01/24/2024
 5 minutes

The Best GMT Watches Under $5,000: Longines or Tudor?

By Jorg Weppelink
Duel of the GMTs: Longines or Tudor?

Duel of the GMTs: Longines or Tudor?

Tudor is a dominating force in the under-$5,000 price segment. For many watch fans, it is the first brand that comes to mind given its popular Black Bay, Pelagos, and Ranger lines. Over the past 2–3 years, however, Longines has been encroaching on Tudor’s lead thanks to a new strategy. With a strong focus on design rooted in the brand’s rich heritage and great movements, Longines has been making waves and challenging Tudor’s top position in the price category up to $5,000.

Battle of the Longines and Tudor GMT Models

When it comes to GMT watches, Longines has two great offerings that are widely considered strong competitors for the stainless steel Tudor Black Bay GMT and Black Bay Pro. The Longines Spirit Zulu Time GMT is a vintage-inspired GMT watch that garnered a lot of praise when it was first introduced in 2022. The 42-mm model was introduced in three colors that all look amazing. Last year, the brand extended the range with four smaller 39-mm models.

Can GMT watches from Longines compete with Tudor?
Can GMT watches from Longines compete with Tudor?

Not long after the 39-mm Spirit Zulu Time GMT was unveiled, Longines introduced the brand new HydroConquest GMT, a modern GMT diver also available in four different colors. Two of the variants look ultra-modern with their blue or black dial, while the remaining two with a green or brown dial have a bit more retro appeal thanks to gilt hour markers and hands.

Longines vs. Tudor: A GMT Battle

So, time to compare the Longines Spirit Zulu Time GMT and the HydroConquest GMT to the Tudor Black Bay Pro and the Black Bay GMT. Let’s kick things off with the Zulu Time GMT. As mentioned, you can choose between a 39 and 42-mm model.

The 39-mm case of the Zulu Time GMT is 13.5 mm thick, has a lug-to-lug of 47 mm, and is water-resistant to 100 m (328 ft). If we compare these specs to the Black Bay Pro, there is one major difference: bulk. The Tudor Black Bay Pro case measures 39 mm in diameter, 14.6 mm in thickness, and 47 mm from lug to lug, and it’s water-resistant to 200 m (656 ft).

Longines Spirit Zulu Time L3.802.4.53.6
Longines Spirit Zulu Time L3.802.4.53.6

As you can see, the case of the Black Bay Pro is 1.1 mm thicker, which is quite significant. The thickness of the Black Bay Pro has been a point of contention among watch fans. At 14.6 mm tall, it is a chunky watch, especially with the modest 39-mm diameter. Additionally, the polished case sides of the watch are steep without any detail, which emphasizes the thickness even more. So, Longines does a much better job here with its slimmer Zulu Time GMT.

Tudor Black Bay Pro GMT ref. M79470
Tudor Black Bay Pro GMT ref. M79470

Longines Watches Are Significantly Slimmer

The larger of the two Zulu Time GMTs clocks in at 42 mm in diameter, 13.9 mm in thickness, and 49 mm from lug to lug. The Black Bay GMT, on the other hand, comes in at 41 mm in diameter, 14.6 mm in thickness, and 50.2 mm from lug to lug. So, once again, the Longines case is slimmer and, thanks to a smaller lug-to-lug, more wearable for a greater variety of wrist sizes.

Longines Spirit Zulu Time Blue L3.802.4.93.2
Longines Spirit Zulu Time L3.802.4.93.2

The Longines HydroConquest GMT takes the crown for the thinnest of all five models with its 41-mm case that is 12.9 mm thick with a lug-to-lug just under 50 mm. It has the most modern look of all the watches, but is the perfect alternative to the Zulu Time GMT and Black GMT if you like a more contemporary watch. As it is a diver, the 300 m (984 ft) depth rating tops them all.

Modern Flyer GMT Movements for All

Longines uses its chronometer-certified caliber L844.4 created by ETA for both the Zulu Time GMT and the HydroConquest GMT. This modern movement comes with a 72-hour power reserve. Tudor also uses a chronometer-certified caliber, namely the MT5652 created by Kenissi, which has 70 hours of power reserve.

Longines HydroConquest GMT ref. L3.790.4.06.6
Longines HydroConquest GMT ref. L3.790.4.06.6

COSC-certification means these are movements that stay accurate within -4/+6 seconds per day. As a result, both calibers are fantastic, accurate options. Plus, both automatic movements are so-called flyer GMT movements. This means that you can set the local hour hand independently, which is the preferred option for frequent travelers, as you only have to set the central hour hand to your current time zone. The 24-hour hand corresponds to the home time, making it easy to use. And if the watch has a date, it will often change with the time setting automatically.

Designs Rooted in the Past

Regarding overall looks, the Black Bay GMT takes after the iconic Rolex GMT-Master with its black dial and blue and red Pepsi bezel. In early 2023, the brand presented a white dial version. The Tudor Black Bay Pro is based on the iconic first-generation Rolex Explorer II ref. 1655. The Tudor designers did a great job updating the aesthetics of that watch and injecting the look with a healthy dose of Tudor character.

The Longines Spirit Zulu Time has looks that are firmly rooted in Longines’ aviation history. As such, it feels like a true vintage GMT from the days when traveling the world was still novel. The HydroConquest GMT is essentially a modern dive watch with an integrated GMT function. But with their gilt elements, the brown and green dial versions give some nice retro vibes and a charm that many fans love.

Tudor Black Bay GMT ref. M79830RB-0010
Tudor Black Bay GMT ref. M79830RB-0010

Longines Doesn’t Just Compete on Looks and Specs

As mentioned above, both brands are dominant forces and the first picks for many watch fans looking for a watch under $5,000. But there still is a price difference between the two. The Tudor Black Bay Pro with a stainless-steel bracelet is $4,000. If you prefer a strap, the watch comes in at $3,675. The price of the Tudor Black Bay GMT is $4,375 with the stainless-steel bracelet. The white dial version can be yours for just over $4,000 on a fabric strap.

The two Longines models are significantly more affordable. The 39 and 42-mm Spirit Zulu Time GMT models are $3,150 on a stainless-steel bracelet and slightly less on a leather strap. The Hydroconquest GMT is cheaper at $2,775 on a stainless-steel bracelet and $2,675 on a NATO strap.

Is Tudor better than Longines?

Which of these watches would be your pick as the best GMT watch under $5,000? This is obviously a personal choice. You fall in love with the look of a watch first and foremost, so it’s hard to say which model is objectively the best. Tudor undoubtedly profits from its link to Rolex; not just in terms of looks, but simply from reputation and proximity. It’s a connection that many fans love.

However, it is hard to deny that Longines is challenging Tudor with these two tempting GMT watches. The designs of both models look crisp with some nice retro vibes. On top of that, the cases are thinner and easier to wear. Lastly, the modern movements are on par with Tudor’s calibers.

So, is Longines the new dominating brand under $5,000? Well, it certainly has the history, and the watches have the looks and specs to compete on all fronts. And if you can save a significant amount of money getting one, it’s hard to deny that Longines is doing everything right to compete for the top position. It’ll be interesting to see who comes out on top in time, but as long as both brands keep creating amazing watches, we the fans are the true winners.


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About the Author

Jorg Weppelink

Hi, I'm Jorg, and I've been writing articles for Chrono24 since 2016. However, my relationship with Chrono24 goes back a bit longer, as my love for watches began …

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