Our pick of 6 excellent GMT watches that are great alternatives to the Rolex GMT-Master II –

Let’s face it. You won’t be able to walk into a Rolex boutique and walk out with just any variant of the super-hyped GMT-Master II. Unlikely anyway. To get one at retail from an authorized dealer, you would have had to spend time and money on other purchases to build a relationship with said dealer. So what to do? Well, here is our selection of 6 excellent GMT watches that are alternatives.

Our selection of 6 excellent GMT watches that are excellent alternatives to the Rolex GMT-Master II

The Rolex GMT-Master II is a cornerstone of the world of Rolex sports watches. It is well built, well designed. It is very robust and able to display 2 time zones at a glance. It’s a great watch, if a little boring and unimaginative. Wearing a Rolex these days is almost passe. Although due to the hype it is in high demand. Even this year New destroy GMT-Master II, which some have dubbed Sprite is a dull watch. The novelty is achieved with little effort other than spinning the dial on the regular model. And yes, a new green and black bezel and date ring.

For retail price SGD 14,840 for Ref. 126710BLNR (the Destro is more expensive at SGD15,240) is a relatively good value. Secondary prices for this standard model offering in SS with SS bracelet and ceramic bezel, but another story. A quick search on Chrono24 today, shows that the asking prices on the market fluctuate around twice the retail price. Of course, these prices have seen some correction in the last few months, but they are still very expensive compared to the authorized dealer price. And getting one from an authorized dealer is next to impossible. Rolex AD boutiques around the world display few signs under the models on display stating “Display Models Only” and these are not available for sale. But more on that story for another day, and our thoughts on how to fix or alleviate this issue later.

Of course, we ask you not to buy one in the secondary market at a premium. So our best advice is, unless you already have a good relationship with an AD, forget the GMT-Master II and look at other options. And as we began our investigation, there are many of them. Here are our suggestions for 6 alternatives, which are perhaps even better than the ultra-hyped Rolex GMT-Master II. Of course, in no particular order.

Tudor Black Bay GMT 5 750SGD

We start with the Tudor stable mate. We were hesitant to include the Tudor Black Bay GMT as a model because indeed most Black Bay models are also becoming increasingly difficult to obtain without being put on a waiting list and its relationship building requirements with the authorized dealer. But the Black Bay GMT is such a compelling alternative to the GMT-Master II that the list would seem incomplete without it.

It corresponds point for point to its big brother (or its sister, because the GMT-Master II with the Jubilee bracelet is nicknamed the Batgirl). In design, in construction quality, in aesthetics. In fact the “Pepsi” BB GMT is so close to the Pepsi GMT-Master II, that the linked article is indeed a comparative review.

Chopard LUC GMT One SGD 17,300

Our next recommendation is the Chopard. One of the LUC series, and launched in 2020 as part of LUC’s anniversary celebrations. The watch isn’t entirely new, but the aesthetics and case material are. The case is made of ceramized titanium – made by subjecting the surface layer of grade 5 titanium to extreme temperatures, effectively oxidizing it and giving it corrosion resistance properties and increased hardness for the famous light metal.

The movement is designed and finished to high quality watchmaking standards. Caliber LUC 01.10-L sports a finnish worthy of a high-end piece, with Geneva waves on the bridges and winding rotor, polished screw heads, beveled and polished edges and a circular grain main plate. Beautiful.

We were very impressed with the LUC GMT One Black during our review. This is a watch designed for the modern day traveler. It’s clean, intuitive to read, rainproof, scratch resistant and lightweight – all traits a traveler could demand. Of course, there’s also the added benefit of beautiful design, as well as the fine craftsmanship and finishing. If the LUC GMT One Black does not shake up any watchmaking paradigm, it is also far from being another generic GMT watch. Thanks to Chopard for trying a new design language and exotic case material.

Bell & Ross BR05 GMT SGD7,500

Bell & Ross has joined the fray by offering sporty steel watches with the launch of their BR05 collection. And from this beautiful collection springs the GMT. The BR05 GMT comes in two strap options, both of which are equally compelling, but our choice is the steel strap over the rubber strap.

The BR05 GMT is so beautiful beware, that the aesthetics are appealing enough to buy one. Unless you really like squares, the BR05 GMT is perfect. The finish and craftsmanship are on point, especially considering the modest price it is intended for. And that in itself is an advantage. When traveling, one does not want to attract attention with the recognizable Rolex on the wrist. And one would be heartbroken if one scratched the Rolex, Nautilus or Royal Oak during the hectic moments of travel. The BR05 GMT is therefore perfect. Sleek, but doesn’t attract the attention of sleazy types. And sturdy to be able to withstand the rigors of travel, as well as a modest enough price not to need to be handled with child’s gloves. Nice balance for a travel watch. We think.

Bvlgari Octo Finissimo S Chronograph GMT €24,700

Another non-round watch in this list. The Bvlgari Octo Finissimo S Chronograph GMT, as its name suggests, incorporates an ultra-thin two-counter chronograph, controlled by a column wheel, combined with the GMT function, making it a very capable travel watch. The movement is designed and manufactured in-house and is nicely finished with the innovative use of a peripheral rotor that performs its winding functions without obstructing the view of the movement’s aesthetically worthy through the case back.

Here we feel that the Bvlgari Octo Finissimo S Chronograph S ticks all the right boxes and makes the heart beat faster. The faceted case with faceted indexes and hands, each with glossy polished surfaces alternating with textured brushed surfaces, catches the light in a fascinating way. Totally mesmerizing, and makes you just stare at your wrist while doing little twisting gestures just for fun. It’s a seriously beautiful Look.

Grand Seiko SBGM221 US$4,600 (about SGD6,500)

An iconic Grand Seiko. We reviewed the earlier dual-signature version – the SBGM003 in detail in 2019, shown below. Other than the original model bearing both the Grand Seiko and Seiko signature on the dial, the two are identical. The current model has less bulk at the bottom after the brand decided to move the Grand Seiko logo to replace the Seiko logo at the 12 position. Other than that, no significant changes have been made.

The original SBGM003 was one of the watches that launched Grand Seiko onto the world stage. The design values ​​of the exceptional design and finish of the case, hands and hour markers are the hallmarks that have established Grand Seiko as a heavyweight in today’s market. Caliber 9S66 is superbly well thought out, and is a robust movement with a level of finish beyond what is absolutely necessary for engineering purposes. The result is a well-finished movement that is pleasing to the eye. Not super high-end finish, but neither is the asking price at retail. The intrinsic value of a Grand Seiko lies in the finish of the case, dial, hands and indexes. These are exceptionally executed, with high quality zaratsu finish applied to the surfaces.

This is a classic GS, which has been in production for 2 decades and will likely remain in production for several more to come.

Greubel Forsey GMT Sport CHF 480,000

Last but certainly not least on this list is this Greubel Forsey GMTSport. It has by far the highest price. We say this without any inference that this is an expensive watch, although it is undeniable that the retail price is a huge amount of money. But a prize that we think is well deserved by Greubel Forsey for the excellence it represents. And our reason for including it in this list is to show that it is indeed possible to think outside the box for a GMT watch and arrive at a watch that is a product of passion and intelligence.

The GMT Sport is innovative in design, the dramatic layout of the dial and even the shape of the case is an example of how one should apply one’s intellect to an age-old problem. And the finish. Wow! At the very top, at the top of the charts in all metrics of all kinds regarding movement finishing, we will find Greubel Forseys. And the GMT Sport is right up there. Flawless.

As we said in our initial test, the Greubel Forsey GMT Sport will polarize. Some will love the unique shape right off the bat. Some will end up loving it with familiarity (like us!), and others will hate it. But all watch lovers who love finishes have no choice but to love finnish. Absolute heights.

Final Thoughts

The GMT-Master is a remarkable watch, but far from perfect. And while a holy grail for many, our opinion is that it’s not a watch worth praising. Certainly the model is steeped in history with its origins from Rolex working with PanAm for use by pilots on transcontinental flights. Certainly, the manufacturing engineering is state-of-the-art for a mass-produced watch. Quality control is at an extremely high level. The Rolex chronometer specifications specify +/- 1 s per day of deviation. But Rolex is not high quality watchmaking. The finish is at best of a high level of engineering. No decoration or passionate advocacy of high quality is evident in the product. There is little innovation or original thinking other than to solve engineering problems. And being a very basic 3-hand automatic movement with date and a separate 24-hour hand for GMT, it’s almost as simple as it gets.

Apart from its stable mate Tudor Black Bay GMT, all other watches beat the GMT-Master II in terms of innovation in design, movement and most importantly finish. The other 5 on our list all provide a compelling plea that the watch is a product of passion and pride. And also, due to the lack of hype, these models are easier to reach than the Rolex. With the possible exception of Greubel Forsey. Not because of the hype. But because it is a limited edition of only 11 pieces and all of them are reserved.

What are your alternatives to the GMT-Master II?

About Robert L. Thomas

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