What Is A GMT Watch? (Quick Guide How to Read GMT Watches)

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A watch makes a greater part of our fashion, with the original objective of telling time. Even though It is designed with a lot of intricacies, a wristwatch remains an elegant timepiece that everyone would probably wear in their lifetime. As humans are technological advancing, watches are also rapidly becoming reliable functional tools, designed with a lot of complexities, In addition to timekeeping.

It is seemingly rare these days to have a watch without complications, and even minimalists watches aren’t just bare-bone timekeepers, they have other important features. Watch complications is one reason why some traditional wristwatches remain very useful collectibles up to date.

The complexities and additional functionalities(like hiking, swimming, and more) contribute to making wristwatches become less obsolete. A rotating watch bezel is just enough to tell you that watches are full of features that are very vital for professional works.

One of such a complication that has been added to conventional timepieces, is the ability to tell the time in 24 hours(military time) by a fourth hand. You remember that analog watches come with 3 hands, and this fourth or extra-hand with the 24-hour functionality is what basically describes GMT watches.

Because millions of people refer to them as tool watches, GMT watches have remained popular and they have served many generations, without ever going out of fashion.


Best gmt watch - Rolex GMT master II


Related Watches:


What Does GMT mean anyway?

Since the beginning of human history, the world has always had different time zones. Some large countries even have different timezones in different cities (New York and Los Angeles have different times) and this made multi-location timekeeping, a pretty difficult task. To help sailors and pilots, one way that science and governments decided to settle this riddle, was by setting a base global time, called Greenwich Mean Time(GMT).

The history of GMT could be traced way back to ancient times. Egypt might not be the origin of GMT Watches, but ancient Egyptians nevertheless, were the first people to divide a day into 24-hour increments, using the path of the sun and that of stars in the sky. This ancient invention gave rise to the basis(24-hour system) upon which GMT was founded.

The global government later on, as need be, modified the 24-hour Egyptian system into a GMT – local time in Greenwich, England (just southeast of London) at a prime meridian longitude of 0. By 1884, GMT became an officially adopted international time standard in the International Meridian Conference. The setting and the adoption of the 24 time zones around GMT, since then, had reliably served the land, sea, and air travel timekeeping.

The contributions of the western governments, scientists, and bodies like the famous Royal Observatory in London, England, make GMT, a Western-centric “thing” with a worldwide application. The Universal Time Coordinated(UTC time) from atomic clocks, has almost replaced GMT, but nonetheless, as the base to UTC, GMT remains a reliable timekeeping scale.

At first, it could take sailors and people many days up to weeks to travel from one timezone to another. But with the advent of commercial air travel, everything has changed. People today, have the ability to move great distances in a relatively short time and can read time in different timezones.


What is a GMT watch?

For quick reference “A GMT watch is a 24-hour military time watch that has a fourth hand and a rotating bezel”.

Explorers, pilots, sailors, and the military had difficulties in keeping track of time simultaneously, in different countries, until the first GMT watch was born in the 1950s. In 1954, the legendary watch brand Rolex contributed to finding the solution, and that year, the first GMT watch was born – a Rolex GMT- Master.

A good GMT watch on a pilot’s wrist means the flight crew can simultaneously read time in the timezone of departure and destination by a glance. This multi-time reading can be quick, without any brainwork of mathematical calculations.

A GMT watch is not just a 24-hour face watch. It is neither just a regular watch that exhibits 12-hour increments or a timepiece with a 12-hour functionality. There are several 24-hour military time watches out there, but they are not also the same as GMT watches.

A GMT watch is distinguished from other 24 hour watches by the fourth hand, in addition to the usual 3 analog-watch hands(hour, minute, and second). Yes, GMT watches do tell time universally with regular 12/24 time format, but they do so with an extra hand that rotates separately from the other 3 hands.

This extra analog hand in a GMT watch rotates around the bezel or the watch face, once each day(every 24 hours). To enhance the readability of GMT watches, the 24-hour hand is shaped and colored differently from the other three hands.

generally, watches are designed with a stationary bezel, but GMT watches have a directional, rotating bezel that helps the wearer to set time, to different time zones.


How to read a gmt watch


GMT watch – How to read one

A GMT watch is a traditional analog watch with a rotating bezel having 24 incremental markings in the exterior. The markings indicate the 24 hours in a day.

To read the GMT function on a watch, you pick the number that the colored extra hand with an arrow is pointing to, on the rotating bezel. The reason the bezel moves round is to allow you to choose your secondary timezone when need be.

How to read a GMT watch requires that you do a little brainwork – perhaps, some basic arithmetic(you’re scared? no need please). You also have to know how to use gmt bezel, and how to set gmt hand to the right timezone. The rule goes thus:

1. The Greenwich represents the 0.

If you were standing in Greenwich, England, the GMT hand rests on the 12 o’clock marker and the 0 or 24 markers on the bezel. Note that Parts of Europe like Iceland, Berlin, Paris is always on GMT.

2. Add or subtract hours

Knowing the GMT time in any other time zone other than London, means you simply add or subtract the number of hours of that timezone, from that of London(Greenwich). This depends on whether you travel towards the east or the west, from London GMT.

If you consider that London time is at midnight, then, the surrounding timezones towards the east would have increased numbers hours. Those on the west would have a reduced the number of hours.

If you move one timezone in the east, add +1 to GMT hour. To set time to that timezone, rotate the watch bezel by one “click” in the anti-clockwise(left) direction.

For one timezone towards the west, subtract 1 from GMT hour. To set time to that west timezone, you rotate the watch bezel by one “click” in the clockwise(right) direction.

If you don’t know how to use a gmt bezel, its simple in this case. Just turn it clockwise or counterclockwise to set the timezone.


3 Case study – New York

London is at GMT = 12 O’clock midnight

New York is 5 timezones west of London, so New York Times would be 5 hours behind London’s time. How did we get that? We just subtract 5 hours from 12 midnight and that gives us 7 O’Clock PM. In this case, you would set the bezel to the New York timezone, by 5 clicks rotation in the right(clockwise) direction.

Beginners can first set the bezel to the 0 positions so that it reads the current GMT time before adding or subtracting the proper hours of the timezone. Many international travelers may skip that first step since they know how to read 24-hour military time. Frequent travelers constantly change time zones, so they are pretty familiar with these.

For every other timezone around the world, use the same method – plus or minus GMT time. The maths is easy to do in the head, but that can be some sort of inconvenience for many.  However, having a reliable tool to show different monitor timezone is a better option, for people who want to keep their brains from further maths stress.


GMT watch – Who is it for?

Who really needs a GMT watch? If you move from one timezone to another so often, you’ll find that GMT watches are useful tool watches for international travel. Most of the applications of GMT watches are related to traveling and many category of people choose GMT watches as their favorite wristwatch. Here are some people who highly favor GMT watches.

1. Pilots and flight attendants

Crew members must know the time in the timezone of took off and also the timezone of the landing destination. This is useful to follow up the flight plan and time in the air.

2. business, remote workers, and salespeople.

Individual business people also would have GMT watches appealing to them, when they travel by land or by air. Even those that engage in shipping would want to know when the ship departs and when it is expected to arrive in a different country.

GMT watches is also favored by remote workers and businessmen with a job in another country. Think of wall street brokers who need to pay attention to the market opening and closing hours of Wall Street in the New York Stock Exchange market.

GMT Dive watches are suitable for water adventurers , swimmers and professional divers who frequently cross multiply timezones.

3. people who don’t travel always

Persons following events in different areas may include journalists, mobile phone owners, distant family members, students, and researchers. There are many other persons interacting with people around the world. The worse thing is to lost track of the time differences and accidentally call a friend, family member, or a client in Switzerland or Australia while they’re asleep.


How to read a gmt watch - how gmt watches work


Why A GMT Watch Is Right For You

GMT watches are not only for frequent travelers, they have an appeal that captures the taste and personality of most people. They are really designed with distinctive looks and versatility that attracts everyone’s attention. Some people going for outdoor adventure choose to use a GMT watch as a compass. There are some reasons why a GMT watch may just be the right watch that suits your personal or professional lifestyle.

1 You want a watch with a function you actually want to use.

An ideal watch for you is one that actually delivers what you intended it for. Even if you don’t travel, a GMT complication is a feature that is applied by the majority of the world population in this global setting. It is not like other fun features you may never get to use, but tracking time in different nations or different timezones may be important to you.

2. If you are a global citizen.

The world is moving to a point of no borders and boundaries and you can become a transnational enthusiast at the comfort of your home. The global earth makes the importance of the GMT watches very clear in tracking the world time.

3. The manual GMT complication beat smartphone functions

Smartphone apps can easily integrate world time calendars and online GMT time tracking. However, GMT is one of the best user-friendly complications that is convenient for setting a second-time zone manually( hand- rotating the bezel) to determine the current local time anywhere on earth. Rolex GMT Master II set the pace and the other GMT watch brands are following suit. A GMT watch is the perfect example of a mechanical gadget that is more versatile in timekeeping than an app installed in a smart device.

4. Multi-use for outdoor navigation.

You don’t need a unique compass watch if you have a GMT watch. Why GMT watches can be used as a compass for outdoor navigation. Here’s how to use the GMT watch as a compass.

  • Move the GMT hand to your local time zone
  • locate it towards the sun.

Observe it, the 12-hour marker on the dial now points towards either the north pole or south pole of the earth.

5. You want to read time in military time format

If you find it useful, to keep time in 24 hours, a GMT watch is a nice timepiece to consider. All you need is to set the GMT hour hand to local time, and it will show time in military time format, on the 24-hour scale. Strange for you? Don’t worry, the GMT watch even knows when the time is am or pm.

6. You love bidirectional bezel watches

A lot of timepieces have a standard position of a unidirectional bezel, with just one click. If you have been a diver, you probably have noticed that the divers’ watch bezel turns only in uni-directions(one direction). Luckily, the GMT watch bezel is bidirectional. You can turn it left or right as it is necessary for you.

7. Colorful Accent – Attracts Attention

Are you the kind of person that likes being at the center of people’s attention? Know that if you wear an elegant GMT watch with a colorful accent, a bi-colored bezel, or an accentuated hand, the distinctive looks are going to get people near you starring with jaw-dropping looks on their faces. GTM watches are among the many distinctive-looking watches in the market.

8. Perhaps, you work as a pilot or flight attendant or a frequent traveler.

Remember how as a kid, you were made to picture becoming a pilot? Well, many of the boys have experienced that dream. Piloting is an awesome job that looks like it’s fun to many.

A Pilot wears the most iconic GMT watches to help in civil aviation time management. It is no doubt that the first GMT watch was manufactured as a joint-project between Rolex and the air carrier – Pan Am airways in the 1950s.


Best gmt watch under 1000 dollars


Why are GMT watches expensive?

When the Rolex GMT Master I and II were designed, it solved the most disturbing problems most sailors and aviators had, but the price was insanely too high and luxurious for individuals.

Even some affordable GMT watches from Swiss brands are relatively expensive. If you don’t have more than $1,000, you may not get a good quality GMT watch that won’t disappoint.

Read more: why Rolex watches are expensive?


Best GMT Luxury Watches

If you are looking for high-end true GMT watches with a design similar to the GMT time Rolex watch made in the 1950s, there are readily available. Here are some expensive GMT world time watches, some of which feature the dual time of 12 hours and 24 hours.


Best GMT watch under 500 dollars

But there are some Rolex GMT Master Alternatives and homage GMT watches that are not only budget-friendly, but affordable and reasonably priced under 100 dollars, with great durability, aesthetics, and classy styles.

Here are some affordable GMT watches if you are cash trapped. They are reasonably cheap at a price of under $500. Picking an affordable GMT watch wouldn’t be a difficult task anymore. However, if you want to explore more cheap watches with GMT function or GMT dial, check out these best inexpensive GMT watches under 500 dollars.


Best GMT watches under 1000 dollars

You can also pick your best GMT watch under 1000 dollars. At this price point, you are certain to pick the most iconic GMT watches from tops GMT watch brands. Look around and you will pick your favorite GMT watch in the list below.


Best automatic GMT watches

Whether it is an automatic GMT dive watch or a vintage GMT watch, if you are a fan of automatic watches, there are a variety of them here. These GMT 24-hour watches run on automatic GMT watch movement that ensures precision in universal GMT or UTC timekeeping.


Best Quartz GMT Watches

Do you want a GMT watch with a reliable Quartz movement? It surprises many people that GMT watches run only on automatic movement. Quartz is also another true GMT movement. Here are some quartz watches with GMT watch functions.


Best GMT chronograph watches

If having a watch with a chronometer appeals to your taste, personality, and style, the following GMT chronograph watches are a perfect fit for you.


Best GMT Dive Watches

Looking for the best GMT watch for diving, surfing, fishing, kayaking, or sailing? You just got lucky, The following timepieces are the best GMT dive watches for you. One is the best Seiko GMT divers watch and the other is navy GMT watch for diving.


Best Swiss made GMT watches

Watches with the swiss movement are reliable and the following GMT watches are ones that run on such movements from Switzerland


Best GMT watches under 40mm

For people or pilots who have small wrists, a small GMT watch is the best recommendation. There are many best watches for small wrists, with case diameters under 40mm, like the Rolex Datejust. However, if you want to wear but a GMT function watch, here is one GMT watch under 40mm for you.



Who invented GMT watch?

The first GMT watch (named Airman) had a rotating bezel with a 24 hour scale on it. It was released by end of 1953 by a Swiss company Glycine. However in 1954, the Pan Am aviation partnered with Rolex to create a timepiece with GMT function, that solved the problem of pilots traveling between many timezones. This happened when the air travel become commercialized. At the time that it was needed the most, the Rolex GMT Master became popularly used in commercial flights and since then, its been referred to as the first GMT watch by most travelers.


What is the GMT watch face?

A GMT watch face hold the second hand(the fourth hand) and the usual 3 hands – seconds, minutes and hour that are traditionally used for analog time display. These watch hands are all fixed to the same watch face, which can feature a 12 hour for local timekeeping, and a 24 hour for tracking time in the second time zone.


How many timezones are in the world and which country has the largest number of time zones.

A timezone is a part of the world that has the same standard time. The world is divided longitudinally into many time zones, where the time between different timezones 15 degrees apart, is 1 hour(60 minutes). There are 24 timezones in the globe. While most countries lie on one time zone, and about 23 countries have many timezones, and that is why different towns and cities of those countries display different time.
A geographical observation shows that most longitude come close or accumulate around the earth North and the South poles. So countries in the north and the south poles(Antarctica and the Arctic countries) technically have nearly all the timezones.


What is the point of GMT watches?

GMT stands for Greenwich Mean Time , which is point “0” on the 24-hour international timezone scale. GMT watches are special timepieces for travel and international timekeeping. A GMT watch displays both international time ( 24-hour) and a local (a 12-hour) timescale.


Why does a GMT have a rotating bezel?

The earliest GMT watches had the bezel. The 24-hour hand was particularly anchored to the hour hand as a way to move the GMT hand when you adjusted your local time. That helped to track local time on a 24-hour scale. A bezel was necessary to turn and set a second time zone.


How many timezones are in the United states

in United States, there are 6 time zones. States like Florida lie in two timezones based on GMT 12 PM. If you consider 12 :00 PM GMT:

Time Zone NameTime Zone Abbr12:00 PM GMT time
Eastern Standard TimeEST7:00 AM
Central Standard TimeCST6:00 AM
Mountain Standard TimeMST5:00 AM
Pacific Standard TimePST4:00 AM
Alaska Standard TimeAkST3:00 AM
Alaska-Hawaii Standard TimeAHST2:00 AM


United States regions with dual timezones

Florida, Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee

Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas

Idaho, Oregon


GMT to USA Time Converter

There is a relationship between GMT and the Eastern Standard Time( EST) in the United States. Basically, you have GMT – 5 hours, for example

9 AM GMT = 04 AM EST
10 AM GMT = 05 AM EST
11 AM GMT = 06 AM EST
12 PM GMT = 07 AM EST


What is GMT in New York?

New York is 5 timezones from GMT and its time zone name is the East Time(Est). The time offset between London GMT NY is GMT/UTC – 5 hours.


Does Apple watch show GMT time?

What is the GMT watch face on Apple Watch? Apple watchOS 7 operating system has an Apple watch face created for travel, pilots, aviation and astronomical needs, to display GMT time zones. the apple watch face has 2 dials – one with 12 hour inner dial for local timekeeping and the outer dial with 24 hour scale, that tracks the second timezone. The apple GMT watch face is only available or are limited to the Series 4, Series 5, and Series 6 Apple Watch models, and with the ‌Apple Watch SE.

what is GMT watch and how does it work - apple watch gmt face

How do I get the GMT face on my Apple Watch?

Most Apple Watch users love to use new GMT Watch face and here’s how to do it. if you make a tap on the Watch face, it will automatically set to your current location. Here is how to easily change  or set time zone.

  • Tap the watch face
  • Use the crown
  • select the time zone
  • tap the check mark



Wrap Up

You now understand what a GMT watch is and how to read a GMT watch. If you fall on the list of the people liable to use a wristwatch with 24-hour GMT movement, be sure the timepieces can make a perfect fit for you.

We picked these best gmt watches from both microbrands and reputable watch brands like Rolex, Sturhling, Tissot, Seiko and more. The microbrand GMT watches are reliable. Perhaps if the main luxury watch brands are pretty expensive for you, choosing the best microbrands GMT watch is the best choice.

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