The GMT-Master from Rolex is as much as a pilot watch as it is a collector's piece. First introduced 60 years ago, its second time zone feature makes it the perfect travel companion, and experts consider it a valuable investment.
- High-quality men's watch with a second time zone
- Highly likely to appreciate in value
- Bidirectional rotating bezel "Pepsi" (red/blue) or "Coke" (red/black)
- In-house caliber with chronometer accuracy
- Available in stainless steel, solid gold, or stainless steel and gold (bicolor)
Two Time Zones for Pilots and Revolutionaries
Originally developed for pilots, the GMT-Master from Rolex
has become an icon
. Like its fellow Rolex siblings, the Submariner
, this watch with GMT function (Greenwich Mean Time) is one of the most highly sought-after collector's watches
. Notable characteristics include a second hour hand, which makes a full rotation once a day, and a bidirectional, rotating 24-hour bezel. With the help of these extra parts, you can tell time in a second time zone. This feature makes the watch perfect for businessmen, politicians, and pilots traveling long distances across time zones.
The GMT-Master made its film premiere
in 1964 in the James Bond film Goldfinger
. Pilot Pussy Galore, played by actress Honor Blackman, wears the watch in many scenes, including one in the cockpit and while kissing Agent Bond. Actor Tom Selleck, famous for his role in the TV series Magnum, P.I., also had a GMT-Master. The watch is easy to identify by its blue/red bezel, earning it the nickname "Pepsi."
Jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie also wore a version of this watch. The former leader of Cuba, Fidel Castro, was a Rolex fan as well. He wore a Submariner during his seizure of power in 1959, and later combined it with a Day-Date
. He has a variety of different GMT-Master models; for example, the watch with reference number 6542
without a crown guard and with a black/red bezel ("Coke")
, as well as reference number 1675
with a crown guard and black bezel. Rolex was founded in 1905 by Hans Wilsdorf and remains an independent Swiss manufacturer to this day.
Buying Advice for the GMT-Master
If you frequently travel between time zones and are looking for a watch to emphasize your style and success, then the GMT-Master from Rolex is the watch for you. Thanks to an additional fourth hand and a rotating 24-hour bezel, this watch can display the time in a second time zone. The local time is told with the usual three hands. The GMT-Master is especially beloved amongst collectors. Above all, models with reference numbers 6542 (first generation), 16750, and 16760 (first GMT-Master II, also known as "Fat Lady") are rare and therefore highly coveted collector's watches. The purchase of a GMT is an investment. Well-maintained, pre-owned watches cost around 5,000 euros; new and unworn timepieces start at 10,000 euros. The beloved model with reference number 16750 is in a similar price range: Some pre-owned models cost less than 5,000 euros, though those in excellent condition can cost over 10,000 euros. Watches from the first GMT-Master generation from the 1950s are frequently priced over 40,000 euros, and well-maintained models can cost more than 70,000 euros. The model with reference number 16760 is more moderately priced at around 5,000 euros.
- Coveted collector's model
- Especially popular reference numbers: 6542, 16750, and 16760
- Starting at around 5,000 euros; potential to appreciate in value
- Available in stainless steel, gold and stainless steel (bicolor), or 18-karat solid gold
- Alternatives: Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 600 M GMT, Breitling Chronomat 44 GMT, IWC Ingeniuer Dual Time
GMT-Master: Designed for Pilots
The GMT-Master has been on the arms of pilots and world travelers for over 60 years. Its story began in 1955, when Rolex introduced the four-handed timepiece for the first time. Rolex had received a request from Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) to develop a watch with a second time zone. Pan Am made the GMT-Master their official watch. Flight crews received models with black dials, while the ground staff's watches had white dials.
Rolex had already developed a watch that could display all 24 time zones by the mid-1940s. The first GMT-Master with reference number 6542, however, only displayed two time zones, as Pan Am requested. This resulted in a clear, distinctive watch with a revolutionary feature: an additional hour hand which makes a full rotation once every 24 hours and corresponds to the 24-hour bezel. This bezel can be set so that the red 24-hour hand displays the current time at home. The bezel was first available in blue/red and accordingly nicknamed the "Pepsi" watch. Later, Rolex also began producing black/red ("Coke") and all-black versions. The bicolor bezel symbolizes day (red) and night (blue or black). This allowed, for example, Fidel Castro to know if his brother Raúl was sleeping or at his desk in Havana while he was visiting Moscow. The three central hands for hours, minutes, and seconds displayed the local time.
The first versions of the GMT-Master had plastic bezels. They featured a Bakelite inlay, a plastic developed by Leo Handrik Baekeland. Rolex used this material to minimize reflection. However, it could not adequately withstand the strains and temperatures of the cockpit. Therefore, it was soon replaced with an aluminum inlay. Models with Bakelite bezels are incredibly rare and treasured by collectors.
Like the Submariner from 1953, the first editions of the GMT-Master did not feature a crown guard. The Cyclops lens for the date display was optional, and the watch was waterproof to 50 m. In 1960, the second generation of the GMT-Master with reference number 1675 replaced the first. The newer models can be identified by their crown guards and larger bezels.
The watch with reference number 16750 replaced the 1675 series in 1981. With this new model, Rolex began using their new in-house caliber 3075. It replaced the previous 1565 and 1575 calibers. Since Rolex only produced this reference number until 1988, it's a very rare watch and popular amongst collectors. Scratch-resistant sapphire glass replaced Plexiglass, which amassed scratches quickly. From then on, reference number 16700 was in use, powered by the caliber 3175. Towards the end of the 1990s, Rolex began using Superluminova instead of tritium to achieve luminosity. A short time later, the company ended production of the GMT-Master. Since then, they have exclusively produced the GMT-Master II.
GMT-Master II: The Fat Lady
The GMT-Master II joined the Rolex family in the mid 1980s. The watch with reference number 16760 featured sapphire glass and a red/black bezel ("Coke"). Also notable was its new caliber, the 3085. This movement allows the wearer to independently set the hour hand when the crown is pulled halfway out. In this crown position, the wearer can also set the date. The minute hand and second 24-hour hand can be set when the crown is pulled out completely. For every complete 360 degrees turn the minute hand makes, the second time zone hour hand moves half an hour. Previously, moving the bezel in either direction was the only way to set a second time zone. Due to its large, thick case, the watch earned the nickname "Fat Lady." As the first GMT-Master II, the watch is very popular with collectors.
The watch was refined in 2007, but the design remained faithful to the classic Rolex look. This dedication to classic aesthetics is part of their key to success. One of the most obvious changes was the black ceramic bezel. In comparison to the metal bezel used on earlier models, it's much more scratch resistant. In 2013, Rolex reintroduced bicolor black/blue models. Another new detail was the Triplock winding crown with three sealed zones to improve waterproofness. The Rolex caliber 3186 powers the watch. Like all Rolex automatic movements, the 3186 meets the criteria set by the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC). The movement features a blue Parachrom hairspring made from a paramagnetic alloy, a typical Rolex characteristic. It's unaffected by magnetic fields and is much more resistant to temperature variations and shocks than normal hairsprings. Thanks to the spring's upraised last coil and reduced curvature, the so-called Breguet overcoil, it can breathe more freely, improving the watch's precision. High-precision regulation occurs via Microstella nuts on the balance rim instead of via a regulator - another typical Rolex characteristic.
- Introduced in 1985
- Caliber 3186 with non-magnetic Parachrom hairspring and Breguet overcoil
- Reference number 16760 with caliber 3085 and sapphire glass ("Fat Lady")
- Featuring a scratch-resistant Cerachrom bezel in ceramic and Triplock winding crown since 2007
Gold on Your Wrist
In addition to the stainless steel GMT-Master, Rolex also offers some versions in a bicolor gold and stainless steel design, as well as white or yellow gold. Nicknames like "Eye of the Tiger," "Nipple Dial," and "Root Beer," reference distinctive features in certain models. Models with gold/brown bezels and brown dials are known as "Root Beer" or "Eye of the Tiger." Watches nicknamed "Nipple Dial" have raised, gold indices filled with tritium. According to rumors, Rolex puts more gold in circulation with their gold watches than any other watch manufacturer.
The GMT-Master: From Pilot Watch to Icon
The GMT-Master has been accompanying pilots on their trips around the world for over 60 years. Its successor, the GMT-Master II, has been available since the 1980s. Rolex originally developed this watch with a second time zone for the US airline Pan Am and their personnel. The watch's functionality, precision, and reliability also impressed many NASA astronauts
. A few of them wore GMT-Masters on their Apollo missions, although the Omega Speedmaster Professional
is the agency's official watch. The GMT-Master has developed into a coveted collector's item
over the years, and Rolex watches are generally stable investments
. Celebrities and heads of state have contributed to the watch's reputation and raised it to cult status.