Discover the Rolex GMT-Master: The Ultimate Aviation Companion

Discover the Rolex GMT-Master: The Ultimate Aviation Companion
April 18, 2023 7 min read
Discover the Rolex GMT-Master: The Ultimate Aviation Companion

The Rolex GMT-Master collection is a testament to the brand's commitment to innovation and excellence in watchmaking. Over the years, the GMT-Master has become an icon in the world of luxury timepieces, boasting a rich history and numerous model variations. In this journal entry, we'll explore the evolution of the GMT-Master collection, highlighting the key milestones and breakthroughs that have shaped its design and functionality.


Rolex GMT-Master II 126710BLRO in Stainless Steel with a Black Dial and 'Pepsi' Bezel



As commercial air travel blossomed in the 1950s, pilots and aircrews needed a reliable and efficient way to track multiple time zones during long-haul flights. Pan American Airways, one of the world's leading airlines at the time, recognized this need and approached Rolex to develop a timepiece tailored to their pilots' unique requirements.

Rolex embraced the challenge, and in 1954, the Rolex GMT-Master was introduced to the world. Featuring a fourth hand, also known as the GMT hand, this groundbreaking timepiece allowed pilots to track two different time zones simultaneously. The GMT hand, which completes a full rotation every 24 hours, worked in tandem with a 24-hour graduated rotating bezel, providing pilots with an intuitive and easy-to-read solution for monitoring time across the globe.

The first GMT-Master, the reference 6542, featured a distinctive two-tone bezel in red and blue, which quickly earned it the nickname "Pepsi" due to its resemblance to the popular soft drink's logo. This iconic bezel not only added a splash of color to the watch's design but also served a functional purpose, with the red half representing daylight hours and the blue half indicating nighttime hours. The bezel of the Rolex GMT-Master 6542 was crafted from the delicate acrylic material known as bakelite, and its numerals were coated with a radium paint. However, the use of bakelite was short-lived as it violated AEC regulations, leading to its discontinuation in 1956. Rolex provided a free replacement aluminum bezel for the owners of the GMT-Master 6542 whose bezels contained radium. Nowadays, these bakelite bezels are considered rare and highly sought-after by collectors.


To learn more about Rolex and their use of radium, read about it here.


A Few of the Different Rolex Bezel Variations



As the world continued to evolve and the needs of pilots and travelers became more demanding, Rolex sought to refine and enhance the GMT-Master's capabilities. In 1982, the Swiss luxury watchmaker unveiled the GMT-Master II 16760, taking the watch's functionality to new heights.

The GMT-Master II introduced a significant advancement in its movement: the independently adjustable hour hand. This new feature allowed users to set the local time without disturbing the minute or seconds hands, or the 24-hour GMT hand. With this groundbreaking innovation, the GMT-Master II could now simultaneously display three separate time zones when used in conjunction with the bidirectional rotating bezel.

To accommodate this new functionality, the GMT-Master II was equipped with a modified movement – the Rolex Calibre 3085 – which was specifically designed to facilitate the independent movement of the hour hand. This technological achievement not only provided greater versatility but also enhanced the watch's appeal among international travelers, business professionals, and watch enthusiasts. In order to hold the new movement, the case had to be made larger by 0.5mm larger, hence why the 16760 is nicknamed the "Fat Lady".

The GMT-Master II also boasted a range of aesthetic improvements, including the introduction of the "Coke" bezel, which featured a striking red and black color combination. Over time, the GMT-Master II saw various updates in terms of materials, dial designs, and bezel options, catering to the diverse tastes of Rolex's clientele.


Rolex GMT-Master II 16760 "Fat Lady" in Stainless Steel with a patinaed Black Dial and a 'Coke' Bezel



The Rolex GMT-Master and GMT-Master II are not only celebrated for their groundbreaking functionality but also for their exquisite design, which masterfully combines classic elements with modern elegance.

One of the key components of the GMT-Master's design is the iconic two-tone bezel. Throughout the years, various color combinations have been introduced, from the original "Pepsi" bezel (red and blue) to the "Coke" bezel (red and black), and the more recent "Batman" bezel (blue and black). Each colorway offers a unique aesthetic appeal while maintaining its functional purpose of distinguishing between day and night hours. From bakelite, to aluminium, to the recent scratch-resistant ceramic bezel.

The GMT-Master and GMT-Master II feature the renowned Oyster case, which is crafted from a solid block of corrosion-resistant stainless steel or precious metals, such as 18k white gold, 18k yellow gold, 18k rose gold or platinum. The Oyster case is renowned for its robustness and water resistance, ensuring that the timepieces can withstand the rigors of air travel and the challenges of daily wear.

In addition to the traditional stainless steel models, Rolex has introduced various GMT-Master and GMT-Master II models with a mix of precious metals and gemstones, catering to the desires of those seeking an extra touch of luxury. These high-end variations demonstrate Rolex's commitment to pushing the boundaries of design while staying true to the watch's original intent and purpose.


Rolex GMT-Master 1675 with a 'Pepsi' Bezel


Rolex GMT-Master II 16710 with a Black Bezel


Rolex GMT-Master II 126715 with a ceramic 'Root Beer' Bezel



Throughout its storied history, the GMT-Master collection has seen numerous variations, limited editions, and special releases, each with its unique allure. Whether it's the allure of the vintage "Pepsi" bezel or the sleek and modern "Batman" bezel, there's a GMT-Master to suit every enthusiast's taste.

In 2022, Rolex unveiled the first left-handed Rolex. The Rolex GMT-Master II 126720VTNR, with a limited black and green two-tone bezel. This watch was quickly nicknamed the "Sprite" by fans.


Rolex GMT-Master II 126720VTNR in Stainless Steel with a Black and Green 'Sprite' Bezel



From the skies above to the wrists of the world's most discerning travelers, the Rolex GMT-Master and GMT-Master II have cemented their place in the pantheon of horological masterpieces. These timepieces continue to captivate and inspire, offering both the allure of history and the promise of cutting-edge innovation. Whether you're an aviation enthusiast, a seasoned traveler, or simply a lover of fine watches, the GMT-Master and GMT-Master II are the perfect companions for your journey through time and space.


To browse, shop, and view prices for the Rolex GMT-Master, click here.

Which iconic GMT-Master bezel color combination is your favorite?
Let us know in the comments.

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