The GMT watch: A popular and practical complication for the real world
Of all the watches which have complications (anything beyond the function of telling the time) my favorites are those which display one or more timezones. Unlike certain complications, such as the tourbillon or the minute repeater whose primary appeal is their beauty and/or complexity, the GMT/UTC/dual time watch has truly useful everyday appeal. Do you travel for business, or pleasure? Have friends, family, or business contacts on another continent, or even just across the one you live on? If so, you will really appreciate owning a fine watch with multiple time zone displays. I thought I’d take a moment to highlight just a few of my favorites.
The Ulysse Nardin GMT ± Big Date watch collection is a real standout in this category. Offered in several formats, these Ulysse Nardin watches offer probably the easiest operation of any dual-time watch. A small window with a “Home Time” inscription shows off a numerical hour layout in a 24-hour format – often, owners set this display for the time in the place in which they live, although it can also be set to indicate GMT/UTC – the standard reference time that is used by pilots and other navigators. Meanwhile, the two buttons on the left side of the case permit you to flip the hour hand either forwards or backwards, as you move through various time zones. Since the minutes and seconds operate normally for this operation, there’s no need to reset the watch. You don’t even unscrew the crown – yep, just push either the top button (marked with a symbol) or the bottom button (marked with a – symbol) and the hour hand can be quickly set to your new destination. It just doesn’t get any easier than that. On top of the cool dual time function, you also have the very neat Ulysse Nardin big date display, which can be advanced quickly, even in the reverse direction, something that is verboten with many watches. In addition to the classical round styles, Ulysse Nardin also offers this supremely useful complication in the Quadrato Dual Time watch if you enjoy your timepieces big and bold. Want the same travel utility, but desire additional complication? Have a look at the Ulysse Nardin GMT ± Perpetual watches – all the same functionality, but with the added appeal of a perpetual calendar complication, complete with a two-digit year indicator.
Blancpain also has some great watches for travellers, particularly if you prefer a more restrained, elegant style. Available in both steel or 18K gold variations in both the Villeret and Leman collections, the Blancpain GMT Time Zone watch has a date display and a crown-set independent hour hand that allows you to easily move through time zones, forward or backwards, while the minute hand and second continue operating normally. A smaller subdial at the top allows you to keep track of the time in another place, while a rotating disc bearing a sun and starry night sky indicate whether the time in the secondary zone is in the AM or PM. The Blancpain Leman Alarm watch is another great choice from this brand, and in addition to the independently-settable hour hand and second time zone indicator, also gives you an alarm function complete with its own power-reserve indicator, and a mechanism that allows you to switch the alarm on or off, at will. Superbly elegant, I honestly can not think of a better timepiece for a travelling business professional whose work requires elegant attire on a regular basis.
How could I forget Audemars Piguet? My own 15300 Royal Oak watch has become a real favorite, so I was delighted when I learned that Audemars Piguet would introduce a new Dual Time watch in this collection; having recently handled the Royal Oak Dual Time watch, I can say that it is everything I hoped it would be. Get this timepiece, and you not only have a real icon of luxury design, complete with the superb detailing that makes the Royal Oak watch unique, but you also get a very useful travelling instrument. In addition to the date display, and a power-reserve indicator, this new Royal Oak watch allows you to rapidly set the hour hand forwards or backwards as you change time zones. A secondary, smaller display shows the time anywhere else you choose, and a day/night indicator makes deciphering day from night in far-away places a simple matter.
If you are looking for travel watch which is uncompromisingly sporty and extremely rugged, the Omega Seamaster GMT watches are ideal candidates. You can advance quickly through timezones with the independent hour hand, while the supplementary 24-hour hand indicates a second time zone via the bezel. If you keep this hand set to GMT time, you can even calculate a third temporary time zone by using the rotating bezel. Built to the same dive-worthy standards as the rest of the Omega Seamaster watch collection, the Seamaster GMT can safely descend to a depth of 300 meters, thanks to its extremely robust case, and screw-down crown and screw-locked case back.