The history of the GMT

To mark the launch of our GMT Neos, we thought we’d have a look at the history of how the GMT came to be such a staple of the watch world. 

This handy little feature was born from a fascinating moment of innovation in 1950s America, when international plane travel became a modern feature of the upper classes. The original project was pitched to Rolex by prominent airline Pan Am as a solution for their pilots who frequently travelled across time zones and needed to quickly and reliably know the time at both the origin and destination.


The GMT-Master by Rolex via hypo.physe on Flickr

The original 1954 GMT-Master by Rolex didn’t have the ability to change the secondary timezone, so it was permanently set to Greenwich Mean Time as a reference point for pilots, giving the genre of watch its name. It was 1983 before a movement that could change the secondary timezone was developed, allowing users more control over their watch’s functionality. 

The GMT feature was instantly loved by skyfaring wearers, and has only grown in popularity as air travel and globalisation have developed in the 70 years since. Now, we can monitor the timezones of our friends, family and colleagues, so we always know the best time for a catch-up, how to avoid accidentally sending 3AM work emails and, like intended, easily keep on top of our jetlag–all thanks to the GMT.



Our Neo GMTs collection comes in three striking colours and is available now via, perfect for the jetsetters amongst you. 

Thanks to Panzera and Watch Affinity for their GMT articles that informed the research for this post.