GMT vs. Dual Time Watches: The Battle of the Time Zones

gmt dual time watches

Alongside chronographs and timing bezels, watches capable of displaying more than one timezone at once are some of the most practical on the market. Whether you’re living and working bi-coastal, or a good friend is in the middle of a little European tour, a dual time or GMT watch will save you the hassle of digging out your phone and checking the world time tab of your clock to make sure you’re not sending a text or email in the middle of the night. While both of these watch types have effectively the same function, they are not created equal. How, you might ask? Well, let’s get to it.

A Lesson in Differences Between Dual Time and GMT Watches

Dual Time watches are basically pretty self explanatory—they display two different times, at the same time.  Most commonly you’ll see a subdial somewhere on its dial indicating the second time (sometimes hours and minutes, and other times strictly hours) on a 12-hour scale.

Most often these will be paired with some sort of subtle day/night indication as well, allowing you to tell the time of day the the second time zone you’re presently keeping tabs on. Occasionally (and I love coming across these) manufacturers will opt for a digital display of the second time zone. Though rare, this version of dual time watch is even more efficient than its siblings, so long as the display window is crafted of a reasonable size.

What is GMT? GMT watches rely on a 24h scale for time indication. The most common examples will display a second time zone via a central hand and a 24h track either running along the dial, the rehaut, or the bezel, which can either be fixed or rotatable. Those GMT watches with a moving bezel add an extra layer of practicality so long as you’re okay with a little math.

With the GMT hand set to a specified time/timezone, wearers can advance or retard the bezel in either direction, allowing them to determine the time in a 3rd zone, so long as they’re aware of how far ahead or behind the new timezone is. Confused? Then maybe opt for a Dual Time. Sold on the practicality? Well you’re in luck, as there are plenty of interesting GMT watches out there this year—especially after Baselworld.

what is gmt

Rolex GMT Master II vs. Patek Philippe Nautilus Travel Time

Rolex GMT-Master II “Pepsi”

With all the buzz surrounding the new Rolex GMT-Master II launching in steel with a Pepsi bezel on a jubilee bracelet, it simply couldn’t be ignored when discussing this topic. This newest variant is an icon in the category, featuring an independent red GMT hand and ceramic bezel. Previously the only ceramic Pepsi bezel model available was cased in white gold, whereas this new variant opens up the doors to a much broader market of enthusiasts and collectors less interested in watches made of precious metals.

The biggest news with this release at a technical level was the launch of a new caliber—the 3285—featuring Rolex’s ultra-efficient Chronergy escapement and a reworked mainspring and barrel, which when combined lead to an impressive increase to its power reserve up to 70 hours, compared to the previous caliber 3186’s 48 hours.

Patek Philippe Nautilus Travel Time Chronograph re. 5990/1A

Though using a central hand for its second time zone indication, the Patek Philippe Nautilus Travel Time Chronograph is considered a dual time. Its central hand runs on a 12-hour scale with day/night indicators for both its local and home times. Adding to its immense practicality, the Patek Philippe Travel Time has a pair of pushers on the left side of its case to adjust the local time forwards and backwards so those who travel frequently do not have to fuss with a multi-position crown in order to adjust time on the fly. Add to this a date subdial and a 60-minute chronograph, and you’re left with one of the most practical luxury watches on the market right now in a relatively compact case (40.5mm in diameter, and 12.53mm thick).

Bremont ALT1-Z vs. Faberge VIsionnaire DTZ

Bremont ALT1-Z Zulu

Speaking of practicality, the Bremont ALT1-Z Zulu’s stark and task-focused design is another killer example of a practical GMT tool watch. The Zulu uses an internal rotating bezel for its 24h scale, allowing for the display of a 3rd time zone as we elaborated on above. Measuring 43mm across in Bremont’s beloved Trip-Tick case, the piece is highly legible in both its pilot-style black dial with white indices as it is in its more retro variant using faux-patina colored indices and hands.

Faberge Visionnaire DTZ

Easily the most unique entrant in the category, and one we immediately fell in love with when it launched in 2016, the Faberge Visionnaire DTZ takes a unique and functional approach to the dual time complication. A 24h digital display of local time is located at the center of its dial, adjustable via a quickset pusher at 10 o’clock. The innovative caliber, whose self-winding rotor can be seen through the translucent sapphire track for the hour indices, won the GPHG award in 2016 in the “Travel Time” Category. At just north of $40k, the white gold gem comes at a steep premium, however for one of the most innovative dual time watches of its kind, the math on the DTZ isn’t that hard to justify.

Author: Justin Mastine-Frost

Patek Philippe Rolex