The GMTs you should want
And they aren't this year's models
To the extent that there is a consensus, and that it is worth anything, the two brands that “won” Geneva this year are probably Tudor and Grand Seiko.
Out in front for both houses were some new GMTs, a complication I absolutely love. But you know what? They were . . . fine. I liked them. But were they, especially Tudor’s fist full of steel, as blow-your-nips-off incredible as everyone said? Meh.
If I were dropping my own cash on a new GMT, there’s other stuff I like better, and you should, too.
Fair warning: I am going to be asserting a lot of what you might call “personal opinions” here as fact. You’re free to disagree, go your own way, live your bliss, or chew me out in the comments. Don’t care. But if you thought I was wrong, you wouldn’t be reading this, would you?
The Tudor Black Bay Pro
The hype war winner, by far, coming out of Watches and Wonders was the Black Bay Pro. My first reaction, like everyone else’s when I saw it, was “home run.” And it is. This thing will sell. And good for Tudor. They know what people want from them, and they have a clear plan for giving it to them, good and hard.
Now, if you’re unfamiliar and want the rundown of the full specs and a breathless endorsement of the thing, go ahead and read any other site’s write up — that’s what they’re for. For me, it looks like a super-viable commercial proposition for Tudor, but missing the balance between what they do best and what sells best.
The whole “Tudor is Rolex for the povos” argument is well worn, and it is bullshit. Tudor came back to life at almost exactly the point Rolex became the meme stock of watches and you stopped being able to buy them for anything close to retail price. It was the Rolex Group filling the hole in the market Rolex left when it started trading like Tesla shares — and good for them for spotting it.
The original Black Bay was great because it nodded to a lot of past stuff from both brands, but wasn’t explicitly ripping any one of them off. But they don’t always get that balance right, and when they don’t it feels more than a little like they’re just rummaging around in Rolex’s back pockets and then inviting you to smell their hand, for a reasonable price — see Tudor’s previous Black Bay GMT Pepsi.
That’s kind of what the Black Bay Pro feels like.
The Explorer II was one of the last quasi-affordable Rolexes to pop on the gray market, but it’s well and truly hot now — especially the “polar” white dial. To Tudor’s credit, they again saw a supply-side shortage in the Rolex catalog and went after the people priced out. And they were savvy enough to not to come right out and make their own version of the current Explorer II, which would have been too on the nose. Instead, they went back to the original issue, and lifted the design cues from there:
Give the handset the Tudor snowflake treatment, change the marker shapes, add some fauxtina, and voila: a “vintage inspired” bestseller, so-close-enough to a Rolex that anyone else would be accused of minting an homage but Tudor get away with it because they’re family.
Again — there’s nothing wrong with this, per se. I like the BBP, to a degree. But does it do anything new? Is it worth four large of my money? Nah.
It’s good, but it’s a dad-rock cover act, and frankly I’d rather buy a ticket to something original — wouldn’t you? So, consider instead, this:
The Fortis Flieger F-43 Triple GMT.
Fortis aren’t a brand on many people’s radar, but they should be, especially since one of their biggest fans bought the company back in 2020. Since then, they have had a very intentional design overhaul, and brought out a seriously good looking range of pilots watches, of which the GMT is the standout.
All the trad design cues for pilot’s watch freaks are here, plus a working bezel for a third timezone. The dial display is clean, clear, and something different to the usual fourth hand pointing through to the bezel.
And, be honest, have you ever seen anything this sexy under a blacklight?
Seriously, if I was looking for a no-nonsense, all metal GMT, I’m not sure there’s any argument for the Tudor, unless your primary concern is how hard you have to squint to make it look like a Rolex. Just go side-by-side here:
Tudor did a big thing in recent years by bringing their movements in-house and making them COSC certified. Vertical integration isn’t everything, but it’s something; I respect the chops they’ve earned doing it for themselves.
But here’s the thing — Fortis have also traditionally bought in their movements but are now reworking their whole line to accommodate their own in-house WERK series, and the F-43 GMT is the first of these.
True GMT jumping hour function? Yep.
COSC certified? Bet your ass.
And there’s no argument on quality of build for the movements either: Tudor make theirs through Kenissi, the manufacturer they co-own with Chanel. Guess who Fortis use? Yep. Same shop.
One of the design aspects the Black Bay Pro got mad props for was the use of monoblock markers made from luminous ceramic. And it is cool — it’s punchy and bold and unfussy.
It is a great look. But guess who did it first? Say hello to Brixtrak.
And since Fortis tend to crash test their movements by, you know, dropping them from the stratosphere, there’s no real conversation to be had about which is the more toolish tool watch of the two.
Really, the only strike against the F-43, for my money, is that it’s titanium — a material that, absent conscious design choices like the Grand Seiko Snowflake, I can take or leave. Especially when it bumps the price up, which it admittedly does here: the Fortis will run you 4.4K at sticker price vs. four thousand flat for the Black Bay Pro.
That said, you don’t have to look for longer than 30 seconds to find a dealer-sold, brand-new F-43 Triple GMT for $3.9k — with free shipping.
Each to their own, but Tudor aren’t getting my money with this one.
The Grand Seiko SBGE285
OK, this watch is hot. I’m not disputing that. So is the other black dial version GS launched in Geneva.
I absolutely love me a good textured Grand Seiko dial face, and this slightly grey “winter mist” stacks up just fine next to the Snowflake, even if it isn’t quite a White Birch.
I’m also a sucker for the Spring Drive — try to find anything half as innovative from any Swiss brand in the last 40 years and all you’ll come up with is the George Daniel co-axial, and guess what? Not Swiss.
I also dig what GS are doing with the Evolution 9 line, making it a little more hefty, building out the bracelet, adding lume to the already insane polishing. I’m here for it. All of it.
Just, maybe, not all at once.
A dial face like this, it’s the star of the show. It’s the thing you want to focus on, have your eye get lost in — it needs room to breathe. For me, the upsized markers, the lume everywhere, the reserve power meter (a Spring Drive staple), it’s all just too cluttered.
And, weirdly, the fixed metal bezel pulls your eye to the outside, shrinking the dial face even more. It’s too much for me.
Compare all this to the Shōsho, from the Elegance line, with its “ripples on a thousands lakes” dial.
The texturing on the dial is blow-your-bloody-mind amazing. The polishing on the hands and markers is weapons-grade. The GMT hand is minimized and blued to distract less from the face. The secondary dial markers are fonted and sized discreetly to pull your eyes into the watchface without covering it up.
I mean, FMD. This is lady execution going for a skinny dip in a pool of style. It’s about as near perfect as I can imagine a watch face getting.
And the GS 9S86 Hi-Beat movement? Yes, please, give it to me.
The Spring Drive is awesome, and the 72-hour power reserve indicator that comes with it is a fine feature on the face of a three-hander. But there’s more than enough to look at here already, and 36,000 beats per hour is plenty for me.
Alright, the Shōsho has about 2/3 of the power reserve. And yeah, it’s got a barely-there waterproofing of 30 meters, compared to the SBGE285’s 100m. But what kind of sociopath is taking a watch like this swimming? If you really are willing to carve up the Zaratsu polishing on the poolside concrete, you’re just sick.
And here’s the kicker: At $6,800, the Shōsho is sixteen hundred bucks cheaper. This is a no brainer.
The Tudor Black Bay GMT S&G
Alright, you’d be hard pressed to call this one a “winner” in Geneva. In fact, it was mostly given the damning with feint praise which is the harshest criticism you’re allowed to had out while staying on the approved-list with the big brands.
But you know what? I actually like this watch the most of the three GMTs we’re talking about here. Let me explain.
First, yes, this is a two-tone root beer GMT, and damn near a dead lift from Rolex. And yes, I did just make an unseemly metaphor about Tudor doing this. But here’s the thing — this watch works better as a Tudor than a Rolex.
Solid gold watches are for retirees and pimps, no exceptions. Two-tone can go one of two ways: yacht club brunch, or rust-belt fancy. Needless to say, one is for dickheads with mimosas, the other can do a day’s work.
The original root beer Rolex GMT Master was a 70s classic. It was gaudy and slightly seedy. Like everything else in that decade, it might have been louche, but it was unironic. It was a watch a Pittsburgh working man might get himself for a big birthday and wear it to church on Sunday and his local dive bar on Friday.
The updated root beer GMT Master II, on the other hand, like Rolex itself, is now too mannered, too moneyed, to bloody respectable to be any fun. It’s the watch you wear at Augusta when you win. Yawn.
The Tudor version, on the other hand, especially if you take it off that shitty bracelet with the fake rivets, is old-school enough in its color palate to be almost an anachronism, and just down-market enough to not look like you’re trying out for the polo team.
It’s like Colin Farrell’s mustache: it could’ve been as camp as a row of pink tents, but actually it’s badass. I like it.
That said — I am not Colin Farrell, and I’m not going to try to pull it off. Not for $4,300 on a fabric strap, not if I’m paying.
It’s just a cooler watch. And it’s what a spy would get.