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A classy traveler with a jumping hour - The Vario Empire GMT


Time zone watches are all about function. It’s a tool for aviators, travelers, and enthusiasts. When you look at all the alternatives in the market you can fin rugged pieces but hardly elegant ones. Sure, there are precious metal versions of the most popular GMT models, but this is a variation to make a watch dressier. How about a GMT designed to adorn your wrist while you are sitting on the airport lounges? With good technical specs and clean design?

The Vario Empire GMT its one of these watches and today we have the winter white version. Vario has released its new Empire GMT by taking inspiration on the seasons. A salmon dial for the autumn, a mint green for spring and an electric blue for summer. The dial colours are not the only novelty, now the Empire line has become a true GMT watch.

I am not entirely satisfied by the industry using the term ‘’true’’ GMT but, it is what is known for, and the Empire fills these requirements. So, what is a true GMT? Well, the ability to set the hour hand independently of the GMT hand. it might sound silly but there is a great debate in the community about this nuance, and not so long ago, mid high-end brands were the only ones that could offer such function.

Let us look in depth what this new watch represents for Vario and as an alternative to those tool-like pieces, what doe it feels to use a dressy GMT with a tool capability?

Specifications

The Vario GMT has a diameter of 38mm wide, and a thickness under 12mm. These are well loved universal figures, specially for a dressier piece. You would think that adding GMT would disturb the design of the previous Empire, but it didn’t. The watch only grew 0.5mm and kept all the same dimensions of the time only version.

Coming to the dial, the looks remain the same which is not a bad thing. The only new element on the dial is the inner seconds time zone ring and the GMT hand. The stark white feels clean and precise, I still enjoy those art deco numerals in grey. The intricate guilloche pattern, and the numeral track with a different finish add refinement while helping with legibility. The skeletonized syringe hands make more sense than ever as it allows the watch to feel uncluttered. And in true Vario style, the date was omitted. I wasn’t convinced of a no date GMT at the beginning but in reality, it will take the symmetry away and it is not really needed.


The case is nicely polished with brushed sides, well made with lots of presence. It fits the art deco feel of the Empire. The lug to lug of 46mm means that almost anyone could wear this watch, it is a wrist magnet. With 20mm lug with we have a great selection of straps we could use but, more on that later.

The movement its where we can find one of the biggest novelties. The Miyota 9075 it’s a true GMT High-Beat automatic movement. A few years ago, these types of specs where unheard of at the price that the Empire is being positioned at. Of course, as a watch enthusiast I was happy about this development but, how is the movement? Is it reliable? Refined? I am happy to report that the feeling of the whole mechanics is great. The winding actions is smooth, the hour jumps precisely and there is no ‘’wobble’’ unlike in my Explorer II.


On the wrist

The case is another part where I know the Vario put a lot of effort. What is the point of doing a GMT version of a watch if you are going to blow the proportions over? The key to this new project was to add a GMT function, that is it. Sounds easier than it is but by doing this, Vario avoided surprises on the variability of the Empire which was already a great piece to use. The short lug to lug with an under 12mm thickness feels great on my 6.26-inch wrist. It has a good presence but can go under a cuff anytime it needs to.

Vario is known for its high-quality straps, and the Empire GMT can be sourced with several varieties that will watch the dial you opt for. But the real novelty here is the bracelet. We have a 4-link design with the fluidity of a rice bead bracelet. The hidden butterfly clasp keeps thing seamless, and a quick release system means that you can swap between straps in not time. The feel is great and takes the Empire to another level. Looks and feels more luxurious.


Conclusions

As you can see, I am a fan of the new Empire GMT. No surprises on the wearability but lots of new specifications to be exited about. The design language is still present, and the added luxurious feel of the bracelets makes the watch feel like a more complete offer. If you want a dressier traveling companion with tool specifications, the Vario Empire GMT should be on your short list, which one would I go for? Well salmon is always a good choice but I the white polar look really does it for me, plus, winter is around the corner.




Price and Availability

We still haven’t mentioned the price which is very competitive. At £583 it is probably the new entry level for this complication. Not only you have an original design but also the technical capabilities matching it. The Empire was launched on October 1st, and it is now available to order at www.vario.sg


Technical Specs

Diameter: 38mm

Lug to Lug: 46mm

Thickness: 12mm

Strap Width: 20mm

Movement: Miyota 9075 True GMT High-Beat Automatic

Crystal: Sapphire with inner AR coating

Water Resistance: 5 ATM

Strap: Vintage style Italian leather with slight bi-colour effect (20mm taper to 16mm) & Metal bracelet

Case and bracelet are coated for scratch resistance

Made in Japan

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