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08/23/2022
 2 minutes

From Time-Only to GMT – Watch Categories Explained

By Thomas Hendricks
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Today we’re covering the most common categories of sports watches – from divers and chronographs to GMTs and more. Let’s get started!  

1. Time-Only Watches 

Time-only watches – what are they? It’s in the name! These are watches that display the hours, minutes, and seconds and nothing else. Popular examples include the Rolex Oyster Perpetual and Explorer I, Panerai watches like the Luminor and Radiomir, and the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical. Time-only watches are great for those who want something clean and simple. There are also plenty of time and date watches out there to choose from. These are essentially time-onlys, but with a date indicator as well.   

2. Diving Watches 

There’s some debate about what officially qualifies as a diving watch, but here are the most common features you’ll find: a rotating bezel (often unidirectional), an automatic movement, luminescent hands and markers for visibility underwater, and at least 100 m (656 ft) of water resistance. Popular examples include the Rolex Submariner, the Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight, the Omega Seamaster 300M, and a range of Seiko divers. Diving watches are great for those who could use something waterproof with an easy-to-use timer.  

3. Chronographs 

Born from the world of racing, chronographs measure elapsed time using pushers on the side of the case. One pusher typically starts and stops the chronograph, while the other resets it back to zero. Popular examples include the Omega Speedmaster, the Zenith El Primero, and the Rolex Daytona. Chronographs are great for fans of speed who like the feel of a stopwatch on the wrist.  

The Rolex Daytona: one of the most famous chronograph watches of all time.
The Rolex Daytona: one of the most famous chronograph watches of all time.

4. Pilot’s Watches 

Pilot’s watches are designed with aviation in mind and range from simple to complex. The IWC Big Pilot uses bold graphics to show essential information at a glance, while the Breitling Navitimer uses a slide rule bezel and chronograph to offer a range of airborne measurements. Pilot’s watches are great for fans of aviation or those who want something crisp and easy-to-read.   

5. GMT Watches 

Coming from a similar aviation background, GMT watches track the time in different timezones simultaneously using an extra hand, the bezel, or perhaps even a window on the dial. The most popular example is the Rolex GMT-Master, which was developed for Pan Am pilots starting in the 1950s, but you’ll also find great models from Omega, Tudor, and Breitling. GMTs are great for those who often travel or have friends and family living abroad.  


About the Author

Thomas Hendricks

I didn’t grow up a watch guy, but a few years after graduating from university, I landed a job at the online publication Watchonista as a writer and marketer. “Welcome to the watch world,” my colleagues told me half-jokingly, “no one ever leaves!” Now at Chrono24, I work as a private client advisor, helping people find the perfect watch for major life moments.

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