Rolex GMT Master history began as an aviator’s watch, developed in cooperation with Pan Am. Since flying distances were increasing in the 40's and 50's, pilots were traveling through multiple time zones fairly regularly. They wanted a watch that would tell them the time in multiple zones at once, so Rolex added a fourth hand and placed the corresponding hour markers on the outer bezel, which became known as the GMT Master Ref. 6542. The name “GMT” came from Greenwich Mean Time, the zone that pilots typically used the second hour hand to display. When the watch was launched in 1954, it was basically a modification of the regular Turn-O-Graph with a new bezel and movement. The history of the Rolex GMT Master is rich with stories of pilots who used this model to assist them in their travels. At first, the Ref. 6542 had a luminous Bakelite bezel insert, but due to its fragility, Rolex replaced it with a metal bezel in 1956. In the 1964 James Bond movie “Goldfinger,” the character Pussy Galore wore a Ref. 6542, earning the watch its nickname. The history of Rolex GMT Master II begins in the 1980's. Like the GMT Master, it too was made with pilots in mind. The GMT Master II features a 24-hour hand that is very useful to international travelers. Rolex GMT Master and Rolex GMT Master II history is full of aviation and international travels.
From 1959 to 1980, Rolex produced the GMT Master as Ref. 1675. For the first five years, the watch was Caliber 1565 and had a gloss dial and thin case. Beginning in 1965, however, the Caliber was 1575, and the dial was matte with white printing. Another development over time was in the size of the GMT hand, which Rolex increased in the late 60's. In 1981, the Ref. 16750 introduced the quickset feature, and this model was produced until 1988. The Ref. 16760 premiered in 1983 as the first GMT Master II. Because of its extra thick case, it is also known as the Fat Lady. The watch was only offered in steel with a red/black bezel, and the crown guards were extra large.
In 1988, the new Rolex GMT Master was introduced: Ref. 16700. New to this watch were the sapphire crystal, the white gold indices, and a new case. Once again, the watch was only available in stainless steel, but this time the bezel colors were either blue/red or black. At the same time, the new version of the GMT Master II, Ref. 16710, was introduced. This watch featured a slimmer design than the previous model and was available in three different bezels: red/black (aka "Coke"), blue/red (aka "Pepsi") and black. Currently in production, Rolex has the Ref. 116710, which is the latest version (production began in 2007) of the GMT Master II. (The reign of the GMT Master ended with the Ref. 16700 in 1999.) This GMT Master II is completely redesigned, featuring a triplock crown, anti-reflective cyclops lens, green 24-hour hand, maxi dial, ceramic bezel, a new bracelet, a new movement, and a ROLEX engraving on the inner bezel ring. No doubt, we are sure to see an even more updated version of this successful watch in Rolex’s future.
Video: Rolex GMT-Master History
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