The Traveler's GMT for the Rest of Us
As a young boy—and as an adult for that matter–I’ve always admired certain movie and TV show characters. I was drawn to their personality, what they could do, and how they carried themselves. Although I know that they act, I connected with certain values they expressed and the way in which they would talk. Little did I know that most of these characters also wore watches that were supposed to match who they pretended to be. One of these characters is Raymond Reddington from the TV show *The Blacklist*. I know, Raymond is a criminal with questionable ethics, but I did like how much he cared for his friends and loved ones and the fact that he was living and working across continents.
Hate me for saying that but Raymond found a way to work with the system to gain from it. I’m not an international criminal—far, far from that as my only real crime is to watch too many YouTube videos about watches—but I do connect with a tiny part of who Raymond Reddington is. And especially the watch he wears: some reference of the Rolex GMT Master 2 on a Jubilee bracelet. I don’t care for what reference it is but I do care for what the watch represents: a one-watch collection for those who know a thing or two about watches and who like quality horology.
So, why do I mention a fictional criminal and his watch? Well because today I want to talk to you about what could be everybody’s version of a GMT Master 2—the type that we can afford and feel great joy in wearing. Here I’m talking about the newly released Jack Mason Strat-o-timer. In its own many ways, the Strat-o-timer is a complete package that is all you need: it’s elegant, well-made, it comes with great colors and elegant typeface, a capable and useful movement, and its own distinct personality. So today we’re gonna take a look at the Strat-o-timer and discuss what makes this watch so special.
As tradition would have it, let’s start with specifications. Before I tell how this watch’s measurements, I’m going to address the horological elephant in the room: the movement. The Strat-o-timer is one of the first watches (if not the first one) to be equipped with the brand new Miyota 9075 true GMT caliber. This little beast beats at 28,800 BPH (4Hz,) comes with 42 hours of power reserve and has 24 jewels. Yes, it is a true GMT caliber in that the local hour hand jumps and not the GMT hand, and that one has to rotate the local hour hand to change the date. Not the most practical thing to do but not as cumbersome as you might imagine.
This GMT caliber is encased in a beautiful case that has more of a tonneau shape than a traditional circular one. And the dimensions of the Strat-o-timer are quite delightful: a diameter of 40mm, a lug-to-lug of 47mm, and a thickness of 13mm. Let’s not forget the 20mm lug width which means most of your straps could be paired with this watch. Speaking of lug width, let’s talk about the bracelet. The Strat-o-time comes with a Jack Mason version of the popular jubilee bracelet. This one has a 7-link construction, quick-release spring bars and on-the-fly micro-adjustment clasp. Yes, you read that right.
What’s more is that the Strat-o-timer has a sapphire sandwich construction—a double-domed sapphire crystal on the top and a flat sapphire on the back—so that you can admire the Miyota 9075 caliber and its decorated rotor. The goodness continues in the bezel that is of the bi-directional type with 48 clicks, making it easier to adjust it to track another timezone and one that has half-hours. Furthermore, the bezel insert is made of ceramic which is scratch resistant, just like sapphire.
Lastly, let’s talk about lume. There is plenty of it on the Strat-o-timer and it comes in two colors: icy blue (BGW9) on the local hands and applied hour markers, and green (X1 C3) on the GMT hand and 24-hour scale on the bezel. This means it’s easy to differentiate between local and GMT time even when you are diving 200 meters deep—because yes, the Strat-o-timer is a proper tool watch and boasts 200 meters of water resistance thanks to its screw-down crown and case-back.
So, going back to the introduction and Raymond Reddington…what immediately drew me to the Strat-o-timer is how beautiful I think it is. (I did say “I think” because this is just my opinion.) Actually, it is the Strat-o-timer that brought me to the Jack Mason stand during the 2022 edition of the Wind Up Watch Fair in New York City. To be frank, I had never heard of the brand before that blessed day when I met Peter Cho, co-founder of Jack Mason. So the watch caught my attention from across the room, you know in the same two people who meet in romantic comedies. I was hooked as soon as I saw it.
I recently published a profile story on Peter Cho in which I talk about how he sees watches: in three dimensions. And spending time with the Strat-o-timer immediately makes his vision come to life. There is dimension in this watch in the way Peter managed to combine the local timekeeping function of the watch with the GMT complication. The local time can be read by looking at the thin and elegant baton-style hands and the massive, multi-faceted applied markers. Half of the GMT hand is red and matches the second half of the bezel insert that is also red.
By juxtaposing the two functionalities of the watch in this way through careful and detailed design, Peter managed to create an instant classic. The Strat-o-timer feels and looks luxurious although it *only* cost $999. The Pepsi-themed bezel insert works well with the sunburst blue dial and the reflective surfaces on the applied markers and hands. In other words, the Strat-o-timer shines and it does so in a good way. (Not in a Swiss-luxury-shine-under-spotlight—in-fancy-boutique type of way.) There’s a lot going on and it feels good to be seeing it unfold on the wrist.
The elegance of the Strat-o-timer starts with the dial and propagates with the bracelet and its fine-link construction and design. It actually feels comfortable and very solid, two attributes that a proper stainless steel bracelet must have—but unfortunately, rarely seen in the wild. The clasp is long to accommodate for the on-the-fly micro-adjustment system, however is elegant and not visually obtrusive. The finely engraved crown is small but easy to grip and remains discreet—which I prefer.
Lastly, the finish on the case and bracelet is quite nice. The top of the lugs is brushed while the case sides are polished. This alternation of finishes is repeated on the bracelet where the smaller center links are polished. If you haven’t noticed already, there is a lot of symmetry and repetition on the Strat-o-timer which makes the whole package cohesive and complete. Perhaps one of my favorite parts of the design comes in the framed date window and the stark—and ballsy—contrast between the prominent hour markers and thin hands. I just love it.
The Heart of the Matter
At the heart of this matter is the fact that I found my Raymond Reddington watch and that I won’t have to mortgage my house or sell my other watches to acquire a Strat-o-timer. When I met Peter and he listed all of the specs of the watch, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. And I didn’t ask how much it would retail for until later—so I was aghast to hear that it “only” costs $999. I mean, the world of micro/independent brands is savage and brands have to constantly up their game in order to make it to the next year. Selling a true GMT watch with such personality and outstanding specifications for $999 is just pure madness.
Peter, are you alright?
I hate—and I tried to not make this comparison—to mention the Rolex GMT Master 2 again in this article as if Peter tried to homage it. Because he didn’t. I mention the Rolex because it is, for whoever is lucky enough to have one, a one-watch collection that can do it all. It’s iconic because of the way it looks and functions, and it has inspired many watch collectors to acquire one because of what it represents. In other words: travel, exploration, human accomplishments. The GMT Master 2 is the kind of watch that cool people used to wear and now it has become a status symbol. At $999, the Strat-o-timer cannot be seen as a status symbol but it is the indicator that someone knows about fine horology.
Let’s face it: many of us want a Rolex for one reason or another. We just love the history of the brand, how the watches look, and how well they are made. But in 2023, most of us meager humans cannot afford to buy a Rolex. But we do deserve this kind of watch. We should be able to get a proper travel watch even though we didn’t think of creating Facebook or working in commercial real estate. Or worse. When I watched *The Blacklist* and saw James Spader sporting his GMT Master 2 I thought “I want this kind of watch as well.” And Peter heard me from thousands of miles away as he heard many thousands of watch enthusiasts who, just like me, wanted a proper GMT watch.
So, when one gets a Strat-o-timer one becomes symbiotically connected to the heart of travel horology. The Strat-o-timer is a fantastic watch in its own right, not because it looks a little bit like something else. If anything, we should admit that rarely, if ever, a brand creates something entirely new. The beauty of creating a brand 100 years after Hans Wilsdorf had created Rolex is that there’s stuff to be inspired by. Just like musicians and painters are inspired by someone who came before them, watchmakers (read: watch brand owners/designers/CEOs) are too inspired by those who precede them.
Conclusion: The Traveler's GMT for the Rest of Us
When I was a kid, my father had a 1968 Rolex Submariner. The super vintage one with the friction-fit bezel and jingly bracelet. I remember thinking that it was a proper gentleman watch that he could take anywhere to do anything. It was a diver after all and not from a random brand. And even though a Submariner was much more affordable back then, it would nevertheless only could be had in exchange for a large wad of money. That’s why I never entertained the idea of owning a GMT Master 2. It just wouldn’t happen for me.
I naturally fell into independent watchmaking because I champion those who do things independently (pun intended!) and artisanally. I also became an artisan myself by way of photographing watches and writing my own articles. And yes, independent watchmaking is more affordable than Swiss luxury, but it is also—at least to me—more logically priced. I know that Peter is not in the business of making millions of dollars to buy himself a remote island or create a conglomerate of watch brands. He’s into the business of making great watches affordable to a large part of the watch enthusiasts community.
While I may think that the Strat-o-timer is too cheap, I won’t insist on that point. I don’t think that Peter and people like him want to make large profit margins. Which explains the price tag of their watches. What I do appreciate more than the watch is the experience that Peter and the Strat-o-timer provide us with; the experience of fine watchmaking and owning a luxury timepiece. Luxurious not in that it’s made of precious metals and set with diamonds. But luxurious in the sense that we have a full and holistic experience.
So thank you Peter, Jack Mason, and you guys for stopping by and reading this article.