The most simple travel-time watch is a GMT watch. A GMT watch displays local time on the central hour and minute hands, plus it has an additional hand and a 24-hour time scale on the bezel to tell the time in a second time zone. The hour and minute hands rotate around the dial every 12 hours, while the GMT hand makes a single rotation every 24 hours. This GMT hand usually has a different appearance than the other hands for easy legibility, especially if the watch has a long seconds hand, too. Frequently, the GMT hand will have an arrow or be in a different color. Read on to learn how GMT watches work and see the best luxury GMT watches.
What Does GMT Mean?
GMT stands for Greenwich Mean Time. Our 24 time zones are based on the time in Greenwich, England. For example, New York is either four or five hours behind Greenwich Mean Time, depending on the time of year — so it’s GMT-4 or GMT-5, accordingly.
Who Created the First GMT Watch?
Rolex made the first GMT watch, the Oyster Perpetual GMT-Master, in 1955. At the time, it was the official watch of Pan Am Airways, whose pilots wore it to keep track of time in two time zones while flying.
How Does a GMT Watch Work?
If you are in Paris, you set the local time and use the GMT hand to display your home time. (Home time is also called reference time.) If you are at home, you can keep track of a time zone in which you do business or have family using the GMT hand.
There are two types of GMT movements. One has an independently adjustable GMT hand. The other has an independently adjustable local hour hand. Rolex popularized this GMT watch style with the introduction of the GMT-Master II in 1982. When you land in a new time zone, you change the local hour hand without affecting the minutes or GMT hand. So, you still know what time it is at home, but the local time reflects your new destination.
Why Are Some GMT Watches Two Colors?
Some watch brands use two colors on the bezel to function as day/night indicators. Some colorways have become cult classics, like Rolex’s famous “Pepsi” GMT-Master II, which has a red-and-blue bezel.