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What is a GMT watch?

Watch expert Ariel Adams answers some of your most popular watch questions.
“People in the industry have been mislabeling many watches with “GMT” for years. In simple terms, a GMT watch is a timepiece with a 24 hour format hand that indicates a second time zone in addition to the other hands, not just any multiple time zone watch with more than one 12 hour format dial. So, a big error is when GMT watches are made without proper 24 hour scales.
“GMT” stands for Greenwich Mean Time and like many things in the watch industry is actually rather archaic compared to UTC (Coordinated Universal Time), which means something for those in the scientific community. Though the two are often the same. GMT is the “zero hour” of a system that allows one to know the time anywhere in the world by adding or subtracting time from it. Move east from England and each new time zone adds + 1 to GMT. Move west and you take away -1 from GMT. The idea of a GMT watch is to offer two things: a hand that is always synched to GMT time, so that the time all around the world can be identified, and normal hands for local time.
More recently, people use GMT hands to indicate the time in another time zone they choose, or sync it up to their local time in order to have an AM/PM indicator. One of the most popular GMT watches of all time is the Rolex GMT-Master from the mid 1950’s. Rolex produced it for Pan Am airlines for their pilots with a distinctive blue and red bezel. Because of the bezel colors most people know the piece as a “Pepsi bezel” Rolex, and the connection with Pan Am quickly lost importance.
GMT watches can also have other complications. Breitling’s in-house made Chronomat GMT has both a GMT hand and chronograph for additional utility. While GMT watches were originally designed for pilots, they are broadly used today by anyone who may be interested in tracking the time in two different places. GMT watches also happen make excellent travel pieces for those who can’t seem to recall what time it is back home.”