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Dispelling The False Dichotomy Facing "True" GMTs

By Evigan Xiao

BR03-93 GMT
Bell & Ross
BR03-93 GMT

Travel watches are a perennial favourite amongst watch enthusiasts due to the practicality of such timepieces. Tracking a second (and sometimes third) time zone is immensely useful, even for non-flyers. Fun fact: the fourth GMT hand also transforms one's watch into a makeshift compass. While the utility of these watches is universal, GMT watches (and only GMT watches since worldtimers can also be counted as travel timepieces) are often split into two camps: "true" and "false" versions of the complication. Egregious as the distinction may be, recognising the differences between the two allows us to appreciate the advantages that both formats possess.

Firstly, the notion of there being a "true" and "false" GMT complication is misleading, as it suggests authenticity being the differentiating factor. That train of thought can also lead some to mistakenly assume one as being more superior than the other. This confusion is aided by the fact that most reputable watch manufacturers typically display a preference for one over the other. Objectively, the main difference between the two lies in how the wearer interacts with the complication for it to display a different time zone.

TudorBlack Bay GMT
Black Bay GMT

For clarity, it's far more beneficial (and educational) to replace the true/false dichotomy with more function-forward labels: "flyer" and "caller" GMTs. The former would find more appeal with those who frequently traverse different time zones, while the latter would be better for people who simply communicate across them. "Flyer" GMTs feature an independently-set jumping hour hand which allows travellers to recalibrate their local time without affecting their reference (home) time. "Caller" GMTs, on the other hand, use an independently-set fourth hand for quicker calculations of alternate time zones.

It's a little tricky to appreciate the difference when it's laid out in writing alone, but try to visualise yourself on a trip to a different locale (something we're all eager to experience again). You step off a plane/ship with your watch still calibrated for your home port's time, so you correct this by popping your timepiece's winding crown to its first position and adjusting the hour hand either forward or back the requisite amount of jumps. Since your seconds hand continues to run in this setting, your watch's accuracy remains intact, as does your home time. You pop your winding crown back in and go on your merry way, with the confidence that your watch has fulfilled its function beautifully, thanks to its "flyer" GMT feature.

Bell & RossBR03-93 GMT
BR03-93 GMT

Conversely, a "caller" GMT places more emphasis on retaining flexibility across various time zones. Due to the configuration of its fourth hand, it essentially becomes a "travelling" hand used for referencing alternate time zones instead of home time. Users can once again pop out their watch's winding crown and calibrate as needed. Since the fourth hand only makes a full revolution every 24 hours, the distinction between day and night time is all but certain. For someone with business partners at various corners of the world, there may be frequent needs to communicate accordingly while remaining sensitive to the hours you're calling at. While one could potentially do the same with a "flyer" GMT configuration, the experience wouldn't be as streamlined as the alternative.

The variances between these two versions hardly qualify them as specialised iterations, but it does make them more predisposed to certain situations. For those that don't lean too heavily in either direction, choosing between the two really boils down to personal preference. In truth, both "flyer" and "caller" GMTs present the same benefits, just in slightly different interpretations.

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