The Rolex GMT Master II is one that is actually quite difficult to find alternatives for, first and foremost, because of its design. It is such a distinct format for a GMT, and really, it’s hard for other brands to replicate it without copying Rolex, so to speak.
But I compiled the top five that I feel are certainly very interesting. These are my top 5 alternatives to the Rolex GMT Master II that you should check out.
Coming in at number one is one that you might not expect, and that is the JLC Reverso.
Rolex GMT Alternative 1: The Jaeger LeCoultre Duoface Reverso
However, specifically, you would need a Duoface Reverso. Now, when it comes to the JLC Reverso, it is a super iconic watch that was originally released in 1931 for Indian polo players. The whole concept behind it was you can flip the watch case to ultimately protect the glass from shattering while wearing the watch during a polo match.
Although JLC originally released the Reverso in 1931, it would only be later on in 1994 that JLC would release the Duoface Reverso. This was a watch that had the same functionality as the Reverso in that you can flip the case over, but it now featured a second dial that could keep track of a second time zone via a pusher on the side of the case. The case pusher would allow the user to move the hours forward and, ultimately allow them to track a distinct time zone.
However, nowadays, they actually feature a much more practical slide tool at the top of the case, which allows you to very quickly and easily change the hour hand on the second side of the Reverso both forward and backward. This gives the user not only the ability to change their watch on the fly – the watch having two different dials – but also the opportunity to track two distinct time zones.
And so, it can be that GMT watch for you if, say, you’re a traveling consultant, for example, and need something maybe a little bit dressier. Obviously, the Reverso is one of the most iconic and recognizable watches ever made because of its rectangular case shape.
Add to it its functionality of being able to track a second time zone, and given the fact that JLC has released so many different variations of the Reverso over the years, you can really tailor and find the Reverso that is really perfect for your collection and your sense of style. I think it’s not only one of the greatest and most iconic and recognizable watches but also a fantastic overall alternative to the Rolex GMT Master II.
Rolex GMT Alternative 2: Grand Seiko Peacock SBGJ227
Moving on to a brand that maybe doesn’t get as much love as it should, particularly even on this channel. And that is Grand Seiko. Now, Grand Seiko has really acquired a cult following of sorts by many collectors in the watch industry who view their watches as one of the best values on the market considering the overall level of finish in the case, dial, and movement that you get for the price, especially for the price that they trade for on the secondary market.
Frankly, I really can’t disagree. However, Grand Seiko never segmented its brand properly from Seiko which is entry-level luxury versus Grand Seiko, which is a higher-level luxury watch. However, that doesn’t take away anything from their amazing watches.
Now, my favorite GMT Master II alternative from Grand Seiko is actually the Grand Seiko Peacock, the SBGJ227. It features a really interesting turquoise dial with a GMT complication and the same kind of functionality as the GMT Master II where you can jump the hour hand forwards and backward depending on the local time in the city that you’re traveling in.
I really think that if Grant Seiko released these dials in greater quantities, they really would have a knockout product. Namely, a number of other great alternatives to the Rolex GMT Master II, for example, the reference SBGM235, which has a really distinct Whirlpool dial that is so distinct to Grand Seiko.
However, yet again, it’s just so limited. And so, it’s unattainable for the people who don’t buy Grand Seiko regularly. I feel this is really a shame because Grant Seiko never really allows people to gain a following or gain respect and appreciation for their watches, especially in the references that I feel best represent the brand. Overall, I do feel that Grand Seiko is definitely underrated. But again, I really do wish that they wouldn’t limit their best watches so much.
Rolex GMT Alternative 3: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Dual Time 26120ST
Now moving up the horological scale to a watch that is, actually, a lot more expensive than the Rolex GMT Master II. I wanted to give a luxury or a hyper luxury alternative, one that I feel does it really well is actually from Audemars Piguet. The watch is the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Reference 26120ST.
Now, although this isn’t technically a GMT, it’s instead a dual-time watch that only allows you to track two instead of three time zones. I still do feel it is a great alternative to the GMT Master II because most people just aren’t tracking three time zones. I feel the balanced aesthetic that this watch achieves is really great.
Not only does the dial have great balance, but the complication is also super easy to function and view. I think it’s also amazing in that it’s in 39-millimeter case size, the original “jumbo” case size for the Royal Oak, which I think is really the best size. In addition to the watch’s great size, it is also powered by a JLC movement, which would’ve also been the case in the original reference 5402 designed by Gerald Genta. So overall, not only do you get a really balanced aesthetic, a great complication that is very functional, and all in one of, if not the most collectible formats in the Royal Oak case.
Rolex GMT Alternative 4: Panerai PAM1535
Now this next alternative, again, is not technically a true GMT. However, I do feel it is a fantastic watch from a brand that has really been starting to gain a lot of traction and a lot more following, which I absolutely love. That is Panerai and in particular, I’m talking about the Panerai PAM1535.
Now, the watch itself sports the ability to track a second time zone and it actually has an in-house movement from Panerai.
It has the same functionality as the Rolex GMT Master II with the hour hand being able to jump forwards and backward by one hour increments, and not to mention the really nice design of the watch.
It’s in a 42-millimeter case format, which is a lot more practical and easy to wear. It has the iconic crown guard that is so distinct from the Luminor series and that dial is really spectacular – it has almost a hobnail pattern to it and what Panerai collectors call a sausage dial in that the lume is applied as opposed to having a sandwich dial.
Another interesting quirk about this watch is a function in its movement that is called a zero reset which actually flicks the second hand back to zero whenever you pull out the crown to set the time. This is a super useful complication in that it allows you to actually set the watch and sync it with, say, for example, your phone, your computer, or maybe even something like an atomic clock or a regular desk clock so that you can ultimately test the accuracy pretty easily and pretty readily for your watch.
Again, just something that I think is a pretty cool quirk, especially given the fact that the second hand is in a really nice baby blue color that I just love and really adds a nice contrast to the dial overall. I think, overall, Panerai really achieved a knockout design with this watch, and it is a fantastic overall alternative to the Rolex GMT Master II.
Rolex GMT Alternative 5: Tudor Black Bay GMT
Lastly are a couple of more obvious choices from Tudor in the Tudor Black Bay GMT and I’d even say the new Tudor Black Bay Pro is a fantastic alternative also.
Longines also released the Longines Zulu Time just this year, which was also a fantastic release and represents a great alternative to the GMT Master II. I think these are three really great watches from Tudor and Longines that present themselves as great, somewhat affordable alternatives to the Rolex GMT Master II without skipping out on quality and, of course, complication.
Now, again, this list isn’t the end all be all. There are a number of other great GMT Master II alternatives. Breitling makes a number of great GMT options in their Avenger series, for example, and I think you ultimately really can’t go wrong with anything from the brand or any choice you frankly make.
It’s just about finding that watch that speaks to you. But overall, I’d love to hear your comments and suggestions on what are some of your favorite alternatives for the Rolex GMT Master II.