Aloha GMT 40

Review and photos by Mike Razak

I’ll tell you right out that I ended up liking the black dial of the Aloha Watches GMT 40 better than the blue dial. I know blue is The Thing right now. And I expected to like it more, I did. But then I got the black dial on my wrist and damn near forgot the blue one even existed.

Aloha GMT 40


Aloha Watches is a new venture out of…Seattle, Washington. You were thinking Hawaii, I’m sure, and you’re as surprised as I was. Instead of being Hawaii-based, Aloha Watches and its founder Spencer Leu are all about living the “Aloha” lifestyle: be present, reconnect, do good. Knowing that Spencer came from the world of tech and dropped everything to pursue his brand, I can only support his goals and the principles that drive him. Plus, the first release is killer: I got a chance to go hands-on with both iterations of the Aloha GMT 40—the black dial and the blue dial. Join me, won’t you?

Aloha GMT 40

The GMT 40 offers an exceptionally well-proportioned case. It’s too often that with GMTs you get a chunky case with a Big Bold Bezel (looking at you, Rolex), or sometimes even an extra crown to rotate an internal bezel. In both cases you can track three separate time zones, which I think we can all agree is superfluous except for the jetsettingest of folk. But not here: fixed bezel, one crown, two time zones. The case is an ideal 40mm and only 10.4mm tall. That makes for a delightful wrist experience (38mm-40mm is just right for my 7-inch wrist. The case alternates polished and brushed: polished fixed bezel, brushed top, polished ribbon chamfer (thick, from lug to lug), brushed sides.  I love a good chamfer, and this one is thicker than most, and I think the effect is great, suggesting a bold elegance, rather than a subdued one.

Aloha GMT 40

The lugs are a balanced 20mm—which further supports my theory that the best case diameter-to-lug width ratio is 2:1. They depart the case and soon after, drop in a near 90-degree curve towards the wrist. The lugs complete a gentle curve to the entire case that lets the watch rest easy. A generic screw-down crown, etched with the logo, sits on the 3 o’clock side, affording 100M of water resistance. Imagine this watch case as a hybridization of the Rolex Oyster Perpetual and the Omega Aqua Terra. Goes off without a hitch, I'd say.

Aloha GMT 40

A domed sapphire crystal protects the dial, which comes in either black or blue. The blue dial features a sunray finish that can play almost purple in some light, while the black impresses with an inky gloss. Applied baton indices at every 5 minutes grace the periphery of the dial, with half-length printed hashes in between. Stepping in, a 24-hour track features numerals every four hours, a half-moon at 12, a sun at 6, and dots otherwise. It sounds like too much, but glance at the dial and you’ll see it’s tastefully handled. (The black dial features roman numerals instead of Arabic, a nod to many of the large clocks around Switzerland that feature gilt roman numerals.) What I call the “DeltAloha” logo (deltas stand-in for A’s) is just below the moon at 12, while “Automatic” and “GMT” are at 6. While the blue dial gets steel surrounds and hands, with orange accents, the black dial features gold and red accents, plus yellow for everything else. The date window is circular and features at 3 o’clock along the 24-hour track. It’s innocuous, though it's better on the black dial as the wheel itself is black. And further—possibly the only issue with the watch—the date numerals from 22 to 30 are clipped by the window. Barely, but it’s there. It’s a presumably easy solution to make the numerals that much smaller or the aperture that much larger. Certainly, not a dealbreaker, especially with how well executed the dial is as a whole. Sum of the parts, and all…

Aloha GMT 40

The obelisk-style hands are just the right lengths: the seconds and minutes extend to the minute track, while the hour and GMT brush the inner edge of the 24-hour track. The GMT features a contrast color hand and a large arrow for great readability. Everything is slathered with an even coating of Super-LumiNova BGW9. Lots of more affordable (and even some unaffordable) watches will feature rushed lume that appears spotty or uneven on close inspection, but when I say the Aloha is even, I mean it. Go right ahead and zoom in on the lume shot. I dare you.

Aloha GMT 40

Flip the watch over. It’ll feel good, it’ll look good. That’s some classic SpecsText™ around the sapphire crystal caseback; it includes plenty of information to keep dinner conversation lively through the holidays. Through the crystal you’ll see a custom rotor decorated with a Flower of Life motif, which drives the Top Grade Swiss ETA 2893-2. ETA movements are hard enough for new brands to come by let alone top-grade ones. For those not in the know, Top Grade means accuracy +/- 4 seconds per day. That’s chronometer level without the certification. That’s damn good timekeeping. Add to that a bunch of fancier materials for the tiny parts of the movement, and 50 hours of power and baby, you got a stew going. How does the GMT function work? Pull the crown out and rotate clockwise to set the 24-hour hand to the desired time zone. Traditionally, when traveling, this hand would be set to home and your other hands would show local time. But that’s all up to you. I just set it to “Whatever” because I liked to adjust it, which generates a satisfying click.

Aloha GMT 40 case back

Both variants of the Aloha GMT 40 come equipped with a B&R Bands Classic Vintage leather band of the highest quality. It has a feel of durable firmness while still requiring no real break-in. It’s exactly what you want from a new strap, and I’m not at all surprised, as I’ve been a fan of B&R Bands for some time. Aloha tried out their own leather straps from a few OEM vendors, but at the end of the day, the B&Rs won out. While it’ll feature the B&R stamp on the back, the strap is secured with a custom-designed and engraved buckle with the DeltAloha logo, just like you see on the dial. You can also buy a Milanese-style mesh bracelet on the site, for just $71. The 20mm lugs and gorgeous dials make this watch fairly easy to pair, regardless of which variant you choose (though again, I recommend the black).

Aloha GMT 40

The Aloha GMT 40 is a gentleman’s GMT: no bezel (internal or external), single crown, and a dash of elegance. This is a watch to slip under your French cuff while you take a meeting in LA, then rock with a NATO at the weekend back home in New York. Date window aside, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a cleaner GMT and at $1,495, it’s priced perfectly—right in the middle of its direct competition. The Aloha offers a top-quality movement with great finishing, legibility, and design, at a reasonable price. I’ve already gone ahead and recommended my cousin—who asked me about the watch months ago—buy one for himself (and for me, though that’s a long shot). You can do the same by heading over to the Aloha website. If a watch isn’t in the cards, you can snag a t-shirt with the DeltAloha logo, and all the profits are going to a nonprofit to help Hawaiian youth. Either way, you win, and if you get a shirt, the children win, too. So maybe buy a shirt either way.
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