HomeFashionTime-only vs GMT watches: Know the difference

Time-only vs GMT watches: Know the difference


Time-only and GMT watches look almost similar, but there are distinct differences that are worth exploring. There are two basic types of manual watches, time-only and GMT watches. In this article, you will know the difference between these two watch types. Whether you are a watch enthusiast or just need a new watch, below you will find valuable information. 

Time-only watches

These watches are the most basic type of watches that can only display the time. This watch type only has the function to display hours, minutes and seconds. Sometimes, you may find an indicator showing the date, but it does not change its root type. 

Time-only watches are best for those who need clean and simple timepieces. Almost all the major luxury brands, such as Audemars Piguet, Rolex, and Patek Philippe, manufacture time-only watches. Regardless of its simplicity, you will find hundreds of unique designs and styles in this category.

How do time-only watches work?

Time-only watches use traditional gear and lever mechanisms to operate. Time-only watches can be powered with either mechanical or Quartz movements. A wound mainspring is used to power the watch.

These watches are simpler in design and have no complications. Some watches may have complications due to features like date window or separate second hand. 

Setting a time-only watch

Setting the time of the time-only watch is not a big deal. All you need is to slightly pull back the crown outside and rotate it clockwise or anti-clockwise to set the time. The watch hands will move respectively in the direction you want to move. 

If your watch has a date window, there will be two pull-out positions. Usually, the second pull-out position is for adjusting the date. But, it can be different for differently designed watches.

GMT watches

The GMT watches are also known as dual-time watches, used to display two different time zones at the same time. GMT watches have an extra hand to display, which refers to the second timezone. GMT watches are used by people who frequently travel to different time zones or coordinate internationally.

The very first GMT watch, GMT Master, was first made by Rolex in the 1950s specifically for the Pan Am airline’s Pilots This was so beneficial that other airlines also started using GMT watches. The dual-time functionality of these Rolex watches became famous around the world.

How do GMT watches work?

Like time-only watches, GMT watches can be mechanical or battery-powered. The primary time on the watch is displayed traditionally with hour, minute and second hand. For displaying the timezone, a fourth hand in the dial is connected to the main hour hand so that it only rotates once a day. In contrast, the main hour hand is rotated twice in 24 hours.

In GMT watches, you will find the bezel around the watch dial. By rotating this bezel, you can check the exact time of the second time zone. GMT watches are complex due to the added functionality of dual time zone. Some GMT watches with complications can even display more than two time zones. 

Setting a GMT Watch

Setting the main time on a GMT watch is the same as on a regular watch. Just  slightly pull the crown out to position one and adjust the time. When setting for the second time zone, use the pull-out position two to adjust the time. Usually, the same crown is used for setting both time zones. There may be a third pull-out position if your watch has got the date indicator. 

Watch mechanisms in time-only, and GMT watches

A movement is the watch’s engine and is also called the “Heart of the Watch”. It is a set of gears and levers attached to move the hands. The pinions and gears are precisely attached to move hands in a watch. There are two basic types of the watch movement.

  • Mechanical Movement
  • Automatic Movement
  • Quartz Movement

Mechanical movement: 

The mainspring is used as a power source.  The simple gear and lever mechanism rotate the hands in watches. The mainspring has to be wound manually, which will run the watch. The escapement of movement regulates the movements of hands.

Automatic Movement

In automatic watches, the mainspring is wind. The automatic watch has a rotor and metal weight attached to the movement. When the wearer moves their wrist, the mainspring winds automatically. An automatic watch is complex and needs maintenance every few years, depending on its use.

Quartz Movement 

In a quartz movement, quartz crystal is used to keep time. The crystal is integrated into the circuit and is vibrated at a high frequency when current is passed through it. The stepper motor uses the oscillation produced by the quartz crystal to control the hands of watches. 

Below is a quick comparison between Mechanical and Quartz movement watches.

Mechanical movement Watches Quartz movement watches
Needs manual winding Battery powered
Needs maintenance every few years Needs very low or no maintenance 
Balance Wheel is used to keep time Quartz crystal is used to keep time

Which one should you buy?

Buying a time-only or GMT watch solely depends on your personal preference. If you are a frequent traveler, you should buy a Rolex GMT Master. With a GMT watch, you do not have to set the time when you switch time zones constantly. No doubt GMT watches are more expensive than regular watches but worth their price. While if you want a classic look, a simple time-only watch is also an excellent option. 

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