Rolex GMT-Master & GMT-Master II: A Quick Overview

The 40mm Rolex GMT-Master was first designed as an aviator watch, quickly becoming the official watch of several intercontinental airlines including Pan American World Airways. In the 1950s Rolex develop the GMT-Master in response to the rapidly increasing flying distances traveled by pilots, where the idea was to be able to read different times simultaneously as the pilots traveled through the multiple time zones in a single flight.

The newly-introduced fourth hand permitted the display of an additional time, with the corresponding number markings on the outer bezel. Pilots used the second time to display the Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), which led Rolex to the name this special luxury watch the GMT-Master. Even though the Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) was replaced in 1972 to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) by the Aviation Industry, the term GMT is still known and kept as part of the name of the Rolex GMT-Master.

GMT-Master II

The second generation known as the GMT-Master II was introduced in the early 1980s, featuring a quick-set movement upgrade and new metal options. While is was designed primarily for a professional purpose, the GMT-Master and its successor had gained popularity for not only its function but design, as well. I appreciate the fact that its quite similar to the Submariner Date - a Rolex parallel symbolizing the dark depths and height of where great men explore the world.

Today’s GMT-Master II still captures the spirit of the original GMT-Master, but instead with increased reliability and durability. The 3186 movement features the Parachrom hairspring to offer better resistance to shocks and temperature variations to ensure more reliable timekeeping; advancements with the construction of the watch itself not only modernized the aesthetics but offered greater durability and convenience.  


The bezel is the highlight of the GMT-Masters, coordinating with the 24-hour hand to allow wears to read a third time zone. It is bidirectional - rotating either way - and is a feature only also seen on the Yacht-Master collections.

Over the years, the numbered metal “inserts” that were placed into the steal casing of the bezel would easily become worn, scratch, or faded from sun and the elements. As a remedy Rolex introduced the Cerachrom (ceramic) bezel insert in 2005 and started inscribing the numerals and graduations directly, boasting that each bezel requires 40 hours to produce. An extremely hard material, the Cerachrom bezel is significantly more durable by being nearly scratchproof and unaffected by sunlight or water, keeping the colors vibrant over time.


Like other professional watches, the GMT-Master II was designed for those that travel, explore, or even simply active in their every day lives. Rolex recently designed the Easylink for such individuals, understanding that an increase in physical activity, altitude, or temperature can cause your wrist to expand. You’d only need a few millimeters to make the size your Rolex more comfortable and the Easylink extension system hidden within the clasp allows the wearer to add (and then subsequently remove) said millimeters themselves within a few seconds.

Brimming with function, beautiful design, and spirit, the GMT-Masters are a must-have for any Rolex collection.


For vintage pieces to today’s models, check out Watch Chest’s collection!

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