The Best GMT/Travel Watches Introduced at Baselworld 2019
This year wasn't short of novelties for modern travellers!
A moon phase is certainly a nice, slightly poetic complication, annual or perpetual calendars are the best when it comes to displaying the date on a watch, and a tourbillon is a superb demonstration of watchmaking “savoir-faire.” Yet, it is hard to beat a GMT or dual-time complication when it comes to practicality. With our modern lifestyle, which implies regular travelling or working in international environments, it has become more relevant than ever to have a watch that can easily adjust to the local time or display a second time-zone. Here are some of the best “traveller’s” watches that were presented at Baselworld 2019 – and for all budgets.
Note: this list is based on on a consensus among the MONOCHROME team and reflects our preferences. If you want to add some watches to this selection, feel free to share them in the comment section at the end of this article.
Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT Automatic
The Octo Finissimo Chronograph was clearly one of the most attractive watches introduced at BW 2019… For a good reason: it’s the thinnest chronograph watch ever created, with a 6.9mm thin case – making it the 5th world record earned by Bvlgari. And while this would have been sufficient enough reason to be amazed by this piece of modern “ultra-thinness”, the Roman brand decided to make this Octo Finissimo Chronograph not only a stopwatch but also a traveller’s watch, as it integrates a second time-zone display in a sub-dial at 3 o’clock. Here, the adjustment of the local time zone (the main, central hour hand) is done by one-hour increments by pushing the button at 9 o’clock – making it a real traveller’s GMT and not an office watch. Truly, this watch packs A LOT in such a thin case.
Quick Facts: 42mm diameter x 6.90mm height – sandblasted titanium case – ultra-thin Calibre BVL 318, in-house – automatic chronograph with peripheral rotor – independent second time-zone display – sandblasted titanium bracelet with folding clasp – CHF 16,500 – bulgari.com
Oris Aquis GMT Date
We all know that Oris is amongst the best when it comes to 1. accessible watches 2. dive watches. This is perfectly represented by the Aquis Date collection, basically the modern dive watch of the brand, with a robust case, real underwater capacities, overall impressive execution and a very decent price. For Baselworld 2019, the brand adds a GMT complication to the works, with the new Aquis GMT Date. Here, the “dive side” of the watch is slightly forgotten with the 60-minute track replaced by a 24-hour scale on the bezel – which means, in fact, 3 time zones displayed at once. The rest is classic, with a central arrow GMT hand and a Selitta automatic base movement, meaning no one-hour increment for the local time adjustments. But still, for just north of EUR 2K, you’ll get quite a watch for your money.
Quick Facts: 43.5mm diameter – stainless steel case – bidirectional rotating bezel, black ceramic insert with 24h scale – calibre Oris 798, base Sellita SW 330-1 – automatic with dual time and date indications – rubber, leather straps or steel bracelet, with folding clasp – EUR 2,300 – oris.ch
Porsche Design 1919 Globetimer UTC
“Form follows function” perfectly defines Porsche and Porsche Design. With the 1919 collection, PD demonstrated the brand’s ability to design a watch with great purity that was immediately recognizable. As simple as this object is, it has a real presence in the metal. Following the time-only and chronograph version, the Globetimer UTC represents the brand’s vision of a traveller’s watch. The brand has created a module that allows setting the local time conveniently by the ergonomically shaped, optimally positioned pushers. When flying east, each press of the “+” button advances the second time zone by an interval of one hour. When flying west, pressing the “–” button causes the UTC hands to move in the opposite direction. Linked to that is an easily legible dial that immediately displays the right indication. The movement is COSC-certified.
Quick Facts: 42mm diameter – glass bead-blasted and polished titanium case – Porsche Design calibre WERK 04.110, based on Sellita SW 200 with proprietary module – COSC-certified automatic movement with 24h display and day/night indication – leather strap or titanium bracelet on folding clasp – EUR 5,950 (titanium on leather) or EUR 6,450 (titanium on titanium) – www.porsche-design.com
Rolex GMT-Master II Batman 126710BLNR
Her Majesty “The Crown” treated us with an updated version of its signature traveller’s watch at Baselworld 2019, the new GMT-Master II 126710BLNR, a.k.a the “Batman”. Don’t expect a revolution though, as its Rolex we’re talking about. The evolution is discreet and mostly technical. Indeed, as for the case, the dial, the functions (3 time zones, independently adjusted GMT hand by one-hour increments) and the iconic two-tone ceramic bezel, it remains the same as the previous version. Yet, Rolex took the best of last year’s Pepsi, meaning the new in-house calibre 3285 (quite a step forward compared to the old movement) and the desirable Jubilee bracelet to make the Batman even hotter – and thus even more inaccessible – than it already was. This watch is expected to be another “pay a premium if you want one now” piece. Sadly, as there’s a lot to love with this new 126710BLNR.
Quick Facts: 40mm diameter – Oystersteel case (904L stainless steel), polished and brushed – calibre 3285, in-house, Superlative Chronometer certified – automatic with independent GMT indication – 5-link Jubilee Oystersteel bracelet with folding clasp – EUR 8,500 – rolex.com
Seiko Prospex LX Spring Drive GMT SNR033
Baselworld 2019 was all about the Spring Drive for Seiko and Grand Seiko, which celebrated the 20th anniversary of this technology. While previously this technology was largely reserved to the luxury branch GS, it now finds its way even into the most “instrument-ish” collection: Prospex. This year was the launch of an entirely new collection, the LX Line, which comprises watches for sea, land or sky adventures. The collection includes the SNR033, a robust (large) piece with an ultra-precise Spring Drive movement, multiple time-zone displays (3 in total, with the rotating bezel), a well-executed titanium case and an overall reassuring look, thanks to the black-and-blue theme for the bezel and dial. Certainly not the cheapest Seiko Prospex, it now moves into a different category and populated by watches like the Seamaster, the Black Bay or the Carrera. A change of strategy that needs to be accepted by collectors, but this Seiko Prospex LX Spring Drive GMT SNR033 has some strong arguments.
Quick Facts: 44.8 mm diameter – titanium case with super-hard coating – Spring Drive GMT 5R66 in-house calibre – automatic with independent GMT indication – titanium bracelet with three-fold clasp – EUR 5,600 – www.seikowatches.com
Urban Jürgensen “Jürgensen One” GMT
This watch came as a surprise… We didn’t expect a brand like Urban Jürgensen to enter the field of luxury sports watches, however, it did, with a brand new collection named the “Jürgensen One”. While relying on some of the indispensable codes of the category (steel, shaped case, textured dial, sporty features, integrated bracelet), it adds its very own personality and a dose of Haute Horlogerie the brand is known for – look at the guilloché dial and the hand-crafted hands. Also existing in time-and-date, the most convincing model is the GMT version, which brings a practical and clever dual-time display that can be simply adjusted forwards and backwards thanks to pushers on the left of the case. Powering the watch is the proprietary, automatic calibre P5 with high-end decoration. Not your typical watch, but one that deserves to be tested in the metal.
Quick Facts: 41mm diameter x 13.8mm height – medical grade 1.4441 steel case – proprietary calibre P5 (manufactured with Chronode) – automatic with independent GMT indication – steel bracelet with security folding clasp – CHF 33,500 (excl. taxes) – www.urbanjurgensen.com
That Porsche is the business. I have always had a thing for their watches but they always mess up their designs (to me at least). This is cohesive, it looks very well made and I love the knurled crown. I only hope it doesn’t wear too large.
The Rolex with its dysfunctional bezel does not belong in a list of best GMT watches! Look at the similar Oris or Seiko and see if you can spot the major difference.
There is nothing “novel” about the Rolex. Frankly, their insistence on mix-matching existing components highlights their laziness this year, and I find insulting to our collective intelligence.
Martin R summed it up well. The ridiculous price increase in Rolex watches
isn’t justified but it sure has increased the value of my present collection.