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What is a GMT watch?

Here’s what GMT means on a men’s watch

Some men’s watches are a little more special than others.  And GMT watches are one example. Interestingly, GMT translates to Greenwich Mean Time, which doesn’t really tell you anything about the watch. But it does indicate that there’s an interesting history of the GMT men’s watch. More on that in a bit.

What does a GMT watch do?

First, the functionality. A GMT watch simply adds a 24-hour hand and a 24-hour dial either on the bezel or just inside the bezel (we offer both options). That 24-hour hand travels once around the face in a 24-hour period and always points at the military or 24-hour time of day. So, you can quickly understand whether it’s 8:00 AM in the morning or 20:00 in the evening.

Why does this matter? There are a few reasons for using a GMT watch:

1 – Windowless ‘offices’ need GMT watches

And by windowless, we mean underground. Or in a submarine. We make watches for tactical situations, so it’s not uncommon for us to sell a watch to a man who might be underwater for a month at a time. Or live in an environment where the sun doesn’t always set. There are situations where night and day tend to blend and a GMT watch helps keep you sunny side up so to speak.


2 – Frequent travelers need two time zones

If you frequently travel out of your time zone, the GMT can act as a ‘second’ watch to the time zone of your travels. Or the time of your co-workers in the age of WFH. There are many reasons why you might want to keep up with the time in another time zone. Setting the extra GMT hand to that time zone works wonderfully. As mentioned, soldiers might want to know what time it is back home, and our GMT watches can help them do it.

This is the reason GMT watches become popular, especially for pilots who travel frequently.


3 – Military men need military time (GMT style)

Nothing wrong with wanting to use military time. A GMT watch makes more sense for those who need the 24-hour clock. It’s why Smith & Bradley started making watches, so we consider it an honor to help our military keep great time. Once you get used to seeing the second hand, reading off “twenty one hundred” becomes second nature. These watches remind you that we’re always on military time.


Hell, maybe you just like it. And that’s fine with us.


Types of GMT men’s watches

There are two types of GMT watches. By a fair margin, the most common has a 24-hour bezel around the outside. This watch design works best for frequent travelers: when you hit a destination, just twist the bezel to the local time. It’s easier than resetting the watch for only a day or two.

Exterior bezel Men's GMT Watch

The second type is a little more subtle. It has 24 hour markings just inside the bezel. These typically don’t turn, but allow you to set the GMT hand as you see fit. These make more sense if you track one time zone with the 24-hour hand. You will have to reset the time when you enter a new time zone.

Interior bezel GMT Men's watch

Now I know your next question: why is this thing called a “GMT watch”? Back to the GMT watches history.


Where did the GMT watch come from?

Ahh, there is an interesting history of the GMT watch and it’s old. Almost as old as the watch. John Harrison in the 18th century was able to use a timepiece to determine longitude. He became a critical inventor of watches early in the craft of watchmaking.

But time is funny. It changes depending on where you are on the globe. And when the British ships of old set sail, they used London’s time as their home base. The rest of the world was split into time zones with London at the zero hour. This became Greenwich Mean Time.

And so, John Harrison invented a marine chronometer that could tell time on the seas. But it wasn’t for 100 more years before a GMT watch was created. Once air travel became a possibility, travelers wanted to be able to track their ‘home time’ on a watch. Not an easy task. But once GMT watches were invented, pilots started using them for just this reason.

And their popularity spread. GMT watches are commonly purchased by members of the military stationed overseas or pilots or ship captains. Anyone who frequently finds themselves in another time zone can benefit from a GMT watch.


It’s time to try a GMT watch

Definitely a watch for your collection. GMT watches feature unique styling and have a great feature: two times tracked. So if you haven’t worn one yet, we recommend trying it out. It is the perfect men’s watch for a trip moving across time zones. Shop our GMT Watches