Unlike categories such as dive watch or pilot’s watch, there is really no class of timepiece identified specifically as a travel watch. Instead, there are certain models equipped with features such as GMT, dual time, or world time, that make the whole business of moving about our planet more convenient. Within that group are subsets of luxury travel watches that also make it far more stylish.
Whether you are taking an outing for business or you are going away on vacation and you decide, for safety’s sake, that you are only going to take one watch, that piece needs to be a versatile one. It will be required to look as at home on the plane as it does in a fine restaurant, blend in the boardroom as well as on the golf course.
It is a lot to ask of a single model, but below we’ve highlighted several of our favorites that do a great job of being all things to all voyagers. Here are our current top picks for the best luxury travel watch models to bring along on your next trip. Happy trails.
- Case size: 40mm
- Materials: Steel, yellow gold, white gold, Everose gold, steel/yellow gold, or steel/Everose gold
- Bezel: Bidirectional 24-hour; Bakelite (rare), aluminum (discontinued), or Cerachrom
- Dial: 12-hour hand, 24-hour hand, minute hand, seconds hand, date window
- Bracelet: Jubilee or Oyster bracelets
Developed in the 1950s specifically for commercial pilots, the Rolex GMT-Master (and its successor the GMT-Master II) is the most famous high-end travel watch there is. Rolex cleverly combined a bidirectional 24-hour bezel with a dial that housed an additional 24-hour hand to allow wearers to track two time zones simultaneously — a supremely practical function to have while
The defining characteristic of the GMT-Master is its bezel, which is often two-toned. Color choices include blue and red “Pepsi,” black and red “Coke,” brown and gold “Root Beer,” and blue and black “Batman.” What’s more, GMT bezels have been fashioned in Bakelite, aluminum, and now, Cerachrom ceramic.
Along with bezel options, case material choices are also varied: steel, yellow gold, white gold, Everose gold, and two-tone steel/gold. All that variety, coupled with a 60-year-plus history of production, translates to an immense collection of GMT-Master and GMT-Master II models – any of which would make an excellent travel timepiece.
The Tudor Black Bay GMT
- Reference: 79830RB
- Case: 41mm stainless steel
- Bezel: Bidirectional rotating 24-hour aluminum in matt burgundy and blue
- Dial: Black; 12-hour hand, 24-hour hand, minute hand, seconds hand, date window
- Bracelet/Strap: Steel riveted bracelet, fabric strap, or leather strap
Tudor has worked hard over the last decade to stand out from its sibling company, Rolex. The brand now boasts a fantastic lineup of coveted watches, ranging from divers and chronographs to casual three-handers.
However, one of Tudor’s particularly popular models is the Black Bay GMT, which sports a strikingly similar style (and functionality) to a Rolex GMT-Master II “Pepsi.” While signature Black Bay touches, such as snowflake-style hands, domed crystal, guard-less crown are still there, the blue and red 24-hour bezel is an unmistakable nod to Rolex’s famed design.
Inside the 41mm, 200m water-resistant steel case is an in-house Tudor automatic movement, which supplies the Black Bay GMT with 70 hours of power reserve.
Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra GMT
- Reference: 18.104.22.168.04.001
- Case: 43mm titanium
- Bezel: Smooth titanium
- Dial: Lacquered white; 12-hour hand, 24-hour hand, minute hand, seconds hand, date window
- Bracelet: Titanium bracelet
In less than two decades since it debuted, the Seamaster Aqua Terra collection has grown to become one of Omega’s most varied. Yet, regardless of the size, material, or complication it houses, an Omega Aqua Terra watch is always perfectly wearable and versatile. Case in point is the handsome Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra GMT GoodPlanet, which works well as an everyday watch but features a travel-ready GMT complication for those on the go.
Unlike sportier GMT watches, the casually cool Seamaster Aqua Terra GMT GoodPlanet doesn’t feature a 24-hour rotating bezel. Instead, the 24-hour scale is incorporated inside the minute track on the white lacquered dial, leaving the titanium bezel smooth and unadorned. That clean and crisp dial color is the ideal background for the blue and red accents to pop while the titanium case and matching titanium dial keep the watch style understated.
Grand Seiko Sport Spring Drive GMT
- Reference: SBGE255
- Case: 40.5mm stainless steel
- Bezel: Fixed 24-hour blue ceramic
- Dial: Sunray blue; 12-hour hand, 24-hour hand, minute hand, seconds hand, power reserve indicator, date window
- Bracelet: Steel bracelet
Grand Seiko has been making huge strides in the international luxury watch space in recent years and the company isn’t shy to admit that it has its eye on the Swiss-watch-loving American market. As a result, the Japanese watchmaker has been releasing a solid lineup of fine timepieces stateside, built with an attention to detail that few other brands can match.
The Sport Spring Drive GMT is a perfect example of Grand Seiko’s top-notch finishing and balanced approach. The watch features a 40.5mm steel case that combines brushed surfaces and Zaratsu-polished mirror surfaces, along with flawless sharp edges and smooth curved slopes. The blue ceramic bezel, which includes a 24-hour scale to read a second time zone, matches the sunray blue dial.
Along with great style, this fine travel watch also runs on the groundbreaking Seiko Spring Drive movement – a hybrid mechanism that combines a traditional mainspring and gear train (complete with a smooth sweeping seconds hand) with the timekeeping accuracy of a quartz caliber.
Panerai Luminor GMT Power Reserve
- Reference: PAM01321
- Case: 44mm stainless steel
- Bezel: Polished steel
- Dial: Black; 12-hour hand, 24-hour hand, minute hand, running seconds display, power reserve indicator, date window
- Straps: Fabric, leather, or rubber
From its bold cushion-shaped case and oversized lever-activated crown guard to large luminescent Arabic numerals that punctuate the dial, a Panerai Luminor is immediately recognizable to anyone who is remotely into watches. While there are plenty of Panerai Luminor models to choose from now, the form has remained essentially the same since the mid-20th Century when the Florence-based company exclusively made dive watches for the Italian navy.
For modern travelers, the Panerai Luminor GMT Power Reserve is a top choice, marrying the iconic old-school silhouette with present-day materials and technology. There’s the 44mm case crafted from brushed stainless steel, the sapphire crystals on both sides, and the in-house automatic movement that supplies the watch with three days of power reserve. In true Panerai fashion, the black “sandwich” dial of the Luminor GMT Power Reserve is home to a mix of Arabic numerals and stick indexes, which all shine brightly in the dark thanks to the luminous disc below the dial stencil.
GMT Watches are the Best for Traveling
Regardless of where you’re going, if your destination is in a different time zone than where you live, a GMT watch is your best bet as a travel companion. It’s an easy way to track local time and home time—and if you go for one of the top-tier watchmakers we’ve listed, your wrist will look great too.