Starting with the GMT-Master watch in the fifties and followed by the second generation of the Explorer II in the eighties, Rolex has been producing GMT watches for more than half of the company’s history. But what about the newer Sky-Dweller annual calendar watch that displays dual time zones? Is the Rolex Sky-Dweller a GMT watch? Let’s find out.
Dual Time Watches vs. GMT Watches
Although the terms ‘dual time watches’ and ‘GMT watches’ are often used interchangeably, it’s important to point out their differences. As its name implies, dual time watches are timepieces that indicate two time zones. The second time zone can be displayed on a 12-hour scale, typically paired with an A.M./P.M. indicator, like on the Rolex Cellini Dual Time watch. The second time zone can also be displayed on a 24-hour scale, forfeiting the need for a day/night indicator such as on the Rolex GMT-Master watch.
Therefore, while all GMT watches are dual time watches not all dual time watches are GMT watches. What defines a GMT watch is the use of a 24-hour scale to display the second time zone. “GMT” refers to Greenwich Mean Time, which was once the primary time standard for aviators, now replaced by Coordinated Universal Time (or UTC).
Taking it a step further, “true” GMT watches are characterized by an independent 12-hour hand that jumps back and forth so it can be set to a new local time without disturbing the rest of the watch. This type of watch is particularly practical for frequent travelers, who can always have the 24-hour hand pointing to a reference time of their choice (home time, UTC, secondary office location, etc.) and easily jump the 12-hour hand to their current local time zone whenever they land in a new destination.
The Rolex Sky-Dweller
If we look closely at the dial of the Rolex Sky-Dweller, we see that the second time zone is indicated via a 24-hour off-centered disc. That disc rotates while a fixed inverted red triangle points to the hour in the second time zone. Additionally, the hour hand can be adjusted in one-hour increments both forward and backward, without affecting the other hands or the reference time disc.
So, yes, the Rolex Sky-Dweller is a GMT watch – a “true” GMT watch, in fact.
In addition to is dual time capabilities, the Sky-Dweller is also an annual calendar that displays the date through a window at 3 o’clock and the month via a dozen apertures adjacent to the hour markers. The clever annual calendar complication means that the watch can differentiate between months with 30 or 31 days and requires only one date adjustment per year, when the month changes from February to March.
Another notable technical feature of the Sky-Dweller is its fluted bezel, which is not just decorative but an integral part of the watch’s functionality. It is linked directly to the Sky-Dweller’s internal movement, and allows the wearer to choose which function will be set through the crown by simply turning the bezel.
The Rolex Sky-Dweller is available in yellow gold, Everose gold, white gold, two-tone yellow gold and steel (Yellow Rolesor), and stainless steel with a white gold bezel (White Rolesor). The watches sport 42mm cases and Oyster bracelets; however, some of the full gold editions offer the option of a leather strap with a matching gold clasp.
Along with being one of the most strikingly designed Rolex watches available today, the Sky-Dweller is also one of the brand’s most technically complex. Yet, despite its high-degree of technical functionality and the significant amount of information it presents, the innovative month display and off-centered GMT disc allow it to have a remarkably clean and uncluttered dial. Far less tool-like than the GMT-Master, but even more capable, the Rolex Sky-Dweller’s GMT functionality coupled with its annual calendar complication makes it the ultimate luxury traveler’s watch.