How to Use and Set Up a GMT Watch?

You have gotten yourself a new watch, particularly a watch which has a GMT function, but now you don’t know how to fully use this fantastic feature.

While it might look complicated to use, a GMT function is relatively easy to set up.

In this post, I will show you how to set up two and even three time zones on a GMT watch.

Read on to find out how you can make the most use of your GMT watch.

The Rolex GMT-Master II

Meaning of GMT Time

GMT stands for “Greenwich Mean Time”, nowadays known as UTC “Universal Time Coordinated”.

This timezone was firstly used by the British mariners who used to calculate their longitude from the Greenwich meridian.

Since the meridian had a longitude of 0, this GMT also became the standard for measuring time.

In 1954 Rolex introduced a new watch made in corporation with Pan Am. This watch, called the Rolex GMT-Master, was able to display three time zones.

This was a real deal for commercial pilots who flew throughout different time zones; Rolex had just made one of their greatest innovations.

(Remember, at the time, you had no phone which displayed the correct time by itself)

Before we get started on setting up the watch, you need to understand the concept of military time or 24-hour time and its time zones.

Each day is made up of 24 hours, and the world is divided into 24 different time zones.

You won’t get a more basic explanation than this.

A map showing all the 24 time zones (Source:

So now we get to the part where you can set up your own GMT watch in the correct way.

Grab your watch, and let’s get started.

For this example, I will use a Rolex GMT-Master II, reference 16710. If you want to learn more about this watch, click here.

Set Up 2 Time Zones

When you want to see more than one timezone on your GMT watch, this is how to set it up.

The first step is to set up your local time; in this example, I will use the time here in Athens, which is GMT +2 (UTC +2).

Right now, it is 12:00 here; using the GMT hand on my watch, I adjust it to show me 12:00 (12PM).

Then using the 12-hour hand, I adjust this one to show 12:00 as well.

Now you might be thinking, why the heck would I want to see two same timezones?

The last step is to adjust the rotating bezel so that the GMT hand shows the desired time zone.

I wanted to know what time it is in Abu Dhabi (GMT +4), so rotating the bezel to match 14:00 with the GMT hand.

Now I can see both my local time in Athens and the time in Abu Dhabi.

And the moment I want to see GMT time, I can just turn the bezel to match the GMT hand to be at 10:00 (GMT).

Easy as that.

Two timezones set up

Set Up 3 Time Zones

Now, this is the part where a GMT watch really shows it’s the master of horology and wristwatches.

To set up three time zones, you will follow these steps.

First, set up the GMT hand to GMT time; in this example, 12:00 (GMT).

After that, you will adjust the 12-hour hand to show your local time zone; flying to Bahrain, the time will be 15:00 (GMT +3).

And now, for the third time zone, we shall set up the time in New York.

Since I got a buddy of mine staying there and I would like to know if it’s not the middle of the night when I call him.

So while looking at my local time (15:00), I use the rotating bezel to show me the time in New York City.

This is GMT -4, so I rotate the bezel to be in line with the 12-hour hand at 08:00, which is the time in New York.

Now I can see the GMT time with the 24-hour hand and my local time by looking at the regular watch dial and 12-hour hand, and while looking at the 12-hour hand and bezel, I can see the third time zone.

Three timezones set up

You can check the accompanying video for a more detailed view of the instructions.


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