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What Is A GMT Watch? Plus 10 FAQs

GMT watches are designed to help you keep track of multiple time zones at once. 

If you travel frequently or work in a profession that requires constant coordination with people across the globe, then this kind of watch is for you. 

Keep reading and find out all about GMT watches. We will answer the top most frequently asked questions about GMT watches.

Including what is a GMT watch, how does a GMT watch works, and how to read this watch too like a pro.

GMT Watches FAQs

  1. What is a GMT watch?
  2. What does GMT stand for in a watch?
  3. Why is UTC not GMT?
  4. How does a GMT watch work?
  5. How do I read my GMT watch?
  6. Is a GMT watch useful?
  7. Do I need a GMT watch?
  8. Who made the first GMT watch?
  9. What is the best GMT watch?
  10. What is the best affordable GMT watch?

1. What is a GMT watch?

A GMT watch is a timepiece that allows you to tell the time in two different time zones.

It is the perfect watch for someone who travels a lot. Such as a pilot.

A GMT watch is able to track two time zones on a 24-hour scale. This gives pilots their local time, as well as a GMT reference (or as we know say UTC reference).

From this reference pilots can then use the watch to tell the time zone of any other city. Once they know how many hours to add or to subtract from GMT.

An old black and white photograph of a pilot wearing a Glycine Airman watch inside the cockpit of a fighter plane.
Pilot wearing a Glycine Airman watch (Image : Medium)

2. What does GMT stand for in a watch?

GMT stands for Greenwich Mean Time. GMT refers to that specific timezone. It’s the timezone of London, Dublin, and all the other cities within that timezone.

You can see the GMT timezone on the map, along with all the other current time zones of the world.

The map of the world, with all the time zones marked out.
Time Zones of the World (Image : Wikipedia)

3. Why is UTC not GMT?

GMT is often confused with UTC.

UTC stands for Coordinated Universal Time, and replaced GMT as a more accurate and scientific measurement of time.

UTC differs from GMT due to the 24-hour system, which starts the counting from midnight.

However, there is no (meaningful) difference in time between GMT and UTC. If it’s 10am at GMT, then it’s 10am at UTC.

GMT has been relegated to just a timezone now.

4. How does a GMT watch work?

A GMT watch works by giving the wearer two time zones at any one time. Also offering the wearer the ability to check other time zones around the world too.

You first set the watch to your local time using the GMT watch’s main hands on the dial.

Then you use the extra GMT hour hand, and set that hand to the GMT timezone. 

This extra GMT hour hand means you always know the GMT time, all the time.

Then when the GMT hand is used in conjunction with the 24 hour bezel. You can check the timezone of anywhere in the world. Once you know how many hours to add or subtract from the GMT time.

5. How do I read my GMT watch?

Top British watch brand, Christopher Ward, shows you how to read your GMT watch in their handy how to use a GMT watch video below.

6. Is a GMT watch useful?

A GMT watch is useful when you travel to different places, because it lets you know the local time of your destination as well as the time of the GMT timezone.

GMT watches are often referred to as Dual Timezone Watches.

They’re a type of watch that is designed for people who travel around the world, and need to keep track of multiple time zones at any one time.

Pilots and adventurers were the first users of GMT watches. Today many business people and world travelers use GMT watches to keep track of the time in our super interconnected world.

7. Do I need a GMT watch?

If you travel a lot, and find yourself constantly changing to different time zones. Then a GMT watch should come in handy and might be a good investment.

However, no one really needs a GMT watch nowadays in a world that is powered by technology.

They were a necessity of the past. But nowadays most of us keep track of different time zones with our smartphones.

8. Who made the first GMT watch?

A close up photo of a Glycine Airman watch
Glycine Airman watch released in 1953

The first GMT watch is a contentious issue.

However, the Glycine Airman was released in 1953. This GMT watch was built for commercial pilots to use. A truly innovative timepiece from the Swiss watchmaker.

Glycine understood that pilots needed to know two time zones. They needed a watch that could tell this to them at the same time.

The new Airman could do both, making a commercial pilots job that little bit easier from 1953.

The Rolex GMT-Master is still considered by many to be the first and best GMT watch around. 

However, Rolex released their first GMT watch in 1954. One year after the Glycine Airman was released.

9. What is the best GMT watch?

The most famous, and what many consider the most revolutionary GMT watch, is the Rolex GMT-Master.

The Rolex GMT-Master (Ref. 6542) was released in 1954. It was a watch specifically designed for pilots.

It had an automatic movement, the calibre 1036 that was fitted with a GMT complication. 

A photo of a Rolex GMT-Master Ref. 6542
Rolex GMT-Master Ref. 6542 (Image : Sotheby’s)

The Rolex GMT-Master came from the collaboration with Pan-Am. Who was the US’s leading international airline at the time. 

Pan-Am needed a watch that their pilots could use in order to read the time of two time zones at once.

This watch coincided with the revolution of the airline industry, and the huge growth in popularity of commercial flights.

Not much has changed with the original Rolex GMT-Master and the modern day Rolex GMT-Master II. As you can see from the two different advertisements from Rolex Magazine.

Two advertisements from Rolex Magazine, one that is advertising the Rolex GMT-Master Ref. 6542. The other is advertising the Rolex GMT-Master II.
Rolex GMT-Master & Rolex GMT-Master II Ads in Rolex Magazine (Image : Sotheby’s)

The Rolex GMT-Master is still loved by pilots, and now also loved by world travelers worldwide. Many consider the Rolex GMT-Master II the best GMT watch you can own.

Photo of the the Rolex GMT-Master II
Rolex GMT Master II (Image : Rolex)

10. What is the best affordable GMT watch?

Take a look at the video by watch fanatic TGV, from the YouTube channel, the Urban Gentry. 

He takes the time to tell us why he thinks the Lorier Hyperion is one of the best affordable GMT watches out right now.

To Sum Up

GMT watches are timepieces that can tell you the time of two different time zones at the same time. They’ve been used by pilots and world travelers since 1953, and are still used today.

Learn more about watches in our guides to all things watch related.

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