There's no better time to be into watches – specifically GMT watches – than right now. While a few years ago we could only dream of owning a Rolex GMT Master II, a Tudor Black Bay GMT, or even a Grand Seiko SBGM221 (well, maybe we're still dreaming about them), now we can at least afford a GMT timekeeping device. This is due in part to the myriad of sub-$2,000 GMTs released by micro and independent brands over the past two to three years, as well as the creation of the Seiko NH34 and Miyota 9075 movements. Each aforementioned movement functions differently, therefore offering a different flavor of dual-time horology. In this article, we will discuss what these two movements are and why they are so important.
Context: the GMTs We’ve All Been Waiting For
As mentioned above, many watch enthusiasts and collectors may be in awe of the best and most luxurious Swiss and Japanese GMT calibers. Rolex was one of the first brands to sell GMTs, and although some would definitely say it was not the first brand to do so, we can probably all agree that Rolex has been dominating this genre of watches for many decades. The GMT-Master II is the traveler’s watch most journalists talk about and praise. Many brands have been homaging (and copying) the aesthetic of the GMT-Master II for years now. Whether we look at Rolex, Omega, Tudor or Grand Seiko, the problem is that most of us can’t afford their versions of travel watches.
So, what are we left with? First, Swiss-made GMTs from Sellita and Soprod. Brands which use movements from either manufacturers tend to sell them for a small premium compared to their normal offerings. In other words, if a micro/independent brand usually charges $500 for a non-GMT model, they would charge $1,000 for a GMT one. It is common nowadays to see travelers’ watches powered by either the Sellita SW330-2 or the Soprod C125 retailing between $1,000 to $3,000. How much these watches cost, in the end, greatly depends on how expensive the movements are to purchase and how well manufactured and finished the watch is.
This brings us to the Seiko NH34 and Miyota 9075 calibers.
First Revolution: the Seiko NH34
Seiko is not new to the GMT market. The Japanese brand has been selling GMTs for several decades using their own movements. There is literally a plethora of GMT Seikos from the past four decades floating around the pre-owned market at very good prices. However, what was different when Seiko announced the NH34 caliber two years ago is that the brand decided to make it available to everybody. It’s basically the opposite of what ETA/Swatch did when they ended the distribution of movements to brands outside of the group, roughly around 2010. Seiko being Seiko, the Japanese giant was able to make affordable, robust, and easily serviceable GMT calibers available to everyone and anyone who wanted to buy them.
Though many criticized Seiko for shooting its own foot, I feel it was a great move.
In July of 2022, for the first time in my life, I put my name down on a waitlist at my local Seiko boutique. I wanted one of the first Seiko 5 GMT using the NH34 and paid about $450 for it. An in-house GMT caliber powering an original design for less than $500? Yes please! What was interesting, however, was to see dozens of micro and independent GMTs populate the market very rapidly. Some brands managed to squeeze in more value by selling better made, more robust GMTs for less than the Seiko 5 GMT retailed for. Things got to a point where one could buy an original design with the NH34 for less than $200. Seiko’s NH34 caliber helped democratize GMT watches. Source: www.twobrokewatchsnobs.com
Second Revolution: the Miyota 9075
The second revolution took place more or less at the same time when Seiko unveiled the NH34. Miyota (part of the Citizen group) released the 9075: a realtively inexpensive "true" GMT caliber. So-called "true" or "flyer"GMTs are watches whose local hour hands jump back and forth while the GMT hand does one full revolution every 24 hours. That is how the Rolex GMT-Master II and Tudor Black Bay GMT function. Many, many collectors and journalists only swear by this type of movement. These are the same people who call the Seiko NH34, Sellita SW330-2, and Soprod C125 calibers “caller GMTs” or “office GMTs". More than being about how you prefer a GMT caliber to function, the key with the Miyota 9075 is that it made a different kind of traveler’s watch—a more prestigious and expensive one—available to you and me.
When the 9075 was first announced, only select brands could buy it. Miyota had set up a selection process as it wanted to ensure that their movement would only be used in quality watches: not cheap knock-offs of Rolex or Tudor GMTs. It seems the selection process has now disappeared or has been relaxed a bit. The first models I know of being equipped with the Miyota 9075 retailed between $1,000 and $2,000. Now, brands have retrofitted their GMTs previously powered by Sellita or Soprod calibers with the 9075. By doing so, their models went up in price by roughly $250.
Most micro and independent brands are in the business of designing watches and, by extension, extending an invitation to anyone who wants to experience their horological vision. Rarely, if ever, do these brands make their own calibers. I would say that 99.99% of independent brands I’ve written about in the past three years—those you have most likely heard off—buy their movements. The wonderful thing that happened, then, was that Seiko and Miyota made quality GMTs accessible to more watch enthusiasts than it was possible before. This is why the NH34 and 9075 truly revolutionized the micro and independent watch market.Featured image: www.monochrome-watches.com