Watches excel at imparting knowledge (time) at a quick glance. But sometimes, knowing one time is not enough. What if you need to know two different time zones simultaneously? Enter the GMT.
What is GMT?
GMT stands for Greenwich Mean Time, the hub of all time-telling in the world. GMT is the time at 0 degrees longitude and has been at the center of the world’s time since 1884. Although GMT was eventually replaced with UTC (Coordinated Universal Time), it is still widely used in time zone calculations today.
The History and Evolution of GMT Watches
The GMT watch complication arose with the advent of commercial air travel. In the 1940’s and 1950’s, airplane routes lengthened and spanned across time zones. Pilots flying those routes needed to quickly see their prior time zone as well as GMT to convert to local time wherever they were traveling. Then-airline giant Pan American Airways (Pan Am) identified that horological need and approached Rolex to build them watches to solve this problem.
Rolex responded with the GMT Master, ref. 6542, in the early 1950’s. The watch utilized a “simple” complication, one that allowed an additional hour hand to rotate around the dial 1 time per day. Its wearer needed only to set the additional hand to the desired time zone and – viola – tell time in 2 different time zones. That, coupled with a bezel charting where each of the 24 hours lands on the dial, allowed the wearer to tell GMT with the same accuracy as the watch itself. Alternatively, the second time zone could be set to any other time zone desired.
Needless to say, the watch caught on quickly. The appeal was simple – literally. The watch-wearing public loved the additional functionality without adding subdials. And the applications are practically endless, such as:
- Businessmen traveling cross-country to meet with clients.
- GMT conversions into multiple time zones for international logistics.
- Significant others knowing when to call each other in long-distance relationships.
GMT Watch Functionality for Adventure Seekers
A GMT watch has one other application that often flies under the radar, unknown and unnoticed. That function to navigate, that is, to find north. If you get lost while backpacking in the woods, your GMT can help you get back home. This trick works during daylight hours by first setting the GMT hand to the local time zone (and add or subtract 1 hour depending on the Daylight Savings observance there). Once set, point the GMT to the sun. In the Northern hemisphere, the GMT hand will point north. Conversely, in the Southern hemisphere, the GMT will point south, and you’ll use its opposite point on the dial to determine north. This is an excellent fun fact that just might save your life someday.
If you’ve spent much time in the watch space, you know that GMT’s are on-trend right now. The GMT has recently taken back its position as a leading watch complication in the horological community, outliving the brief popularity of telling multiple time zones via ana-digi functions or through additional movements / subdials. Making GMT watches is a win-win for watch brands and fanatics as well, as watchmakers can offer a second functionality without having to over-complicate the watch or add significant amounts of hardware to the movement. And for the watch fanatic, they can tell 2 time zones simultaneously plus own a part of aviation history. With a myriad of options ranging from under $500 to tens of thousands, the GMT deserves a spot in your personal watch collection.
Visit Grand Caliber for Any New or Vintage GMT Watch
If you're in the market for a GMT watch, please get in touch with us. Grand Caliber offers an impressive collection of luxury timepieces from some of the most reputable brands in the industry. From classic designs to contemporary styles, our selection caters to every taste and preference. The team at Grand Caliber is also known for our exceptional customer service and expertise in the world of watches. Whether you're a seasoned collector or a first-time buyer, we'll guide you through the purchasing process with ease and professionalism. So, don't hesitate to visit Grand Caliber and discover the perfect GMT watch for your lifestyle and needs.