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Top 10 Alternatives To The Rolex GMT-Master II Watch

Top 10 Alternatives To The Rolex GMT-Master II Watch ABTW Editors' Lists

Rolex GMT Master II watches for 2018

The new Rolex GMT Master II watches were a big story coming out of Baselworld 2018, and the new ‘Pepsi’ GMT is the “it” watch right now, with the ‘Root Beer’ drawing slightly more subdued hype as well. Between the madness of paying thousands over retail price for a new Rolex GMT Master II and the current steel sports watch “shortage” we (myself and Zach Piña) thought it might be a good time to do a list of some of our favorite alternative GMT watches in the spirit of our Top 10 alternatives to the Rolex Submariner article.

The Rolex GMT Master was introduced back in 1959 as the commercial aviation industry was going through a huge period of growth. Pilots who were flying across long distances could easily and reliably keep track of different time zones. The GMT hand and rotating bezel allowed for dual-time tracking, which is useful for anyone who travels or needs to keep track of different time zones. Because of this and the Rolex reputation, the GMT Master found its way on the wrist of people like Fidel Castro (who wore a reference 6542 and 1675). I’ve always found this to be infinitely cooler than the Rolex watches that found their ways on the wrists of, ahem, certain actors who I couldn’t care less about.

Top 10 Alternatives To The Rolex GMT-Master II Watch ABTW Editors' Lists

The follow up Rolex GMT Master II was introduced in 1983 with the current iteration ref. 116710 introduced in 2007. This is the contemporary model with the ceramic bezel and upgrades like the Triplock crown and bigger lugs, crown guards, and numerals. Also, a big improvement in this generation was the new bracelet with the 5mm adjustable Easy-link system. Since then, the current generation of Rolex GMT Master II has been associated most with Rolex’s ceramic color technology.

Top 10 Alternatives To The Rolex GMT-Master II Watch ABTW Editors' Lists

Models like the ‘Batman’ ref. 116710BLNR and the newest ‘Pepsi’ ref. 126710BLRO (there was an existing Pepsi dial, but only available in white gold before this year) have taken turns being the “it” watch of the moment with buyers paying thousands above retail price. As of writing in 2018, the Rolex GMT Master II Pepsi model is selling for almost double the MSRP of $9,250 (it will be interesting to see how this ages in a year and more). The black bezel and the ‘Batman’ both retail for around $8,500 – although the all-black bezel model can actually be found for a discount on the second-hand market.

And then, there are the gold models and the underrated new two-tone Rolex GMT Master II  ‘Root Beer’ ref. 126711CHNR which is just under $15,000. I have a feeling this model will age well once the novelty of colored ceramic gets old and the production technology is cheap enough to produce.

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Top 10 Alternatives To The Rolex GMT-Master II Watch ABTW Editors' Lists

In any case, the Rolex GMT Master II is an icon and chances are if you hear the phrase “GMT” this watch is one of the first few things that will come to mind. Here, we came up with a list of 10 alternatives from “peer” brands like Omega and Breitling as well as more afforable GMT offerings. A successful GMT watch does not need to look like a bi-color Rolex like the Pepsi or Coke. Some watches in this list share that aesthetic, others don’t at all.

Without further ado, here are 10 alternatives to the Rolex GMT Master II as written by myself and Zach Pina.

Top 10 Alternatives To The Rolex GMT-Master II Watch ABTW Editors' Lists

Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean GMT ‘Cookies & Cream’

It’s no secret that I’m a huge Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean fan, but when put side to side, I think this is the stiffest competition the Rolex GMT Master II faces on the market. I think the black and white bezel ‘Cookies & Cream’ model is the best challenger (note that the Good Planet model is not METAS-certified, which is why I didn’t also choose it – though the all-ceramic Deep Black and Big Blue models are there for someone who wants a bigger and flashier GMT watch.

It comes in a 43.5mm case size with the METAS-certified Co-Axial calibre 8606 movement that has a silicon hairspring, anti-magnetic materials, and a 60-hour power reserve. And, of course, there is an independent hour hand as well as a Liquidmetal bidirectional bezel. One more note about the black and white bezel; Omega says this is the first watch bezel that has two distinct ceramic colors. In comparison, Rolex’s GMT bezel is done in one color with half of the bezel treated to make it a different color.

The Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean GMT ref. 215.30.44.22.01.001 is water-resistant to 2,000 feet but the tradeoff is the thick case size of 17.04mm. On a steel bracelet, this Omega is priced at $8,000.

Top 10 Alternatives To The Rolex GMT-Master II Watch ABTW Editors' Lists

TAG Heuer Aquaracer Cal. 7 GMT

Introduced in 2017, the TAG Heuer Aquaracer Cal. 7 GMT is the first ‘Pepsi’ bezel GMT from the brand since the Autavia GMT back in the ‘60s (speaking of watches I’d love to see reissued…). The Aquaracer is an entry-level TAG Heuer piece but the reliability and durability of a 300m water-resistant true GMT at $2,700 is difficult to ignore (though admittedly, Tudor’s piece on this list may still present an even better value proposition even though it’s $1,000 more).

The 43mm case has an aluminum red and blue bidirectional bezel, complementing the red lacquer GMT hand. The Caliber 7 movement is a modified Sellita SW330, which gets a 42-hour power reserve. All in all it’s a solid package for someone who wants a modern GMT that they won’t be too worried about beating up a little bit, but it’s far from the most inspiring watch out there. Again, the TAG Heuer Aquaracer Cal. 7 GMT is priced at $2,700. If you’re looking for a better deal, the black and blue bezel Aquaracer Cal. 7 GMT is functionally the same at a price of $2,100.

Top 10 Alternatives To The Rolex GMT-Master II Watch ABTW Editors' Lists

Tudor Black Bay GMT

I’ve been calling the Tudor Black Bay GMT the ‘blizzard’ because that’s the last time I saw so many snowflakes in one place. Obviously, this watch was going to make this list. Rolex’s “younger sibling” released their GMT this year alongside the crown’s Pepsi GMT and it hasn’t been overshadowed – in fact, the Tudor has gotten a ton of attention. At first, I was cynical about yet another Black Bay iteration (especially after 2017’s dysmorphic Black Bay Chronograph) but these days competent design and flawless execution go a long way.

We wrote a ton about the specs of the Black Bay GMT but the in-house MT5652 movement excels with a 70-hour power reserve and jumping hour hand for easy adjustment and convenience, especially when traveling. Tudor smartly kept their aluminum bezel very muted by having a matte burgundy and blue finish because it’s a solid preference many would have over Rolex’s Pepsi bezel, which I’ve heard on many occasions described as being too glossy.

It’s certainly one of the “it” watches in 2018, but the Tudor Black Bay GMT is no doubt a watch worthy of praise by even people like myself who wish Tudor would expand their horizons a little bit more (new Heritage Chrono, please). Priced at $3,900 there’s not much to hate here.

Top 10 Alternatives To The Rolex GMT-Master II Watch ABTW Editors' Lists

Oris Big Crown Pro Pilot Calibre 114

The new Oris Big Crown Pro Pilot Calibre 114 was just released this past year, and it’s a seriously compelling traveler’s watch from Oris. The price is high, especially when looking at other Oris watches, but this $6,100 watch has a lot going for it. First off, the new in-house calibre 114 manual wind movement has a 10-day (240 hour) power reserve. While some will legitimately have gripes about having to wind a watch, I can imagine the tactical satisfaction of winding knowing that I’m set for 10 days.

The other factor that will please those who seriously use their GMT function is the ability to adjust the second timezone by thirty-minute increments as opposed to one-hour increments. There are many places that have time zones separated by 30 or 15 minute increments such as in India, Australia, Sri Lanka, and a few others. If you’re doing business frequently in any of these time zones, you can imagine how valuable this would be.

Housed in a 44mm case that is 14mm thick with 100m of water resistance, the Oris Big Crown Pro Pilot Calibre 114 utilizes its dial real estate well. It’s legible and the red of the GMT hand and power reserve indicator is used sparingly and for two important reasons. In all, this Oris may outperform many watches on this list as well as the anchor competitor in the Rolex GMT Master II watch.

Top 10 Alternatives To The Rolex GMT-Master II Watch ABTW Editors' Lists

Eberhard Scafograf GMT

First off, I wish Eberhard would reconsider the pricing for this excellently designed and well-built watch. At around $3,700 on a rubber strap and $4,400 on a bracelet, you really would have to fall in love to justify the ETA 2893-2 movement housed within (same as on the $700 Squale 30 ATMOS Black GMT Ceramica). That said, Eberhard & Co. aren’t exactly a huge manufacture with the cost cutting methods and tools that many non-independents can take advantage of. In any case, I firmly believe that the Scafograf GMT earns a spot on this list.

Vintage Scafograf 200 watches (such as the reference 11536) are some of the most alluring divers I’ve ever seen, and the brand still has a place in the hearts of horological design nerds. At 43mm wide in either blue or black with an orange GMT hand, the Scafograf GMT knocks it out of the park with font, hands, and proportions. While the rubber strap has its own appeal, I find that the bracelet and its patented declic deployant clasp, used for locking and unlocking the bracelet, is such an integral part of the watch.

Oh, and it’s based off their Scafograf 300 watch which got a People’s Choice Award, or something.

Top 10 Alternatives To The Rolex GMT-Master II Watch ABTW Editors' Lists

Breitling Navitimer 8 B35 Unitime

Unlike the GMT Master, the Navitimer 8 B35 Unitime is not a traditional GMT watch per se, but from a utility standpoint, it’s a sterling example of Breitling’s efforts (under the new leadership of Georges Kern) to strip out all the excess and give pilots, travelers, and adventurers everything they need and nothing they don’t. It’s also a relatively rare example of a worldtimer expressed in a more purist tool watch form, with a few neat tricks to boot; specifically the screwdown crown ensuring 100m of water resistance, a rotating bezel for tracking flight times, and a quickset hour hand for easily staying punctual when disembarking in a new time zone. Even the subtly modernized 24-hour disc and worldtime ring remain in concert and highly legible without betraying the classic layout originally pioneered in the 1930s by watchmaker Louis Cottier. The Breitling Navitimer 8 B35 Unitime starts at $8,140, and the price jumps up to $8,520 on Breitling’s signature three-link steel bracelet.

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  • What fresh hell is this?

    I vote for the Casio AE1200

  • ProJ

    Or maybe just get an Explorer II? It’s readily available (at least where I live,) cheaper and it can perfectly function as a GMT watch as it does read 2 timezones simultaneously, which is exactly what a GMT-II does. One might say but the latter’s rotating bezel gives you the ability to read a third timezone. In fact this is not accurate. Once you rotate the bezel you lose one of the 2 timezones the watch was showing. I personally find the rotating bezel of the GMT-II only of an aesthetic value.

    I can’t quite get over the fact the GMT-II is selling on Chrono24 for more than $22k!! I mean you can get more than 5 Tudors GMT for that money.

    Bilal, unfortunately none of the “alternatives” you showed here will be cross-shopped with a Rolex.

    Most of the people I know who want Rolex will do whatever it takes to get the Rolex they want. The furthest they might go is find another an alternative from the Rolex lineupz and this is why I am suggesting the Explorer II.

    • Omegaboy

      Well said. An Exp ll is on my list.

  • Ovis

    What, no Eterna Royal Kontiki GMT? And is that that Navitimer there instead of Superocean/Avenger GMT Breitling?

  • Norbs K

    Tudor Black Bay all the way.

  • Ulysses31

    Did you see what a certain Youtube channel did to a Rolex recently? Imagine an angle-grinder meeting with a $10,000 watch. While i’m not a Rolex fan, it still made me wince.

    • Ever watch someone remove the cyclops with a cold chisel?

    • Gokart Mozart

      Send the link, can’t decide if I would enjoy watching it or not.

      Realistically no, but would enjoy if it it was a GShock or Apple

  • Glad to see Squale make the list. I picked up a Ceramica Tropic GMT a few months ago and it’s outstanding for the money. I don’t quite understand the inclusion of the Eberhard, though. $4K for what exactly? An off the shelf-movement? The Tudor GMT blows it out of the water at that price point.

    I’ll offer my own suggestion:

    Titanium case, ceramic, lumed bezel, 2893-2 movement, all at around $700. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/70326736ae0be49f565a8332d2f9f02d59cf0cda5ca1787bdc78c2fd24395681.jpg

  • JosephWelke

    Why are most of these GMT’s so big? 42mm, 43mm… Do people have something against a 40mm case? Surely the GMT complication isn’t THAT large.

    • Colt Foutz

      I’d love to see a how big is too big?/how small is too small? article with comparison photos. I’ve let the old wrists get a bit beefy lately, admittedly, though they’re an upgrade over my teenage spindles. But I look at a 44 or a 42 on my wrists and think… couldn’t it be bigger? While the smallest watch I wear, a Mr Jones Time Traveler, at 37 mm from 9 to 3 o’clock, just strikes me as dainty. It’s all the eye of the beholder, I’d guess, but I’d love to see some pics and commentary when the lugs are hanging over your wrists or, conversely, when you’re punching extra holes into a gorgeous leather band since, otherwise, you’d be down to the last or second-to-last hole on the original.

      • Larry Holmack

        That would be an interesting article. When you have a 23 cm wrist, like I do…a 44 mm watch looks rather small on my wrist. A 48 mm watch looks like a 40 mm does on a lot guys wrist.

      • Gokart Mozart

        How did you beef up your wrists?

        That’s the equivalent of a cure for a bald head but for horologists with small wrists

        • John Effing Zoidberg

          Donuts. Lots of donuts.

          • Gokart Mozart

            I will try that, wrist curls did not work.

    • Take a look at Omega’s discontinued Seamaster 300 GMT – fantastic ‘true’ GMT that wears very compact. A true classic in every sense.

  • Norbs K

    Yes, it should have been white on black. So many manufacturers do this mistake.

    • egznyc

      Yeah, it would’ve been better that way. But still a great looking watch with easy-to-change time setting – though I was blown away by the Dodane. That one was super impressive in my opinion.

  • Alex

    What about Steinhart? It’s even more affordable, with ETA movement like few on the list. Have it for a few years, great watch. Ceramic bezel to boot.

    • What fresh hell is this?

      Perhaps it’s too similar to the Rolex

      • SuperStrapper

        Agree. Not that it is an unworthy watch, but it’s too derivative and without much of it’s own personality

    • We opted for a Squale rather than Steinhart for that price point, but you’re right – also a good economical option.

  • ranjix
  • Omegaboy

    No PAM 320? It’s gorgeous and iconic.

  • Colt Foutz

    And yet… some of those on this list, particularly the Tudor, are suffering from the same hot demand, even among those “in the know.” At Jomashop, the GMT has a waitlist of 2 to 4 weeks while the Black Bay Fifty-Eight has a waitlist of 4 to 8. Maybe not an eternity, but no instant gratification for this brand, lately.

    • Timestandsstill

      A bit of an artificially long wait list as they are not an authorized dealer although still likely a little wait at AD’s too

  • Colt Foutz

    And currently 4 to 8 weeks waiting. Gorgeous watch, though.

  • Chaz

    I’m eagerly awaiting my local ADs to receive the Breitling B35. To me it’s the most interesting option of the lot.

  • SuperStrapper

    Interesting and well thought out list. Of what is on here the oris is my favourite and the dodane is very interesting as well. Not many I wouldnt want truth be told. Missing the PAM320 as mentioned sucks but if this is an opinion piece, that’s the authors opinion. The PP calatrava pilot travellers would have been an interesting entry but of course is priced well beyond anything here. Ball also has a few good entries, my preference being the engineer mater II pilot gmt. The roadmaster gmt is also quite nice and has a more reserved design.

    • Gokart Mozart

      The Oris is my choice out of the given options. It looks the classiest and the 10 day power reserve and manual wind.

      The Dodane is intersting and the pick of the rest of the watches.

      Square is a great choice for 700 even if it is a rolex you like with cyclops. The value proposition by a country mile.

    • Funny – I had a PAM657 on the list initially, but it didn’t make the final cut, due to the absence of a rotating bezel. It’s a little more “Explorer II” than “GMT Master,” so maybe we’ll save that one for another article 😉

      • SuperStrapper

        4001 > 6755, so your PAM choice was better.

        My top pick in the Oris doesn’t have a working bezel, so I think there was still room for Panerai to be represented. But I’m not losing sleep over it either.

        I’m a fan of these ‘alternate to’ type reads, it helps to expose great watches that might otherwise be overlooked.

        • Totally agree. Good to have you around brotha ~

  • funkright
    • Gokart Mozart

      Nice is that the 36 or the 42mm?

      The smile test is what matters with the watch

    • Super cool piece – neat to see so many Glycine fans up in here!

  • Dave Pryor

    Forgot Nomos very simple and elegant GMT.

    • Indeed, although probably not ‘sporty’ enough with only 3atm of water resistance. Great watch though!

  • Norbs K

    I think Mr Goering would be more suitable for Laco as the brand ambassador.

  • Gokart Mozart

    My GMT of choice and at a very respectable price.

    As you said a watch with a lot of history and a choice of proper 24 hour dial and the ability for 3 time zones.

    Great choice that should be on the list

  • Gokart Mozart

    With what?

  • Gokart Mozart

    Don’t worry they are not.

  • Gokart Mozart

    Apart from the Glycine that a lot of people have mentioned which is heartening i would add the Vulcain dualtime and GMT.

    What’s more practical than the Second time zone with an alarm that you can really hear.

    Ps dont let it go off in a plane, you will cause a panic. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/345076c4a097ffe822851def8c0304d6d3e5d66c7195d093e74ac3745e3a6def.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/2670c6dc6fe5196a10db99c0c58ebb1fbd364535c39f3060f9cdd0aaf05c0469.jpg

    • Ooh, that’s an excellent deep cut. Missed this one for sure!

    • BJ314

      I love their watches, but these – not so much.

      • Gokart Mozart

        To be honest I prefer the simple alarm watches or the diver, but these are still way better than the watches on the list

  • It was actually on my shortlist (Bilal chose five, I chose five), but I went with the Dodane instead – another military-inspired choice with neat history, as it felt like a more interesting ‘dark horse’ choice. Plus, as a previous Airman owner, the fact that it’s not a ‘true’ GMT like the Rolex always bugged me.

    • egznyc

      I was very impressed with the Dodane – wasn’t familiar with them but they look like they’d be a pleasure to use (simple hour-changing mechanism), have a great look to them and are (relatively) affordable compared with the “big boys.”

  • You’re absolutely right, but not an omission by ignorance. I mentioned this in another comment, but I used to own one, and despite its awesome historical provenance as you outlined, the ETA GMT movements are not actually very practical for travel, which is why the Dodane made the cut instead. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  • benjameshodges

    LW 3-Timer Ocean would be my favourite alternative. Good list.

  • Gokart Mozart

    Very nice

  • Stuart MacKenzie

    MKII Key West GMT is kinda cool… In a micro-brand Rolex-homagey (or is that Rolexy-homage?) kinda-sorta way… Black/White and Glossy Gilt or Satin Non-gilt dial with Coke/Pepsi bezel. Oh and Red/Black date window…. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ff63c6cc9ef46841a6fe1486254ba5e547252e065dc857f09df862b14c746183.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/1bf399f844cffb9c261dd836d980954183156694eae816d9780682d88e2e55eb.jpg

    • egznyc

      I suppose if Ginault did a GMT they’d be another homage-y possibility.

  • Bozzor

    There are many alternatives to the Rolex GMTII Master.

    But…

    There is no substitute.™

    (Apologies to Tom Cruise – it’s Risky Business playing copyright games with a Scientologist!)

  • BJ314

    Finally, Squale getting some love.

  • BJ314

    The ugliest of the ugly.

    • Gokart Mozart

      I sorry but that deserves a down vote

    • PugHenry

      The Glycine Airman is one of the most beautiful and functional watches on earth. The “Purist” version is better than the “GMT” version pictured above since it doesn’t have the fourth GMT hand. It’s simply a 24 hour watch with a 24 hour bezel to easily show two time zones. But…beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Agree to disagree on this one.

  • Playboy Johnny – Team Mariu$

    Supply & demand explains this. Is this your first Rolex?

    • Osama Abughanim

      No this would be my third Rolex my first one was a Submariner bought in 1990 and I don’t think supply and demand got to do any thing with the problem I think it’s because of China and some Rolex dealers caught selling fakes as genuine

  • guitardude

    I absolutely love the TAG Heuer. If only it was smaller. Its 43mm is large for the sake of being large. If it came in a 40mm like the GMT II, I would be over it like a bad rash.

  • Mode John Rubio

    Close. Current ExpII debuted in 2011

    • ProJ

      Thanks

  • GCxBoi

    Heres the thing I think a lot of people miss in these articles. How are you actually going to use this function?
    I travel a fair bit, so the vast majority of these GMT movements are next to useless.
    Because as soon as I change my hands to my local timezone, the GMT hand moves as well which means I then have to go through the pain of then setting the GMT back to its original time.
    For this complication to actually be functional, the GMT hand and the hour hand have to be able to be moved independently from each other.
    As far as I know, only three watches do this. The Rolex. The Omega (with a heavily hacked ETA) and the Seiko. Because I’m not really a Rolex guy, and I didn’t want to go ETA – I ended up getting the Grand Seiko – and its been a delight. But there are a few places where it falls short of the Rolex, and thats on the microlink bracelet. However, I’m so delighted with the smooooth and crazy precise movement (and power meter) that all in all I’m delighted (although would be nice if they decluttered/detexted the dial a bit too).

    • Lode_Runner

      Omega does not use “heavily hacked ETA” movements in their GMT models. Their modern coaxial movements, like the ones in today’s Planet Ocean line, were designed from the bottom up around the coaxial escapement.

  • Ugo

    perfect size and competent design.
    but they are usable only if you are colorblind, since they definitely have some kind of problem with messy coloration.
    moreover they have kinda steep price for a printed dial on a microbrand with no history at all.
    i can barely stand that request from glycine and only in force of their past…

  • enzomedici
  • tomtegullet

    O.k.,so you´re planning to purchase a Rolex,Breitling or something similar,with a price tag of some 8000 dollars ?. Well,this is an article that focuses on “alternatives”,and i believe i really have a good 8000-bucks alternative !. -Why not just buy a really,really pretty and awesome,high quality watch,for about 800 $ instead ?. Then you would end up with about 7200 “boring” dollars left,which not would be needed anymore..or actually,they would.. People (and animals) suffers and dies every day in these horrible World of ours,from the most trivial diseases and conditions. Can you imagine the effects from your 7200 bucks,invested in very basic toilet solutions,in the misery of Bangladesh ?.Or,in simple tuberculosis/Malaria shots in Mali ?.Or,standard rice big bags for the dying kids in Eritrea ?. Or,how about helping the researchers defeat the cancer cells,diabetes,Altzheimers decease or hiv ?.Or,support “good powers” with saving the rain forests or the almost extincted,wild nature creatures,such as whales,rhinos,and elephants ?.Or,sponsoring democratic movements to f¤¤k with the blood thirsty powers in today´s World,such as Kim Jong Un,the talibans/Al queda/Isis,or Venezuelas dirty leader/politicians ?.
    I´m talking about doing something really good for yourself here,with an awesome brand new,premium watch on your arm.BUT,at the same time,making small “miracles” for your fellow humans (where 80 % lives in poverty or much worse),in which you share this planet with.
    Sorry for my non-fluent English.
    /Mikey

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