If you’ve been a watch nerd for long enough, you’re probably familiar with the phrase “true GMT.” As opposed to the more common (and lower cost) method of jumping the 24 hour hand, a true GMT watch can track two time zones by independently jumping the 12 hr hand forwards or backwards. This method allows travelers to quickly change the local time display on their watch, but also keep track of their home time zone without disturbing the time keeping of the watch. It is especially useful if you travel across the International Date Line.
If you’ve tried to buy a watch like this, you’ll know that there are not a lot of options, especially if you don’t have a Rolex-sized budget.
I had a few models on my radar, but the ultimate watch that I wanted was the Omega Seamaster GMT 2234 (black dial version with speedy bracelet to be specific). I had almost bought that model of watch twice, but never pulled the trigger for various reasons.
In 2013, after another Omega purchase fell through, a Perrelet Seacraft with a black dial popped up on eBay. I had never seen one for sale used before, and this one was at quite a good price, especially considering its $5200 retail price. After mulling it over for half a day, I bought it for $1300. It was quite a bit cheaper than the Omega (around $1800 at the time), and ticked all of my boxes.
After sending payment, I quickly started feeling buyer’s remorse. It did not look very impressive in photos, and I was afraid that I would eventually resell it to get the Omega.
When the watch arrived, I was immediately impressed by the packaging. The box is very heavy and well made, with its own metal clasp. It was above and beyond the Omega red box by a long shot. It even included some very nice machined aluminum tools for changing the bracelet, removing links, and changing the date (more on that later).
When I tried the watch on, I was immediately impressed. Some watches photograph quite well, but then end up being disappointing in person. The Perrelet, on the other hand, does not photograph well. All of the photos that I had seen made it look somewhat boring. In-person, it looks subtle at first, but the superb finishing makes it continue to catch your eye the longer that you wear it.
I tend to wear bigger watches, but I because I bought this watch for all types of travel, I wanted something that was a bit smaller. At 42mm, this watch is just right. It’s comfortable for long flights and can be worn with a variety of outfits and environments without catching too much attention.
Photo on my ~7.25in (18.4cm) wrist
The number of different polished, brushed, and matte surfaces on this watch are what really makes it pop when examined close up. That being said, the majority of the case is still brushed, which keeps it from attracting too much attention.
The outside and the inside of the lugs are beveled and polished, with a brushed finish on top. I think that the polish on the inside is a nice subtle touch that most people won’t notice.
The case features an automatic helium valve. This is a bit strange because this is not a true diver (no countdown bezel), but its complexity to the watch, and it probably a carryover from the 3 hand diving model. It also advertises a quite substantial 777 meters of water resistance (impressive considering the pushers and date adjuster). Apparently 777 is a reference to 1777, the year when Perrelet was founded.
The top of the area with the helium valve is also polished. The 24hr bezel is aluminum and has a matte finish. It rotates both ways with a smooth click in half-minute increments.
The edges of the bezel are polished, as are the edges on the back sides of the lugs. I like having a GMT that also has a rotating bezel. This way, when I’m at home I can turn the bezel to track a second time zone (i.e. if I have a phone conference with Japan) without disturbing the main time. Then when I travel, I can rotate the bezel back to the “normal” orientation to track home time.
If you are still trying to guess why a non-chronograph watch has pushers, they are used to adjust the hour hand forward or back. More on that later.
The caseback has a polished edge, and also shows the hours offset from GMT of most time zones.
The crystal is, of course, sapphire. It has an excellent anti-reflective coating, which does not have the strong blue tint that is often seen on other watches. Because of this coating, it does retain fingerprints easily though.
The crystal is raised slightly from the bezel, and has an ever-so-slight dome to it. I would prefer a higher dome, but it is enough to add some character while allowing the watch to remain slim.
The dial is a smooth matte black finish. It is simply “all business” BLACK, and reflects no light, yet shows no texture. The dial also features a polished “porthole” ring around the AM/PM indicator, and a machined subdial with the date. The watch does not have a chapter ring.
They are also available in white and blue versions, but I find the black more legible than the white, and more versatile than the blue. It is also available in standard 3-hand, and chronograph versions.
The main time hands are extremely legible. Compared to the Omega, the 24hr hand is smaller, and is only painted red at the tip. It is a bit harder to see, but also makes the dial look more refined and less cluttered, and makes the main time hands easier to read.
I do wish that the seconds hand had a bit of lume on it, but it looks more refined/dressy as is. The same goes for the date hand.
I have only two complaints about the watch, and they are both on the dial:
- The pointer date is difficult to read at a glance, and is frequently blocked by the time telling hands. I assume that removing the traditional date wheel was a requirement to make space for the day/night display.
- Three lines of text are offset on the dial, giving an asymmetric appearance. I would have preferred if enough text was removed to allow it to fit under the Perrelet logo at 12.
The markers are polished and applied to the dial. They catch light quite nicely, and really make the dial pop.
The lume has thick application, and it fantastic. On par with any high end dive watch. It has an off-white color in the daylight.
I believe that the movement is a Soprod A-10 with a GMT module added. I didn’t perform a scientific test, but when I checked, it always kept time within a few seconds per day.
The crown unscrews smoothly, and only has 2 positions once unscrewed: winding and time setting. The time setting position adjusts both hour hands, and the minute hand. The crown is fairly easy to grip and unscrew.
The pushers must be unscrewed to adjust the 12 hour hand when travelling. They are a bit difficult to grip and unscrew, but it can be done while the watch is on the wrist. Once unscrewed, the buttons are very smooth to push, and the 12 hour hand jumps smoothly forward or back. The date also changes forward and back as the hand crosses midnight, as it does with Omega and Rolex GMT watches.
The lower inset pusher on the left side of the case quick adjusts the date forward. A special tool is included, or a pen can also be used.
The AM/PM indicator on the dial changes to black around 6PM, and back to white around 6AM. There is also a small dot when it is getting close to the change point to help the wearer know which way it is changing.
The bracelet has a completely brushed finish, and looks quite nice. The links are screwed in. By chance it was perfectly sized for me when I received it, so I can’t comment on how easy it is to resize.
The clasp is probably the nicest that I have owned (and I love the Omega clasp). It has round buttons on the side similar to the Omega, and Perrelet text machined on the inside, but the clasp is squared off and feels thicker. If you push the “P” logo, the bracelet can be extended a number of notches. I do not dive, but I will find this quite nice when travelling. My wrists seem to expand when sitting on an airplane for extended periods of time. I find this solution much nicer than the Omega dive extension, which only has one position, and tends to flop around if you use it without a diving suit on.
One complaint about the bracelet, is that the clasp extension button is easy to accidentally press while it is on the wrist. Ideally Perrelet would have included a mechanism that only allows extension when the clasp is open. My solution was a glue a tiny metal pin inside the clasp, which did the trick perfectly (not pictured).
The watch also included a nylon strap, but it is fairly cheap looking, and doesn’t fit the character of the watch.
It also looks great on a NATO, and would be the perfect watch for a StrapHabit.com elastic or adjustable strap.
Overall, it’s a very nice diver, striking a versatile balance between a tool watch, and a dress diver. It was the perfect watch for the various type of travelling to other time zones that I do. I like the fact that most people will not know that it’s an expensive watch, but I still get the experience of wearing a quality piece.
Full disclosure, I ended up selling this watch to purchase a grail watch that was increasing in price while I had the chance. It is one of the few watches that I regret selling. There are currently a few of them showing up on WatchCharts! If you have the chance to get one, it is highly recommended, especially since they are out of production!
Do you have a favorite travel watch? We’d love to hear what it is in the comments?
Perrelet as compared to its closest competitor, the Omega Seamaster GMT:
+More detailed case finishing
+Nicer clasp (Although the clasp is also thicker)
+Higher water resistance
+Helium valve (although I will never use it)
+12hr time is slightly easier to adjust
+Has quickset date (although the pusher requires a tool)
+Crown is easier to grip
+Not an ETA movement
+/- Not as easily recongnizable as the classic Seamaster (some prefer their watch to be noticed, some prefer not)
+/- Matte vs gloss bezel
+/- Matte vs. wave dial
-The Omega hands are aesthetically nicer in my opinion
-I find a date window easier to read, and cleaner looking than the date dial
-The Perrelet is not chronometer rated
-The Omega overall styling is cleaner
-12hr time adjust method is more elegant (no extra pushers sticking out of the case)
-Resale value not as predictable as the Omega