Rolex GMT-Master: A Legendary Luxury Pilots Watch
The legendary Rolex GMT Master was created for pilots on long haul flights in the 1950s. Its huge popularity among luxury watch collectors today is a famous example of a complex chronometer, designed for specific clientele, crossing over into the mainstream market.
The model was released at the peak of the aviation boom of the 1950s. American commercial flight pioneer Pan-Am Airways approached Rolex to design a watch that could tell the time in two different time zones. The Rolex GMT Master chronometer ref 6542 was born in 1954 to serve the airline's long haul flight crews.
The first GMT Master featured an unusual red and blue Bakelite bezel and an innovative 24-hour hand directly linked to the regular 12-hour hand. The wearer could set the watch to Greenwich Mean Time and then adjust the 24-hour rotating bezel to a second-time zone.
Another innovative feature, still in use today, was a date magnifying bubble previously seen on the Datejust model in 1953.
Rolex GMT Pepsi
The ref 6542 set the high standards construction-wise for Rolex watches of the future. The classic steel Oyster case, 38mm in diameter, comprised three pieces, a design trend that has continued in modern luxury watches.
It was nicknamed the Rolex GMT Pepsi, as the colours of the red and blue bezel mirrored those of the famous soft drinks brand. The colours helped distinguish between day and night times in the second time zone.
Rolex replaced the original Bakelite bezel with an aluminium one in 1956, amid fears the original material was too brittle. Production of the ref 6542 continued until 1959 when the second-generation GMT Master (ref 1675) was launched.
Today, a vintage Rolex GMT Master Pepsi 6542, in good condition, with the original Bakelite bezel, is a much sought-after model, with its pilots' watch specifications and distinctive bezel. In 1989, the Rolex GMT Master II 16710 was launched with the Pepsi bezel as an option, a 40 mm steel case and black dial. It was in production until 2007.
Rolex recreated the Pepsi bezel on the first white gold GMT watch in 2014: the GMT Master II 116719 BLRO. This was the first Pepsi bezel in scratch-resistant Cerachrom. In 2018, the GMT Master II 126710 BLRO was produced in steel, with a Cerachrom Pepsi bezel and five-piece link Jubilee bracelet.
Rolex GMT Batman
The Rolex GMT Master II ref 116710 BLNR, better known as the Rolex Batman, was introduced in 2013
. It was the first Rolex model featuring a two-tone ceramic bezel, something the brand had believed was impossible at one time. Its black and blue colour combination led to the "Batman" nickname.
A new version of the GMT Batman, with an updated movement and the more dressy five-piece link Jubilee bracelet, was released in 2019. The GMT Master II in steel is offered in only the Pepsi and the Batman models today.
The latest Rolex GMT Master II 126710 BLNR, known as the "new Rolex Batman" or the "Batgirl", features the famous blue and black Cerachrom bezel and a new generation automatic Caliber 3285 movement.
Rolex GMT Coke
The aesthetic appeal of the bi-colour bezel design was further developed with the release of the iconic Rolex GMT Master Coke in 1983. In the same way that the Rolex GMT Pepsi had a two-tone bezel resembling the branding of a beverage manufacturer, the Rolex GMT Master Coke had a distinctive black and red bezel instead.
The Rolex ref 16760 became one of the brand's most iconic models. Owners were able to change iconic Rolex bracelets, to rubber straps in a variation of colours to complement the red and black bezel perfectly.
Production of the Rolex GMT Coke ceased in 2007. Despite rumours every year that it will be resurrected, to date, this hasn't happened, increasing its rarity value for Rolex collectors. It's fair to say just about every vintage Rolex fan is eagerly awaiting its return.
Rolex GMT Master Root Beer
The Root Beer model Rolex ref 1675/3 changed the face of the Rolex brand in the 1970s with its bold, unusual, period colour scheme. The first Rolex sports watch produced in steel and gold, the model featured a brown and black bezel, hence its nickname.
It brought something new to the market, as its case and bracelet were fashioned from stainless steel and luxurious yellow gold. In a decade of cheap quartz technology, Rolex bucked the trend with its luxury sports watch, gilded by the opulence of gold.
In the 1980s, the Rolex Root Beer was updated in the form of the GMT Master II Ref 16713, featuring a 40 mm stainless steel and gold case and bracelet.
The introduction of the ceramic bezel to the GMT Master range in 2005 ensured its continued success. Rolex reintroduced the Root Beer colours in 2018 with the 126711 CHNR in rose gold and steel.
The model today commands a relatively high price, with the Rolex GMT Master II rose gold Root Beer model fetching around £20,000 for a 2021 model.
The Rolex GMT II as an Investment
Production of the very first GMT-Master model ref 6542, which Pan-Air commissioned, only lasted four years, therefore this rare timepiece is in significant demand and prices have increased 200% over the past 10 years.
In general, Rolex sports watches, especially the steel ones, reliably hold or increase their value. In particular, the GMT Master II with its famous two-coloured bezel often appreciates in value.
The GMT-Master II Batman, with its blue and black bezel, has proven to be particularly sought-after among collectors, as has the currently discontinued Rolex GMT Coke.
Rolex GMT Master ll - Real Vs Fake
Genuine Rolex GMT Master II watches always have their hour hand positioned first, closest to the dial of the watch, with the GMT hand stacked above, followed by the minutes hand and finally the seconds hand on top.
Often, a counterfeit Rolex GMT-Master II watch has its hands stacked in the wrong order. A common mistake is having the GMT hand closest to the dial, followed by the hour hand on top. Although a small detail, it's an important one in the authentication process.
Other tell-tale signs of a fake Rolex GMT Master include the movement. With a genuine watch, when you pull out the crown to change the hour, the hour hand will "jump" from one hour to the next, without the minutes hand moving as well. With a counterfeit watch, the minutes hand often moves too when the hour is changed.
An authentic Rolex GMT Master II bezel will move in a smooth manner and should not be hard to rotate. With a fake watch, the bezel is often more difficult to rotate, as the mechanism is not perfect.
There are other small signs, such as discrepancies in the curve of the numbers on a counterfeit watch. These can all be difficult to spot if you're not familiar with authenticating Rolex watches.
Here at WatchCentre, as a leading pre-owned watch specialist, we guarantee the authenticity of all our pre-owned watches.