If you know anything at all about watch design, or even design in general, one look at the Taiga GMT would probably tell you all you needed to know about this watch’s origins, or at least its inspirations. The modern and minimalist styling screams ‘Bauhaus’ – the early 20th-century German art school that became one of the most influential exponents of modernism.
You wouldn’t be wrong, either. The brand behind the Taiga is a Hamburg-based watch microbrand called Sternglas, founded in 2016. Their expanding collection of affordable watches all have a clean, clear aesthetic with stripped-down cases, understated dials, crisp fonts and slim hands. It’s a style that naturally lends itself to formal dress watches, but also the more casual everyday watches worn nowadays by every discerning urbanite. The Taiga is a bit different, however. It’s the brand’s unique take on a classic field watch, a style that originated with durable, accurate timepieces intended for military use.
Unusually, the Taiga also has an extra feature in the form of a fourth ‘GMT’ hand, which works with the 24hr markers printed on the watch’s chapter ring to track a second time zone. The first GMT watches were developed in the early 1950s and were soon adopted by airline pilots, who found this unique functionality very useful, given how frequently they crossed different time zones. Today, a GMT makes a great travel watch, since it easily enables you to track both local time and the time back home simultaneously.
Who is the Sternglas Taiga GMT Field Watch For?
Clearly, this is a watch made with adventure travel in mind. It’s discreet and tasteful, but has a large, clear dial and that handy GMT function in addition to a date window that will help you keep track of the time wherever your journey takes you.
If you like understated and minimalist gear, the Bauhaus-inspired style will particularly appeal. And it ought to be tough enough to wear on the daily too, thanks to an all-steel case and a highly scratch-resistant sapphire crystal.
The case is made from 316L stainless steel with a sandblasted finish. It has a small, signed crown and a screw-down caseback. This features an engraved world map showing different time zones, with geographical place names around the outer edge. It’s a subtle but effective way to accentuate the watch’s GMT functionality. And if you’re wondering what the time difference is between London and Mexico City (or Auckland, Honolulu, Tokyo, Sydney… you get the picture), it’ll tell you, enabling you to set the GMT hand accordingly. Nice.
A very thin bezel surrounds the large dial, which is anthracite grey and has an unusual textured surface. The handset is brushed steel, with syringe-style hour and minute hands and a simple, slim baton seconds hand. Hour and minute hands are in-filled in white. The fourth GMT pointer hand is a contrast yellow that really pops against the dark dial. The crystal is a high-quality domed sapphire with an anti-reflective coating. This really elevates the watch and gives it a bit of vintage style and character, something that is typically lacking from cheaper competitors in this segment of the market.
The Taiga is supplied with a German-made real leather strap in a matt NATO green, which is edge-blocked in black. It’s a supple and comfortable strap, as well as a classy addition that adds to the purposeful, utilitarian feel of the watch.
The case is 42mm in diameter, with a lug-to-lug measurement of 52mm, which is larger than most classic field watches. On the other hand, it’s a size that makes sense given the fact that this is a GMT watch, providing more space for the secondary 24hr markings around the chapter ring, as well as additional room to accommodate a four-hand movement without the dial feeling cluttered.
This is a very lightweight watch. It tips the scales at just 65g including the leather strap. It’s also remarkably slim, at just 7.7mm thick. The curved lugs help it to sit comfortably on the wrist, with a low-profile design that slides easily under a cuff.
A field watch should prioritise instant legibility – you should be able to read the precise time at a glance, even from acute angles, including in low light conditions. The Taiga GMT delivers in all respects except for the last one.
The minimalist dial is printed in high contrast gloss white – there are no applied indices or markers here, and although the numerals use an unusual 2, 4, 8, 10 and 12-hour format rather than the standard 3, 6, 9 and 12 quadrant design, it works well, offering excellent readability. In addition, the minute track is crisply printed, as are the 24-hour markings around the chapter ring, despite their small size. You also get a useful date window at 6 o’clock, which works harmoniously with the rest of the dial, although the numerals are printed in a slightly different font to those on the dial itself.
Our main issue with this as a field or adventure watch is that there is no lume at all – not even on the hands. This is a real shame, as it means that in dim light, it’s pretty much impossible to see what the time is. So, this is a watch that is going to be pretty much restricted to daytime use. If your adventures start before dawn or finish after dusk, you’ll struggle.
Ironically, apart from this key oversight, it’s a watch that is well suited to outdoor use. The 100m/10 ATM water resistance means it should be more than capable of handling everything from light drizzle to a full-on downpour, while its light weight, slim profile, robust sandblasted steel case and scratch-resistant sapphire crystal all ensure it is both eminently wearable, reasonably hard-wearing and very practical.
The Taiga uses an analogue quartz movement – specifically, a Swiss Ronda 505.24H calibre. This has an average battery life of 3 to 4 years and should be accurate within -10/+20 seconds per month. It’s also pretty shock resistant, able to withstand the industry standard test of an accidental fall from a height of one metre onto a hardwood floor. Quartz is inherently more robust and less susceptible to shock than a mechanical movement, so while it might not excite watch nerds, it’s a logical choice for an everyday travel or adventure watch.
We were just a bit dismayed to find that the seconds hand didn’t quite hit the markers on the dial – a common issue with quartz watches, and not something that affects the functionality or timekeeping, but a negative that slightly detracts from the notion of a field watch as a precision timepiece.
Despite a couple of drawbacks, there’s lots to like about the Sternglas Taiga GMT – not least the fact that it is a GMT watch, which is not only pretty cool but also genuinely useful if you’re a fairly regular international traveller. It’s also a sleek and stylish looking timepiece that feels light and comfortable on the wrist, largely thanks to its robust but lightweight build and slim profile.
Considerable thought appears to have gone into the design and execution too, and to us, it feels like a watch built by a company with a genuine passion for the craft of watchmaking. Its utility is only limited by the lack of performance in low light conditions. So, maybe not one to take camping or night hiking, but still a good option for daily wear and active use.
The Sternglas Taiga GMT is priced at £209 including VAT.
Price: £209 / Sandblasted 316L steel case / Screw down steel case back / GMT and date function / Ronda 505.24H quartz movement / 100m/10 ATM water resistance / Domed sapphire crystal / Signed, knurled crown / German-made real leather strap in matt NATO green.