The best GMT watches under 1000 are part of a story going back to the dawn of the jet age. Pilots’ watches have been around for more than a century, but until the 1950s they didn’t have the stylish cache they currently enjoy—or the benefit of the occasional fashion collab. That all changed with the advent of the jet era, when airline pilots (and a newly-minted class of globetrotting jet-setters) needed a way to keep track of home time and destination time at a glance. The solution: a watch with an extra hour hand that could be used to display a second time zone on a 24-hour bezel, also known as a GMT (for Greenwich Mean Time, the base from which global time zones are measured).
The first GMT out of the gate in 1953 was the Glycine Airman, specimens of which can still be found for the cheap on the vintage market. The same can’t be said of the Rolex GMT-Master, which arrived in 1954 and is now—whether in its left-handed “destro” version or its recent full-gold refresh—one of the most coveted watches on the planet. The original Rolex GMT-Master was designed for Pan American airline pilots, and improved the GMT’s design with the addition of a two-tone red and black bezel to distinguish day from night, a feature that earned it the nickname “Coke.” This colorful bezel, since adopted by countless other brands, would become the GMT-Master’s signature, with additional versions in red and blue (Pepsi), blue and black (Batman), brown and black (root beer) and green and black (Sprite).
GMT-Masters are currently selling for around $10k at retail and up to six figures on the gray market, but you don’t have to spend nearly that much to get your hands on a stylish alternative. The 15 selects below, from classic two-tone Pepsi bezels to more refined and esoteric designs, all offer a similarly high-altitude vibe at much more down-to-earth prices. So ready yourself for takeoff, folks: These are our favorite GMT watches under 1000.
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