The first GMT-Master was presented by Rolex in 1954, in response to a Pan American Airways tender. “Pan Am, the world’s largest airline at the time, was looking for a watch for its pilots that could display at least two time zones simultaneously.
Rolex GMT-Master History
In the age of transcontinental flights, it became the norm to quickly cross different time zones. It was of course important for the pilots to keep an eye on the time from both the departure and destination airports. With the additional hour hand, which surrounds the dial once a day, and the 24-hour bezel, Rolex met this requirement with the GMT-Master (whose name is of course derived from the Western European time zone”Greenwich Mean Time”), making it the official watch at Pan Am.
A very special event for aviation and watch took place in 1959. For the first time a Pan Am Jet flew the route New York-Moscow without a stopover. The GMT-Master served the pilot during the whole flight as a navigation aid. It is not unusual to claim that the characteristic red-blue bezel is inspired by the colours of the legendary airline. Officially, however, the colour separation is intended to clarify the time of day and night.
Around 1985, Rolex introduced the successor to the legendary pilot’s watch, the GMT-Master 2, whose numerous innovations were largely adopted by the”old model”, but whose production was not discontinued until almost 15 years later.
The new model was now equipped with sapphire crystal and a double-sided rotating bezel with 120´er latching, of course in the colours black and red. Above all, the GMT-Master 2 was driven by the new Caliber 3085, which now enabled the display of a further time zone by means of an independently adjustable hour hand. Numerous changes have been made over the years, including the single-coloured black bezel for a more elegant version. At the beginning the turning bezel of the GMT-Master was still made of bakelite, but for stability reasons it was quickly changed to aluminium.
The current models
After a long period of development, Rolex introduced ceramic as the material for the bezels in 2005. The new high-tech bezel was presented for the first time at the GMT-Master 2 in yellow gold, which was presented this year.
For eight years, however, the ceramic bezel was only used in black until “Batman”, the new stainless steel version with a black-blue rotating ring, was introduced at Baselworld 2013. Only one year later, the white gold version follows, with which the traditional blue-red “Pepsi” bezel has now arrived in the ceramic age.
At Baselworld 2018, Rolex will land the next major coup with the model. Several new variants of the GMT-Master 2 are presented, now also in Everose Gold, with black-brown bezel. But the real hit is the new “Pepsi”. The classic is now finally available again in stainless steel, but with a striking change: the new Reference 126710BLRO is offered exclusively in combination with the more elegant Jubilee bracelet.
Another innovation, however, is much more far-reaching. Rolex has now developed a completely new movement for the model, the Caliber 3285. The significantly increased power reserve (70 instead of 48 hours) is one of the improvements to its predecessor, the Caliber 3186, which is still used in the older models.
The stainless steel version of the GMT-Master 2 with blue-black bezel cost 7,200 Euros at its launch in 2013, meanwhile it is 8,250 Euros. The white gold version was 31,500 at the beginning and cost an impressive 34,800 at the end. With the new Everose-Gold model it has interestingly become cheaper again, both now cost 33,900Euros. The new “Pepsi” with Jubilee band is currently at 8,550.
This video offers a nice comparison of old and new GMT-Master models:
Continuously updated article, originally posted in August 2018