Rolex developed the first GMT Master in conjunction with Pan Am in 1954. As intercontinental travel grew in popularity, pilots needed a watch that could tell time in several time zones at once. The GMT Master was the first wristwatch to do just that. Over the years, the collection’s fame grew due to its unique bezel color schemes, many of which now have quirky nicknames. Then, in 1980, a new era began for the model with the release of the GMT Master II. Buying a Rolex GMT Master watch is the perfect way to start or expand your Rolex collection. Browse our extensive selection of exceptional used Rolex GMT Master watches for sale.
In 1954, Rolex developed the first GMT Master watch. They did so in cooperation with Pan American World Airways specifically to meet the evolving needs of airline pilots. In the 1940s and 50s, intercontinental travel was growing in popularity. As a result, pilots were traveling across multiple time zones more frequently. They needed a watch that could display the time in several time zones at once. This demand inspired Rolex to design the GMT Master. It was the first wristwatch to feature a fourth hand and hour markers on the outer bezel. This served to indicate the time in multiple time zones simultaneously.
The GMT name comes from Greenwich Mean Time, known today as Coordinated Universal Time or UTC. This is the zone that pilots typically use the additional hour hand to display.
The GMT Master’s history begins with the Reference 6542. The original GMT Master was an adaptation of the Datejust Turn-o-Graph. However, it featured a number of updates. This included a new movement, a two-tone bezel to distinguish daytime and nighttime hours, and, of course, the fourth hand. Rolex produced this model until 1959.
The creation of the GMT Master led to the formation of several partnerships between Rolex and the airline industry. The model became the official watch of Pan Am. In addition, it helped them forge work with NASA and the United States Airforce.
Over the years, the wide variety of bezel color palettes has become a signature of the GMT Master. As a result, they have adopted quirky nicknames. The original reference featured a red and blue color scheme – the trademark hues of Pan Am. Since then, this model has been dubbed the Pepsi due to the distinct resemblance to the soda brand’s famous logo. Today, collectors consider this colorway to be the most iconic. In addition, there are a number of other combinations. For example, the two-tone brown and gold bezel is the Root Beer, which first debuted in the 1960s. The black and red bezel, also known as the Coke, first launched in 1989.
The 1980s marked a major moment of change for the GMT Master line. That decade, a new era began for the model with the release of the GMT Master II. A few distinct details differentiate the GMT Master II from the original GMT Master. The GMT Master II features a 24-hour GMT hand, which allows the wearer to read three different time zones. This variation also houses a new movement that has an independent quickset hour hand. This allows the wearer to adjust to the local time without disturbing the second, minute, or 24-hour GMT hand.
While the manufacture of the original GMT Master series ended in 1999, the GMT Master II remains in production today. Since Rolex discontinued the original GMT Master, it’s become popular in the pre-owned market. Particularly special models have gone on to garner a lot of attention at the auction block. For instance, Marlon Brando made the GMT Master Reference 1675 an icon when he wore it in the 1979 film Apocalypse Now. For years, the watch was one of the great lost watches in history. Then, in 2019, the watch was miraculously found in a family dresser. The watch went on to garner nearly 2 million dollars at an auction in New York City.
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