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The Best Travel Watches from Rolex, Omega, & More

Paul Altieri

Opportunities to travel have been pretty few and far between over the last 18-months or so. But, as the world finally begins to open up again, it is time to start thinking about the single most important aspect of any trip – choosing the right luxury watch as your travel companion. Fortunately, there are plenty of options out there, with just about every manufacturer offering models with the seasoned jet-setter in mind. That leaves us with a vast number of potential watches to think about, in an equally wide variety of styles.

It can seem like a mammoth undertaking, so we have done a lot of the hard work for you. We’ve put together this guide to sort out the absolute best watches for traveling from a range of different brands, both for overseas trips and those closer to home. Some have features designed specifically for the long-haul, others are here because they never look out of place wherever you are in the world – but all are wrapped up in stylish, eye-catching, and, most importantly, robust models. To keep things simple, we have sorted them into four main categories; Business, Personal, Sports, and International travel. So, if you’re ready to depart, let’s go!

Business Travel

Traveling for work can take many different forms. For some, it might simply entail being on-site at a different office. For others, it may consist of piloting the aircraft itself. Below are some of our top luxury watch picks for business travel.

Rolex GMT-Master II ref. 126711CHNR

Best Travel Watches Rolex GMT-Master II 126711CHNR

GMT-Master II 126711CHNR Key Features:

– Case Size: 40mm

– Functionality: Time w/ Running Seconds, Date Display, GMT

– Materials: Rolesor (904L Stainless Steel / 18k Everose Gold)

– Dial Options: Black

– Bezel: Cerachrom, Black/Brown, Bidirectional, Engraved 24-Hour Scale

– Crystal: Sapphire

– Movement: Rolex Cal. 3285

– Water Resistance: 100 meters / 300 feet

– Bracelet: Three-Link Oyster Bracelet

– Retail Price: $14,800

– Pre-Owned Price: $22,500 – $25,000 (Approx.)

Rolex 126711CHNR

Hear ‘luxury watch’ and you think Rolex. Hear ‘luxury travel watch’ and think ‘Rolex GMT-Master II.’ The granddaddy of all GMT models since its debut in 1954, this is the one that set the standard for all others to follow. The end result of a collaboration between the Swiss horology behemoth and Pan Am Airways, it was one of the first watches to feature an additional hour hand that is matched to a rotating, 24-hour engraved bezel in order to keep track of two time zones at once. While it was originally designed to help wearers fight off the worst effects of jetlag, its distinctive styling and iconic bezel colors have turned it into one of the world’s most desirable watches for anyone, whether you are a veteran traveler or not.

Today, the lineup consists of eight watches spread across five reference numbers that are made up of four steel models (in blue and red ‘Pepsi’ and blue and black ‘Batman’ colorways, on either a Jubilee or Oyster bracelet), two white gold pieces (both Pepsi, with a blue or meteorite dial), a full Everose gold watch with Root Beer black and brown bezel, and our personal choice, the ref. 126711CHNR.

This is, arguably, the most successful use of Rolex’s two-tone Rolesor at the moment. A beautifully presented best-of-both-worlds, combining the toughness of 904L Oystersteel with the brand’s own 18k rose gold alloy. It marries perfectly with its Root Beer surround, neither too flashy nor too understated. Powered by the latest Cal. 3285, giving independent control of both hour hands to allow for the tracking of three time zones at once, this could well be the ultimate travel watch.

Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch

Best Travel Watches Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch

Speedmaster Moonwatch Key Features:

– Case Size: 42mm

Functionality: Time w/ Running Seconds, Chronograph

– Materials: Stainless Steel

– Dial Options: Black

– Bezel: Steel w/ Black Anodized Aluminum Insert, Fixed, Tachymetric Scale

– Crystal: Hesalite or Sapphire

– Movement: Omega Calibre 3861

– Water Resistance: 50 meters / 167 feet

– Bracelet: Five-Link Steel Bracelet

– Retail Price: $6,300

– Pre-Owned Price: $6,300 – $7,000 (Approx.)

Omega Speedmaster

It is just a fact that some watches have traveled more than others. And none have been as far as Omega’s legendary Moonwatch. The Speedy may not be an obvious choice for the business traveler, but you will search for a long time before you find any other timepiece that is as comfortable an all-day wear, with as much versatility, or that is more welcomed in any situation.

Like all the great watches that are now celebrated as industry icons, the Speedmaster has barely changed outwardly over its many decades in the business, and the watch you can buy today is close to being a virtual carbon copy of the model worn by Buzz Aldrin as he stepped off the lunar lander in 1969.

The dial is the definition of legibility itself, with high contrast white on black detailing, and the lume is bright and plentiful. The feel on the chrono buttons is crisp and sure and the whole thing is solid as a rock. Inside, the Omega Caliber 3861 is manually-winding (as it should be) but is as cutting-edge as they come in this most classic of watches. Its co-axial escapement, silicon balance spring, and METAS-certified Master Chronometer rating means it is not only accurate to within 0/+5 seconds a day, but it is also resistant to magnetic fields up to an incredible 15,000 gauss. And if it’s tough enough for NASA, chances are it can survive the occasional red-eye.

Best Travel Watches Rolex GMT-Master II Root Beer 126711CHNR

Personal Travel

When you aren’t traveling for work, you can embrace your casual side and enjoy a bit more freedom when it comes to the clothes that you wear on your trip. Below are a few of our top luxury watch choices for personal travel.

Tudor Black Bay GMT

Best Travel Watches Tudor Black Bay GMT

Black Bay GMT Key Features:

– Case Size: 41mm

– Functionality: Time w/ Running Seconds, Date Display, GMT

– Materials: Stainless Steel

– Dial Options: Black

– Bezel: Steel w/ Blue & Red Anodized Aluminum Insert, Bidirectional, Engraved 24-Hour Scale

– Crystal: Sapphire

– Movement: Tudor Cal. MT5652

– Water Resistance: 200 meters / 660 feet

– Bracelet: ‘Terra di Siena’ Brown Leather Strap

– Retail Price: $3,950

– Pre-Owned Price: $3,100 – $6,000 (Approx.)

Tudor Black Bay

The only dual time zone watch in Tudor’s modern collection, part of its ridiculously successful Black Bay range, is in many ways what the Rolex GMT-Master was 60-years ago. Whereas today’s Rolex piece is an opulent, muscular, and imposing example, with wide lugs, thick crown guards and high-tech Cerachrom bezels coated with platinum PVD, the Tudor Black Bay GMT is the perfect throwback to the 1950s golden age of sports watches.

Offered in nothing but stainless steel, it is a model generous with vintage detailing. The case is pure tool watch nostalgia, with strong, graceful lines and no guard around the oversized 8mm winding crown. The matte black dial has the classic dot and baton index setup, complete with retro railway-style chapter ring, and the love-‘em-or-hate-‘em Snowflake hands. Best of all, that bezel, with its coin-edged grip and muted burgundy and blue split coloring, is anodized aluminum, meaning that it will undoubtedly pick up the odd scratch and a hint of fading over the years, as all good working watches should.

Covering it is a Cyclops-free domed sapphire crystal, and it all adds up to one of the most successful executions of the current trend for reimagined models from the past. A stripped-back performer offering serious value for money, the Black Bay GMT is an ideal cohort on your travels

Oris Aquis Date

Best Travel Watches Oris Aquis Date

Aquis Date Key Features:

– Case Size: 43.5mm

– Functionality: Time w/ Running Seconds,  Date Display

– Materials: Stainless Steel

– Dial Options: Brown

– Bezel: Steel w/ Brown Ceramic Insert, Unidirectional, Engraved 60-Minute Scale

– Crystal: Sapphire

– Movement: Oris Cal. 733 (SW 200-1 base)

– Water Resistance: 300 meters / 1,000 feet

– Bracelet: Brown Leather Strap

– Retail Price: $2,050

– Pre-Owned Price: $1,300 – $1,900 (Approx.)

Oris Aquis

How could you not love Oris? The enduring Swiss brand has a well-deserved reputation for building superbly engineered watches, imbued with lashings of style and character, and selling them for extremely reasonable prices. The Aquis range is a case in point. One of two diving collections the brand offers (the other being the vintage-inspired Divers Sixty-Five series) this is where Oris comes right up to date.

Among the 80 or so different models, you will find chronographs, GMT watches, and Big Day-Dates alongside a few eco-friendly limited editions and some rather more eccentric pieces such as the Regulateur and even a mechanical depth gauge. But the simple three-handed Aquis Date watches offer the most diversity – 40 models of varying sizes and shades, including our pick, with its brown dial and bezel.

We’re seeing a number of brands releasing watches with brown detailing, perhaps taking their cue from the recent success of all the similarly hued bronze models (which Oris also pioneered). It is a color that works particularly well on the Aquis Date; the dial is given a dynamic metallic brushing that changes in different lighting, and the glossy ceramic bezel insert with golden numerals provides hints of a vintage Root Beer vibe. At 43.5mm it’s a substantial piece, good down to 300m underwater, and powered by an ultra-dependable Sellita SW 200-1 caliber. And you can have it all for less than $2,000 on the pre-owned market.

Best Travel Watches Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch

Sports Travel

Some people may enjoy spending their vacations lounging by the pool, while others travel for the sole purpose of engaging in authentic adventures. When it comes to sports travel, strong and lightweight materials are the only way to go because the last thing you need is your timepiece weighing down your performance.

Panerai Luminor 1950 3-Days GMT Automatic Ceramica

Best Travel Watches Panerai Luminor 1950 3-Days GMT Ceramica

Luminor 1950 3-Days GMT PAM01441 Key Features:

– Case Size: 44mm

– Functionality: Time w/ Running Seconds, Date Display, GMT

– Materials: Black Ceramic

– Dial Options: Black

– Bezel: Smooth Black Ceramic

– Crystal: Sapphire

– Movement: Panerai Cal. P.9010

– Water Resistance: 100 meters / 330 feet

– Bracelet: Brown Leather Strap

– Retail Price: $12,200

– Pre-Owned Price: $8,000 – $14,000 (Approx.)

Panerai Luminor

It’s not often you get to use the word restrained when writing about Panerai, but this jet-black, ceramic-bodied, quietly masculine piece from the Luminor collection is about as close as the brand gets. The origins of the 1950 3-Days GMT Automatic Ceramica are unmistakable, with that iconic crown guard present and correct, along with the huge numerals on the matte sandwich dial. However, the muted finish on the casing leaves the whole thing admirably underplayed (well, as underplayed as a 44mm Panerai can be), especially when paired with a vintage-looking brown leather strap.

With that in mind, the material wasn’t chosen purely for its looks. That high-tech ‘Ceramica’ is forged from zirconium oxide, leaving it up to five times stronger than steel, and practically impervious to scratches – so more than tough enough for even the most eventful international sojourns. Another subtle element is the GMT function itself. You could be forgiven for not knowing it’s there at all, with no extra numerals on the bezel or dial and the additional hour hand looking for all the world like a normal seconds hand. Of course, the running seconds are taken care of on their own small sub counter at 9 o’clock, complete with the watch’s only real splash of color; a tiny blue, lume-filled indicator.

Perhaps most impressive though is what goes on inside. The in-house Panerai Cal. P.9010 is a 31-jeweled, 28,800vph movement, with double mainspring barrels offering up a huge 3-day power reserve. This means it’s a watch that can be left in a hotel safe the entire weekend and still be running come Monday morning. A wonderfully versatile and highly distinctive performer, the Panerai Luminor 1950 GMT is ready for anything.

Grand Seiko Sport SBGA403

Best Travel Watches Grand Seiko Sport SBGA403

SBGA403 Key Features:

– Case Size: 44.5mm

– Functionality: Time w/ Running Seconds, Date Display, Power Reserve Indicator

– Materials: High-Intensity Titanium

– Dial Options: Olive Green w/ Hand Carved Lion’s Mane Stamp

– Bezel: Ceramic, Fixed, Engraved 60-Minute Scale

– Crystal: Sapphire

– Movement: Spring Drive 9R15

– Water Resistance: 200 meters / 660 feet

– Bracelet: Three-Link

– Retail Price: $10,600

– Pre-Owned Price: $10,200 – $11,700 (Approx.)

Grand Seiko

Proof that not all great watches are born in Switzerland, this limited edition model from Japan’s finest, Grand Seiko, is a true beauty. Released in 2019 in an edition of just 500 pieces, the SBGA403 was unveiled to celebrate the 20th anniversary of GS’s game-changing Spring Drive technology.

In its simplest terms, Grand Seiko’s Spring Drive is a movement that combines the best aspects of both quartz and mechanical calibers. So it contains a quartz oscillator to regulate the timekeeping, but it is driven by a mainspring, has a conventional gear train, and doesn’t need a battery. What that means in real-world terms is an accuracy of +/-0.5 seconds a day, or +/-10 seconds a month, a 72-hour power reserve, and a seconds hand that glides like nothing else on the market. However, a special movement needs a special watch, and this anniversary piece certainly delivers.

The titanium, 44.5mm watch has taken its visual inspiration from Grand Seiko’s long-time symbol, the lion. The sharply faceted, Zaratsu-polished case curves inward, with angular, claw-like lugs keeping it sitting low and comfortably on the wrist. It has a dramatic, aggressive presence, which would have been enough to draw plenty of admirers anyway but then there’s the dial.

Even for a brand becoming evermore renowned for the incredible quality and inventiveness of its watch dials, Grand Seiko has outdone itself here. The hand-carved pattern across the face takes its look from that of a lion’s mane, with a mottled, sweeping texture that seems to change color from olive green, to brown to soft grey depending on the lighting. It could have made the watch hard to read, but the big, bold diamond-cut hands keep it all perfectly legible. A real winner from a cult favorite, the Grand Seiko SBGA403 is an eye-catching, lightweight delight and the ideal sports travel partner.

Best Travel Watches Rolex Sky-Dweller Oysterflex Yellow Gold 326238

International Travel

If your travel plans include venturing to a different country, there is a fairly good chance that you will be crossing at least a few different timezones – and you’re going to need a wristwatch that can keep up with your fast-paced itinerary. Below are some of our top luxury watch selections for international travel.

Rolex Sky-Dweller ref. 326238

Best Travel Watches Rolex Sky-Dweller 326238

Sky-Dweller 326238 Key Features:

– Case Size: 42mm

– Functionality: Time w/ Running Seconds, Date Display, GMT Display, Annual Calendar

– Materials: 18k Yellow Gold

– Dial Options: White, Champagne, Black

– Bezel: Fluted 18k Gold Ring Command Bezel

– Crystal: Sapphire

– Movement: Rolex Cal. 9001

– Water Resistance: 100 meters / 330 feet

– Bracelet: Rolex Oysterflex

– Retail Price: $40,000

– Pre-Owned Price: $41,000 – $49,000 (Approx.)

Rolex Sky-Dweller 326238

Serious traveling needs a serious watch, and the Sky-Dweller is Rolex’s most grandiose model. Arriving in 2012 (also making it the brand’s newest release) it manages to combine a novel take on the dual time zone complication, alongside Rolex’s first-ever annual calendar, together with its regular time telling duties. However, it took a little while to take off as a travel watch (pun always intended) with buyers taking exception to the watch’s somewhat unorthodox looks, as well as the eye-watering price tags of the original run’s solid gold models.

More recently though, Rolex has introduced steel and white gold pieces and swapped out the leather straps for its own proprietary rubber strap. That not only reduced the buy-in cost considerably, but it also gave the Rolex Sky-Dweller a more modern, relaxed aspect, and its star has been in the ascendancy ever since. Our personal choice is a blend of the traditional and the contemporary. The ref. 326238 combines the classic yellow gold case and fluted bezel you would be more likely to see on that most conservative of Rolex watches such as the Day-Date, with the unique sportiness of the Oysterflex bracelet.

Available with a choice of three dials (white, black, and champagne), all offer a refined and elevated aesthetic while still remaining easy to read. It may not be the cheapest watch you can buy, but for a model with its talents, style, and sheer engineering virtuosity, the Rolex Sky-Dweller is still very hard to beat.

Breitling Transocean Chronograph Unitime

Best Travel Watches Breitling Transocean Chronograph Unitime

Transocean Chronograph Unitime Key Features:

– Case Size: 46mm

– Functionality: Time w/ Running Seconds, Chronograph, Date Display, World Time Indication

– Materials: Stainless Steel

– Dial Options: Black

– Bezel: Steel, Smooth

– Crystal: Sapphire

– Movement: Breitling Cal. B05

– Water Resistance: 100 meters / 330 feet

– Bracelet: Black Crocodile Leather Strap

– Retail Price: $10,715

– Pre-Owned Price: $4,500 – $10,000 (Approx.)

Breitling Transocean

Breitling brought out its original Unitime watch (the ref. 1260) way back in the 1950s and waited until 2012 to release a follow-up version. The Transocean Chronograph Unitime is an arresting 46mm stainless steel creation, with an elegantly sporty design and an all-new take on the world-time complication.

Powered by Breitling’s own B05 (based on the B01 with all the necessary modules built on top), the dial actually consists of two rotating discs, one inside the other, both operated by the crown. The outer ring bears the names of 24 world cities, representing all the world’s major time zones. The inner ring indicates 24-hours. To find the correct time at your destination, it is simply a question of pulling out the crown and rotating the outer disc until your desired city is sitting at the 12 o’clock position. The mechanism automatically corrects the 24-hour ring, the central hour hand, and even the date display accordingly.

Even more impressively, the operation doesn’t interrupt the minute and seconds hands, or even the chronograph should it be running at the same time. It is a remarkably accomplished feat of workmanship, packaged into an extremely handsome timepiece.

Paul Altieri
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