200). One of the best features is the strap—a classic grey with a single blue centre stripe, and it’s not a NATO like you might expect. Instead, it’s an elastic offering from Erika’s Originals.
Nomos Zurich World Time
Next up we have the ingenious and appealing Zurich World Time from Nomos. It’s hard to make a watch with two time zones and a full-on city ring while still maintaining a clear face, but Nomos has somehow pulled it off. It’s worth noting that, despite the name and that city ring, this is a GMT, rather than world time watch. The main hands correspond to the city ring and are adjusted in on hour increments via that pusher at two. That little lump-like 24-hour display at three? Well, that’s the home time, quaintly indicated by the monopoly-esque outline of a house. Looks a little complex, but it’s not. The other great thing about this watch—the size is quite slight: 39.9mm across and 10.9mm tall. Discreet and dressy, no matter where you are. It’s pricey for a Nomos, coming in at $6,100, but this combination of design, complication, and execution could come steeper from most other makers.
The niche St. Louis-based brand Monta’s second foray into the world of travel watches is the appropriately named Atlas. And while it doesn’t offer much in the way of technical innovation (a fairly standard Sellita SW330 is running the show) it nails the brief of a travel watch‚at least what most mechanical watch-loving people want in a travel watch. The case is classic, but with enough refinements to keep it on the right side of boring, and the proportions (38.5mm across by 10.2mm tall) are glorious on the wrist. There are enough interesting elements on the dial too — like the stepped GMT hand. Add to this, the three attractive dial options, the decent 150m of water resistance and a solid price of $1,795 on bracelet, and it’s a hard watch to fault.
Oris Big Crown ProPilot Worldtimer
At first glance, this big, beefy 44.7mm titanium ProPilot from Oris looks like a regular dial timer — with a second-time display at three o’clock. But it’s a watch with a unique take on the second time zone complication. You see, the coin edge bezel that is traditional in the line is, in this case functional. A simple twist of the bezel, and the local time adjusts (forwards or backwards) in a one-hour increments. There’s an additional neat trick on the date — if you set the time backwards past midnight, the date will adjust backwards as well. A clever and practical take on a two-timer, and like all things Oris it delivers solid in the bang-for-buck department. Depending on the strap combo, these start at $3,600.
Given the historical associations between the GMT and aviation, it should come as no real surprise that the genre, and this list, is weighted towards pilots style watches. And when it comes to modern-style pilot’s one brand is always towards the top: Bremont. And while the brand has quite a few GMTs in its lineup, none are more iconic than the MBIII. The most complicated offering in the 10-year-long partnership between the watch brand and the pre-eminant maker of ejection seats (Martin Baker), the MBIII offers traditional GMT functionality in a pilot’s watch that’s over-engineered to the nth degree, with the hardened case, anti-shock and anti-magnetic features on its specs list. Plus, it looks the business too. The brand just launched a new configurator for the three hand MBII models, but for now we are relegated to standard configurations of this piece, starting at $5,895. It can be had with either a bronze, orange, or anthracite case barrel, with white or black dial on leather strap or bracelet.
Grand Seiko SBGJ203
If we’re honest, most any GMT from Grand Seiko’s lineup would have been a worthwhile addition to this list—the quartz and Spring Drive movements are unique and exceptionally high-quality, but we settled on the more traditional automatic. But not just any automatic, the calibre 9S85 is one of Grand Seiko’s famed hi-beats. On top of a storied movement, you get the 40mm 44GS-inspired case, with an exceptional level of hand-finish, and a rich, mercurial black dial with a radial Mt Iwate pattern. It’ll set you back $6,300, but as we’ve said time and time again, a GS of any variety is worth the extra spend.
Breguet Classique Hora Mundi ref. 5717
Breguet’s reference 5717 takes the display of a second-time zone to an elevated level. First of all there are the looks. It’s a complicated Breguet Classique, so you know it is going to be good. The bezel, the dial guilloche, the fluted case middle. Dreamy, excellent stuff. But in this case, the looks aren’t the real story — it’s the brains that wow. The complicated calibre 77F0 allows you to ‘program’ two timezones into the movement, thanks to the use of memory wheels and a bunch of other Breguet-patented wizardries. The observant amongst you might notice that the watch only displays one time zone (that aperture at 12 is the date) – not so. Simply press the button at eight and the whole time display, including date, day/night indicator and city display will instantly shift to London time. Intuitive and insanely fun. Bonus points to Breguet for actually making it relatively easy to adjust too.
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