Many of us are getting back to a life of travel, whether for work or pleasure, and that travel feels all the sweeter after time away. But if you’re time zone-challenged like I am, your confusion may have gotten worse having been stuck in one time zone for two years or so. When I pick up the phone to call or text friends, family, or colleagues, I’m bound to wake someone up because I forgot that, yes, New York is in fact ahead of San Francisco, or my report on my amazing dinner in Switzerland will hit someone’s inbox right when they’re just starting to get hungry again after lunch at the office. That’s one of about a dozen reasons (some more practical than others) that I dream of owning a GMT.
I saw my first Rolex ref. 1675 GMT-Master at the RRL store in New York’s SoHo – yes, Ralph Lauren’s western outpost has watches – and I immediately fell in love. I’d heard of them but had no idea how they worked except the concept that you could track a second time zone. So, naturally, I proudly described its function to my then-girlfriend and was completely wrong.
To save you all the embarrassment I felt when I realized my error, this Weekend Edition is dedicated to a basic GMT 101 course, everything from how to tell what kind of GMT you’re holding and how to read it, to deep scholarship and personal stories that help explain why the GMT is so captivating. Happy time-zoning!
When you first get your hands on a GMT or any travel watch, it’s helpful to know what type of timepiece you’re working with and how to use it. Sometimes a bit of research goes a long way, other times a bit of experimentation with the watch will be revealing. This story will help you understand the myriad of travel time watches you might be dealing with so that you can use them to their full potential.
Once you’ve got the hang of the GMT in your hands (or on your wish list), you might wonder about the origins of the watch. Instead of digging into a philosophical and historical deep dive into the concept of time zones, I’d recommend reading an equally-thorough article on the history of the Rolex GMT-Master. I think it would be hard to argue that any other watch has been more closely associated with the concept of travel. The fact that we can just say “GMT” to refer to almost any travel time watch is a testament to that. So if there’s one watch that is worth knowing every reference inside and out, I’d argue it’s the GMT.
I’ll admit, a not-insignificant portion of my dream of owning a Rolex GMT comes from this story by Jason Heaton. It’s become a nearly-monthly tradition for Cole Pennington to remind me that he sees a common thread between me and the man in this story – the adventuresome spirit, the connection to National Geographic, and the fact that I view buying a watch as a lifetime commitment. I consider this one of the all-time great HODINKEE stories and it perfectly encapsulates why a GMT is a watch with a strong emotional pull.
Maybe a Rolex GMT is a bit too expensive, or like many people, you find yourself unable to stomach the waitlist that comes with wanting one of the most in-demand watches on the market. In the years since James Stacey’s story on the Tudor Black Bay GMT, there are a lot more options on the market, including from Tudor. But James’ story on this specific watch will long remain proof that the Black Bay GMT isn’t “settling” for a lesser watch, but a fantastic alternative option altogether.
Maybe you’ve even been lucky enough to have had your hands on a GMT for a while, whether you bought it yourself or received it from a family member passing it down. Eventually, you might realize that the prices on a good GMT, specifically of the Rolex variety, have become increasingly impossible to ignore. What is one to do? Danny Milton wrestled with that very question and I’d recommend reading and heeding his advice.
While we spoke, I realized that though his GMT was far more beat-up than mine – battered, faded, and barely clinging to its stretched-out riveted bracelet – it was definitely the more desirable of the two. And I was jealous. Not of his watch, but of him.
Shop this story
Looking to up your travel game ahead of your next trip? We’ve got GMT watches for a wide range of budgets in the HODINKEE Shop. For more information on the Rolex GMT-Master II or Tudor Black Bay GMT, you can check them out on their respective websites.