Over the last couple of years, we have seen an increase in new GMT watch releases. Brands recognize that GMT watches fulfill a practical need for watch enthusiasts who travel a lot. A watch that can display the time in two or three different time zones at once is very practical. Moreover, GMT watches often look really good. While the category was once defined by the legendary Rolex GMT-Master, there is now a mix of amazing GMT-Master-inspired timepieces and stunning releases that have their own distinct look. But each and every one of these watches shares the ability to show the time in multiple time zones, which is why the GMT is my personal favorite watch complication. So, let’s take a look at some of the most underrated GMT watches currently available.
1. Rolex GMT-Master II “Root Beer” Ref. 16713
Let’s jump straight in with a Rolex GMT-Master II. This isn’t just some standard GMT-Master, but the famous “Root Beer” version. This gold and steel Rolex GMT-Master is a break from the iconic stainless-steel variant with its blue and red “Pepsi” bezel. The Rolex GMT-Master II Root Beer gets its name from the two-tone brown and gold bezel, which is reminiscent of the famous soft drink. Rolex introduced the first GMT-Master Root Beer around 1970. In addition to the new bezel colors, it came with a nice brown dial, and was also the first GMT-Master offered in Rolesor, Rolex’s name for two-tone watches. The first reference, the 1675/3, also came with the famous nipple dial, which has very particular hour markers. The watch also earned the nicknames “Tiger Eye” or “Tiger Auge,” the latter of which is German for the eponymous precious stone. Additionally, it’s also known as the “Clint Eastwood,” as the famous actor owned one and wore it in several of his movies.
The first-generation Rolex GMT-Master Root Beer is hard to find nowadays. It is, therefore, much easier and more practical to go for the second-generation Rolex GMT-Master II Root Beer ref. 16713. Rolex introduced this model in the late 1980s, and it stayed in production until 2006. The advantage of the Rolex GMT-Master II over the previous Rolex GMT-Master is that it allows you to adjust the main hour hand independently, making it a true GMT. The legendary Rolex caliber 3185 is responsible for this feature. Other changes include an upgrade to a sapphire crystal and the change to standard hour markers. The reason the Root Beer can be considered a sleeper is because not everyone is a fan of two-tone watches. I personally love the combination of gold and steel on certain watches, especially the Rolex Datejust and GMT-Master Root Beer. If you pair it with a Jubilee bracelet, you’ll get a watch that has a retro charm from its combination of color and materials, but also a contemporary Rolex style that is still relevant today. If you start searching for a ref. 16753, you will quickly learn that Rolex also made a two-tone watch with a black dial and black bezel. This is undoubtedly a beautiful watch, but it looks less spectacular than the Root Beer. Expect to see prices starting at roughly $12,000 and moving up to $20,000 for a watch in great condition. What you get in return is a fantastic GMT with impeccable style.
2. Grand Seiko SBGJ237
If you love the GMT-Master style, but don’t want to spend over $10,000 on a GMT watch, the Grand Seiko SBGJ237 is the perfect option for you. Grand Seiko is known for creating a large number of GMT watches. Many fans of the brand love the GMTs that are based on the iconic 44GS model from the 1960s, but Grand Seiko also creates a series of GMT sports watches, which draw on the famous GMT-Master aesthetic. For the SBGJ237, Grand Seiko uses a 44.2-mm stainless steel case. That may sound big, but the watch actually wears a lot friendlier than you might expect. It comes equipped with a blue and white sapphire bezel. In addition to being scratch-resistant, the bezel glows spectacularly in the dark. Seiko’s LumiBrite luminescent material is very effective and creates a spectacular effect in combination with the lower part of the bezel. The bezel has another quirk: Its daytime portion runs from 6:30 AM to 5:30 PM instead of 6 AM to 6 PM.
Inside the case, Grand Seiko uses its Hi-Beat caliber 9S86. Grand Seiko is known for these movements, which run at a higher speed of 36,000 vph compared to the 28,800 vph of most modern watches. This results in greater overall accuracy. On top of that, it’s a spectacular sight to see the second hand move smoothly across the dial. The Grand Seiko SBGJ237 comes on a stainless-steel bracelet. Together with the combination of the blue dial and blue and white bezel, you get a nice, crisp-looking GMT that can easily take on the Rolex GMT-Master. The list price for the SBGJ237 is $6,800, which is significantly less than the Rolex GMT-Master (II). If you’re shopping for a pre-owned timepiece, prices start at roughly $4,500, which is a bargain considering what you’re getting in terms of style, technical specs, and immaculate finishing. If you want the same watch on a leather strap and a warm dark green dial instead of the fresh blue, check out its classy brother, the Grand Seiko SBGJ239.
3. Omega Seamaster Professional 300 GMT “50th Anniversary” Ref. 2534.50.00
The last pick for this list is the brilliant Omega Seamaster Professional 300 GMT “50th Anniversary.” In a previous installment of this series, I discussed the Omega Seamaster Professional 300 GMT “Great White,” which would actually be another great addition to this article. The Seamaster Professional 300 GMT ref. 2534.50.00 is essentially the Great White’s sibling. It comes with a 41-mm stainless steel case and stainless steel bracelet, and is part of the famous Seamaster Bond series. By adding a black aluminum 24-hour bezel, a red 24-hour GMT hand, and red GMT lettering, the watch has a slightly different presence on the wrist. These features change the Seamaster from a hardcore diving watch to a great-looking GMT for all your travel needs. The watch was released in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Seamaster collection, and was the brand’s very first GMT watch. All in all, this is a special timepiece that was even marketed on the wrist of then-James Bond, Pierce Brosnan.
Inside the 41-mm case, you’ll find Omega’s caliber 1128. This movement adds a GMT module to the brand’s caliber 1120, which is a higher-grade version of the ETA 2892. The movement is very reliable and only 3.6 mm thick, ensuring the overall profile of the watch remains slim. The automatic movement comes with a 44-hour power reserve and is COSC-certified. You have to be a fan of the oversized 24-hour numerals on the bezel to like this watch, but if you don’t mind them, you will get a spectacular watch for your money. Prices for the Omega Seamaster Professional 300 GMT “50th Anniversary” ref. 2534.50.00 start at roughly $3,000 and move up to $4,000. That is not a lot of money, considering what you get in return in terms of style and legacy.
There you have it, three great GMT watches that are still flying under the radar. Each of these watches would make a fantastic travel companion, joining you as you travel across time zones. Stay on the lookout for more hidden gems in future installments of this series.