After the whole world came to a stop in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, things seem to finally be returning to a relative state of normality in the Western world. And as we emerge from our long hibernation, some of us are beginning to follow through on our dreams of travel. Independents/microbrands have seen this coming and are offering many options for affordable GMT watches. They are affordable because they cost below or just around €1,000 and come with robust constructions and decent specifications. I’m beginning to travel again, so it’s nice to see brands stepping up their game. In this article, I’ll highlight three of 2022’s best GMT watches from independent brands.

Independent brands have not been the only ones to make GMTs. Brands such as Mido, Seiko, and Breitling among many others have all released one this year. And needless to say, Rolex and the GMT-Master II continue to be reference points for many of us. However, as you might have noticed, I like to talk about affordable watches from brands that offer great value for your money. Whether the three watches listed below are your jam or not, they do offer something rather unique. Now, without further ado, let’s take a close look at three affordable GMT watches released in 2022. 

Nodus Sector GMT

Nodus is the type of brand that innovates and offers some of the best bang-for-buck watches on the market. I know, that’s a big statement to make, and perhaps you’ll agree with me in a few minutes. The Los Angeles-based brand steered by founders Wes and Cullen invented, among other things, a toolless micro-adjust clasp that can be paired with nearly any brand’s bracelets. Pretty neat, isn’t it? What the brand excels at is offering superior build and finishing for less of your hard-earned money than other brands would. In my review of the Avalon II Bronze, for example, I gushed over the case angles and finishing of the hands. 

Now looking at the Sector GMT, the latest addition to the brand’s popular Sector line of watches, you might agree with the above statement.

The Sector GMT comes in a case that measures 38mm in diameter, 47mm from lug to lug, and 12.25mm in thickness. It houses the Seiko NH34 GMT movement that beats at 21,600vph (3Hz) and has 41 hours of power reserve. Nodus regulates all movements in-house and also assembles and QCs the watches at the brand’s California studio. Furthermore, Nodus claims that the NH34 runs at ±10 seconds per day, and mine, at +1, certainly meets that spec. There are two features that the Nodus Sector GMT comes with that my Seiko SSK001 doesn’t — a sapphire crystal and a screw-down crown. 

Good value, great design

From a design perspective, the Sector GMT comes with a dark gray dial that shows a predominance of radial brushing. One can read the local time by looking at the baton-style hands and painted Arabic numerals on the outside of the dial, both of which are filled to the brim with Super-LumiNova C1 X1 lume. The GMT scale is indicated at the center of the dial to keep the diameter reasonable. I particularly like the GMT hand in baby blue and the matching color on the rehaut. Lastly, there is a discreet framed date window at the 6 o’clock position.

As I hope the images will show, the Sector GMT comes with a refined alternation of brushed and polished surfaces. The top of the lugs, case sides, and top of the bezel all have a satin finish, while the edges of the bezel and the case chamfers have high-polished surfaces. Although images don’t usually do watches justice, believe me, the finish is rather spectacular. All in all, the Sector GMT retails for a meager US$450 and comes with a 100m water-resistance rating and a screw-down crown and case back. For the money, the Sector GMT offers much greater value than the Seiko 5 GMT. 

Maen Hudson 38 GMT 

Maen has been on a roll these past two years. First, the brand released the Greenwich 38 GMT and then the handsome Manhattan 37. After updating its core model, the Hudson, to a fourth iteration, Maen decided to make it into a GMT. With a 300m water-resistance rating, the GMT proves it’s possible to make small, capable GMT watches. Small? Yes, I’d say, because it has a case diameter of 38mm, a lug-to-lug of 46mm, and a thickness of 12.05mm. That’s pretty small (or at least reasonable) for a GMT with this much water resistance.

Inside, we find the reliable Soprod C-125 caliber that beats at 28,800vph (4Hz) and has 42 hours of power reserve. The C-125 can be found in the Lorier Hyperion and Baltic Aquascaphe GMT, two reasonably priced competitors. What jumps out as being rather unusual with the Hudson is its price tag. The early-bird price for the pre-order was €899, while the retail price is €999. For this, you get a Swiss-made GMT caliber and an equally Swiss-made 300m-rated diver with great finishing. In comparison to other similarly-priced GMT watches, I believe the Maen Hudson 38 GMT offers better value.

The Hudson 38 GMT displays a satin finish on the top of the lugs, case sides, and most of the bracelet. Polished surfaces can be found on the coin-edged bezel, the case chamfers, and the smaller parts of the five-row bracelet. This detail adds elegance to functionality. By adding a GMT function to the Hudson, Maen managed to squeeze more value into an already great timepiece. Although I don’t know the exact cost, I believe the C-125 movement costs around €400 alone. Maen, therefore, offers a lot for the asking price. 

Jack Mason Strat-o-timer

Last but not least, let’s take a look at the Jack Mason Strat-o-timer. I already mentioned this model here (as I did for the Nodus and Maen), however, I wanted to take a closer look at it today. It is priced almost the same as the Maen Hudson but comes with a different trick up its sleeve. Yes, I’m referring to the Miyota 9075 flyer GMT caliber, which is still rare to find at this price point (or at all). While Seiko, Sellita, and Soprod offer reasonably affordable caller GMT movements, finding a flyer GMT in a watch that costs around €1,000 is quite unheard of. 

From a purely spec-focused perspective, the Strat-o-timer packs a lot, starting with its dimensions. It measures 40mm in diameter, 47mm from lug to lug, 13mm in thickness, and 20mm between the lugs. The ceramic bezel is unidirectional and has 48 clicks, making setting the GMT hand a precise operation. The double-domed sapphire crystal gives a clear view of the dial and its applied markers, while the sapphire case back lets us take a peak at the new caliber. What’s more, the Strat-o-timer comes with a 200m water-resistance rating as well as a screw-down crown and case back. 

Fly, don’t call!

Yes, the Strat-o-timer comes with a “true GMT” caliber! This means that the 12-hour hand jumps, not the GMT hand — you know, just like the Rolex GMT-Master II. And speaking of the Miyota 9075 and how rare it is, let’s talk about price. This gem will retail for US$999, which is almost 10 times less than the GMT-Master II. I know, the two watches cannot really be compared, but hear me out for a second. Objectively, the Strat-o-timer offers a lot of bang for the buck. And I left out two little details that further show how much you’re getting. 

First, Jack Mason will regulate the movements in-house so that they run at ±5 seconds per day. Second, the watch comes with a rather unique-looking bracelet, a Jack Mason version of a Jubilee. This bracelet has a seven-row construction that is sturdy and comfortable. You’ve got to try it in person to see what I mean.

Final thoughts 

As you already know by now, I’m quite enthusiastic when it comes to independent watchmaking. I support what younger and smaller brands do, especially when they break the mold of traditional horology. True, none of the watches mentioned in this article would exist at this price point had Seiko, Soprod, and Miyota not created their movements. But a lot can be said about how Nodus, Maen, and Jack Mason go about creating great-value GMT watches. At the end of the day, what we like is highly personal. By reading this article, I hope that you perhaps learned something about a brand you didn’t know much about before. Otherwise, perhaps you now know that you have a lot of options when shopping for a GMT watch. 

I know there are other superb GMTs out there, and I would like to hear from you. Have you recently come across another affordable GMT that packs some great features? Please leave your comments below.