Simply put, priced at $2,495, the Alpina Alpiner 4 GMT is the most affordable ‘true GMT’ with an automatic movement on the market. There are certainly more inexpensive ETA-based GMT watches out there, including several on this very list, but none with the unique capability of an independently adjustable hour hand, thanks to its AL-550 calibre, a highly modified Frederique Constant movement. This Alpiner is also quite handsome to boot, with twisted lugs evoking a Speedmaster side profile, and a dial with a great degree of texture, depth, and contrast. Its sole downside? The Alpiner 4 GMT is best reserved for larger wrists, as the 44mm case does little to hide its long 52mm lug to lug measurement.
Even still, for wallet-conscious frequent fliers and travel junkies alike, the Alpiner 4 GMT is something of a dark horse, offering a remarkable amount of watch for the money – and I haven’t even yet mentioned the bi-directional rotating navigational bezel, the 100m of water resistance, along with the watch’s added protection against shocks and magnetic forces. Aren’t these all values that the GMT Master once pioneered? Before the yearlong waiting lists and luxury influencers, obviously.
Dodane Type 23 GMT
Every list needs a good deep indie cut, and the Dodane Type 23 GMT is one such example when looking at the Rolex GMT Master II competition. This proudly French watchmaker has been quietly making excellent tool watches for French aviation personnel, NATO air forces, and military branches for over 150 family-owned years. And if the Type 23’s striking contrasts and classic cockpit aesthetic looks vaguely familiar, this fun fact might jog your memory: after World War II, France’s military of defense put out an order for aviator watches, and of the original six suppliers, only two are still in production: Dodane, and Breguet.
Though chronograph in appearance thanks to its screwdown pushers at 2:00 and 4:00, the Type 23 GMT actually houses a clever bit of Dubois Depraz engineering that pilots and travelers should appreciate: rather than a stopwatch, the pushers instead jump the local time (hour hand) back and forth in single hour increments, while the orange-tipped 24-hour hand tracks GMT, or home time. The 24-hour bezel enables the display of a third time zone, and a date register at 6:00 rounds out the dial – which, despite all the information, everything remains clean, legible, and oh-so-delightfully-French.
Official availability and pricing for the Dodane Type 23 can be difficult to track down (current conversion suggests it starts at around $3,700), but for non French-speakers, London’s Page & Cooper would be a good start.
Grand Seiko SBGE201G
Granted, as a somewhat obvious, but exceptional pick nonetheless; if it’s accuracy in a travel-friendly mechanical package you crave, there’s simply nothing more accurate or a more capable alternative to a Rolex GMT Master II than the Grand Seiko SBGE201G. Powered by the 9R66 Spring Drive caliber, this mechanical hybrid GMT movement delivers staggering accuracy numbers (+/- 1 second per day, +/- 15 per month), an independently adjustable hour hand for quick timezone changes, and a generous 72-hour power reserve, which is more than enough to last through a full weekend. The SBGE201G is finished with sharply polished diamond-cut hour indices, and a fully lumed bezel, earning this watch high marks for legibility as well, when it comes to darkened airline cabins and pre-dawn wakeup calls (thanks jet lag).
Linde Werdelin 3-Timer
Craving the utility of two time zones but find yourself allergic to anything that even remotely resembles the staid design language of a Rolex GMT Master II ? Consider the Linde Werdelin 3-Timer your long-overdue antidote. Conceived by Scandinavian designers and prolific outdoorsmen Morten Linde and Jorn Werdelin, the 3-Timer exhibits sharp facets and angles, a clever interchangeable strap system, a high degree of functionality (note those receiving points at 3:00 and 9:00 are designed to dock a compatible digital module for high-alpine adventure), and a classic four-handed time display which all come together to yield a surprisingly harmonious degree of individuality, capability, and classic staying power. Hell, we called it back in 2009 when Ariel said the 3-Timer had “the makings of an icon” in this review, and nearly a decade later, we’re happy to report that this opinion hasn’t aged a bit.
Depending on your strap combination, the price of the Linde Werdelin 3-Timer starts at $5,874.Honorable mentions
Squale 30 ATMOS Black GMT Ceramica
I was hesitant to put a piece I haven’t physically handled on this list, but I decided to make an exception for this Squale 30 ATMOS Black GMT Ceramica because the value here is exceptional. At just over $700, this GMT delivers on design and functionality on a serious budget.
This price point wouldn’t ordinarily allow a ceramic bezel, but Squale didn’t sacrifice the movement to pay for it either. The ETA 2893-2 is the same you’ll see in several Sinn and, I believe, Bell & Ross GMT watches. That affords a quickset GMT function and a passable 42-hour power reserve. Squale has been making dive watches for years now, but they were also known for making cases for other brands such as Blancpain and Heuer. Not a household name even among watch people, Squale keeps production low and doesn’t seem concerned with changing that.
These are small batch runs, and Squale isn’t the best at keeping their site updated. Browsing on some online retailers or the second-hand market should prove successful, but some versions (like the very cool looking Tropic GMT) go fast without notice of restock.
Chopard LUC Pro One Cadence GMT
Beating the Rolex GMT Master II ceramic to market by three years, the Chopard LUC Pro One Cadence GMT would have landed higher on the list if it were still available. Alas, this quirky collection of ultra-modern sports watches was never long for this world – particularly the white-dialed Cadence model, which was limited to only 1,000 pieces upon its release in 2004.
Exhibiting a bewildering number of textures, shapes, and varying fonts, there’s very little (on paper) that should work with the Pro One Cadence, but somehow, it still does – in an oddly satisfying way. Built around Chopard’s ill-fated 300m Pro One Diver case, the GMT adds in a triangular 24-hour hand and corresponding rotating bezel – both of which carry a light undercurrent of the Crown. But the Cadence adds in a neat twist; a sapphire bezel with a fully luminous underlay – as if the blinding contrast between the white dial and the sharp, faceted diamond hour indices wasn’t quite enough.