Travel watches are useful. I know that shouldn’t be an outlandish statement but in a world of moon phases, tourbillons and minute repeaters, having a genuinely useful complication is kind of a novelty.
If you’re hopping from country to country, keeping an eye on precisely what time it is at home can keep you grounded and, more importantly, stop you waking people up in the middle of the night. You know, unless you actively hate them.
There are two main types of travel watch. First are GMTs or Second Time Zone watches, which indicate one or two time zones other than local. Second are worldtimers, which just throw everything at you at once.
If you regularly fly along the same borders – perhaps hopping over the Atlantic a few times a month – or do business with one country in particular, a GMT is ideal. It shows what you need and only what you need. If you’re a global stockbroker, a worldtimer saves a lot of wall space, replacing the requisite series of stock exchange clocks. They’re a lot more to take in, but when done well are seriously impressive.
The most famous travel watch is, of course, the Rolex GMT Master-II with its Pepsi-Cola bezel, but don’t worry. Even if you don’t have £5k and the patience of a Buddhist monk that’s required to get one, there are plenty of other options out there for the gentleman traveller. Here are some of the best.
1. Tudor Black Bay GMT, £2,830
If Tudor wasn’t the younger, cooler brother of Rolex this would be cause for a lawsuit, and yet the Black Bay lends itself perfectly to the famous Pepsi-Cola bezel. As with the more prestigious original, you can read three different time zones off the Black Bay GMT, using the local time hands, the independent 24-hour hand and the rotating day/night bezel. Equipped with Tudor’s manufacture-calibre MT5652 automatic movement, it’s a lot of watch for the money and, thanks to the iconic snowflake hand and chunky case it’s a lot more than a poor man’s Rolex; tudorwatch.com
2. Frederique Constant Classic Worldtimer Manufacture, £3,230
Showing all 24 time zones and keeping the watch readable is no mean feat, and this worldtimer from Frederique Constant is verging on too busy. Still, the classical blue and silver keeps things readable and the world map on the dial is a great visual touch. Most impressively though is that the watch is equipped with the watchmaker’s own manufacture movement, a phenomenal piece of work for the price; frederiqueconstant.com
3. Oris Aquis GMT Date, £2070
Nestled amongst Oris’ ocean-saving limited editions this year were some seriously decent new versions of the watchmaker’s signature diving watch. Case in point: the GMT Date. With a dark blue dial and black bezel it’s the same colourway as the Rolex Batman but with a chunkier, thicker bezel and a contemporary, laser-engraved 24- hour scale. It’s also a fantastic price point – but then, this is Oris. That’s precisely what we’ve come to expect; oris.ch
4. Yema Superman Heritage GMT, £1,200
French watchmaker Yema’s decades-old icon is a solid piece of watch. The ubiquitous rotating bezel can be locked at the crown to stop from slipping and the muted, retro colours – particularly on the blue and grey – are pure vintage style. It’s the first time the Superman has been equipped with a second time zone hand and it suits the watch to a tee; en.yema.com
5. Seiko Astron 8X Series Dual Time, £1495
If the only downside to a travel watch is the constant need to set it, the Aston solves that issue. Seiko’s GPS watch automatically sets itself to whatever time zone you find yourself in and, thanks to the worldtimer bezel, shows the correct time everywhere at once. As if that weren’t enough, this particular version is also equipped with a second time-zone hand. It has all of the benefits, with none of the downsides – other than a quartz movement, of course; seikowatches.com