GMT Function: The History

September 07, 2018

By covering unimaginable distances and translating our insatiable curiosity into science, our species managed to evolve gaining an always more in-depth awareness of the world we live in and its unfathomable mysteries. Nowadays, the aim at getting in contact with new cultures, exploring unspoiled landscapes or even plunging into promising careers abroad implies the need to constantly have a precise vision of how time flows.

And that is how the story of the GMT function, one of the most appreciated in the field of horology, begins.

But first of all, what is the GMT complication?

GMT Function Swiss Made


GMT stands for “Greenwich Mean Time” and measures current local time as well as at least one other time-zone. It allows you to be fully connected to distant realities, by displaying an additional time zone on a 24-hour scale on the watch dial and a fourth hand, usually arrow-shaped and colored differently from the normal 12-hour hand. Not only does the GMT function happen to be considerably beneficial, but also pleasantly intuitive and practical to use. That’s why it is universally considered one of the most effective and useful complications and is highly regarded by every self-respecting globetrotter.

But how did the need to master time in such a precise way emerge? In order to provide an answer, we’ll have to get to the root of this interesting technical innovation and dig into its history.


While the intuition concerning the existence of 24 distinct time zones may be dated back to 1879, the path that drove Sir Sandford Fleming’s brilliant mind to this revolutionary conclusion boasts incredibly remote origins. To be more accurate, it was ancient Egyptians who first established the division of the day into 24 hours by monitoring the solar and stellar cycle. Throughout centuries, not only was this system further refined with the benefit of experience and more thorough studies, but also managed to spread all around the world, even though this mere convention was the cause of remarkable imprecisions.

Greenwich Mean Time

It was only at the end of the IXX century that, as previously mentioned, the Scottish-born Canadian engineer and inventor proposed worldwide standard time zones. But how did he come up with such a progressive idea? Contrary to what we might think, it wasn’t the result of hours of intense studying at his desk but was actually the consequence of missing a train while traveling in Ireland because a printed schedule listed “p.m.” instead of “a.m.”.

On 1st October 1884, on the International Meridian Conference in Washington, the local time of the zero meridian at the observatory of the London suburb of Greenwich was confirmed as Greenwich Mean Time, an astronomical, sun-oriented time convention often referred to by the name of UTC (“Universal Time Coordinated”), though this last one is precisely based on atomic clocks. Finally, by 1929, all major countries in the world had accepted time zones.

Unfortunately, this complex preamble doesn’t provide a definitive answer to our question yet. In fact, these are only scientific requisites to the birth of the GMT complication. What is missing, is a motivation to make it an essential and inescapable element. Indeed, the discovery made in 1879 didn’t instantly affect the world of horology, as it would still take people several days or even more to travel between time zones, so that wearers had the possibility to comfortably adjust their watches accordingly.

ETA 2893-2 Swiss Movement


In 1952, by introducing the first intercontinental passenger jet flight from England to South Africa, BOAC airline heralded the dawn of a new age, in which the humankind would have been able to cut through the Planet’s skies at until then inconceivable speeds. Commercial air travel introduced the chance to switch from time zone to time zone within hours and consequently gave birth to another obstacle to overcome: it was extremely difficult for pilots to properly keep track of the clock. In need for a solution, air travel giant Pan Am approached illustrious watch brand Rolex and in 1954, the cooperation shaped Rolex GMT-Master, a GMT watch that together with the previously projected Glycine's Airman and Patek Philippe's World Timer, appointed this complication as the perfect one both for adventurers and for aviation enthusiasts.

With its unmistakably lively colors and its vigorously polished style, not only does the GMT hold the unquestionable title of universally renowned function, but also vaunts the reputation of one of the most highly appreciated complications ever introduced so far.

Nereide GMT Diaspro Crema


With the introduction of the GMT function, Meccaniche Veneziane pays homage to the glorious Venetian heritage and intends to rediscover its extraordinary history. Nereide GMT, the first automatic Swiss Made watch on Kickstarter, represents the brand’s wish to give birth to a project able to embody our territory’s enterprising spirit and the floating city's intrepid mindset. In fact, thanks to Nereide GMT, you'll be able to become a true citizen of the world, by being constantly aware of how time runs on the rest of the Planet. Not only do our GMT collection's peculiarities aim at embodying this enthralling legacy, but also at meeting the needs of today's adventurous souls. 

For more details on Nereide GMT click here

Sincerely yours,

Meccaniche Veneziane Team

Federica Filippi

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