The Rolex GMT-Master series is more than just a tool watch. It’s a horology icon that evokes a sense of nostalgia just by looking at it. While it proves a handy tool for pilots and other globetrotters, it has since become a coveted collector’s item among watch enthusiasts of all walks of life.
Part of its immense appeal lies in the timeless design of the GMT-Master, which later evolved into the subject of this guide, the Rolex GMT-Master II. Collectors adore the GMT series because it continues to evolve, staying true to its core design while simultaneously featuring many of the brand’s most advanced and modern technologies like Cerachrom bezels and Chronergy escapements. This ultimate guide will take an in-depth look at the Rolex GMT-Master II, its history, and some of its most notable variations.
Rolex GMT-Master II
GMT-Master II Current Collection Key Features:
Case Size: 40mm
Materials: Stainless steel; Everose Rolesor; 18k Everose Gold; 18k White Gold
Features: Time w/ Running Seconds, Date Display, GMT-Functionality
Dial: Black w/ Luminous Hour Markers; Blue or Meteorite (white gold model only)
Bezel: Bi-Directional, Bi-Color Cerachrom Insert w/ 24-Hour Scale
Movement: Rolex Caliber 3285
Water Resistance: 100 Meters / 330 Feet
Strap/Bracelet: Oyster Bracelet (gold and two-tone models); Jubilee Bracelet (stainless steel models)
Click here to learn how to use your Rolex GMT-Master II.
Rolex GMT-Master II History
The Rolex GMT-Master II is an evolution of the original GMT-Master, which began production in 1955 in the form of the reference 6542. It was developed in collaboration with the Pan American Airway company (Pan Am Airlines) to help pilots and other avid travelers during long flights. Featuring a bi-directional 24-hour bezel and a dedicated arrow-tipped 24-hour hand on the dial, the Rolex GMT-Master allowed wearers to quickly read both home time and local time simultaneously.
The GMT-Master enjoyed an impressive production run that continued until 1999, overlapping with its successor, the Rolex GMT-Master II. The first GMT-Master II took the market by storm in 1982 as the “Fat Lady” (or “Sophia Loren”) ref. 16760, honoring its predecessor’s core aesthetic while bringing also fresh and modern design elements such as a sapphire crystal and a red and black “Coke” bezel insert.
Cosmetic updates aside, the most noteworthy update to accompany the GMT-Master II series was a movement with independently adjustable hour hands. With this upgrade, the wearer can adjust the 12-hour hand without disturbing the 24-hour hand, permitting the display of two different timezones with the dial alone, and freeing up the bezel for quick access to a third. This more advanced movement also initially required a fatter case, which ultimately led to its various nicknames.
Modern Rolex GMT-Master II Watches
It didn’t take Rolex long to refine the GMT-Master II to offer a sleeker case and higher-beat movement with the ref. 16710. Largely following the design of its predecessor, this model proved to be an immense success and remained in production until the mid-2000s when Rolex started to roll out the modern, 6-digit GMT-Master II series.
It was at this time that the GMT-Master II received a completely redesigned case with a more resistant Triplock winding crown, broader lugs, and larger crown guards. On the wrist, the case appears slightly larger than its 40mm diameter might suggest, earning it the “Super Case” nickname that you frequently hear in collecting circles.
The 6-digit series also marked the GMT-Master II’s transition from aluminum bezels to Cerachrom – a tough and proprietary ceramic material that is virtually scratch-resistant and impervious to the fading effects of UV light. The bezel mounting also received an upgrade, operating on 24 clicks instead of 120 to better correspond with its 24-hour scale.
Another defining feature of the GMT-Master II’s modern makeover was its Maxi dial. As its name would suggest, the hour markers and hands are noticeably larger than the non-Maxi dials that preceded it. Several short years after the GMT-Master II received its major overhaul, Rolex invented Chromalight – a proprietary luminous material that glows brilliant blue in the dark and remains crisp white during the day.
The split-color bezel has been a fixture of the GMT-Master series since the inaugural model from 1955. However, it wasn’t until the “Batman” reference 116710BLNR hit the market in 2013 with a rich black and blue insert that the iconic bi-color bezel became available in ceramic. Previously thought to be too difficult to reliably produce on a commercial scale, Rolex perfected the method of creating a single piece of Cerachrom with two different colors that meet in a crisp, flawless line.
The beloved Pepsi bezel, with its iconic blue and red insert, followed a year later in the form of the full 18k white gold GMT-Master II ref. 116719BLRO. However, the Batman remained the only stainless steel GMT-Master II to feature a two-tone ceramic bezel for the next several years. That brings us to 2020 and the current iteration of the GMT-Master II – the reference 1267xx series.
While the Caliber 3186 movement that powered the ref. 1167xx was certainly impressive, with a smoother hour hand and integration of the Paramagnetic hairspring, it was ultimately replaced with the Caliber 3285. Holding ten patents, this movement is one of the brand’s most impressive yet. One of the most buzzworthy upgrades included with the Caliber 3285 is the Chronergy escapement, which features a skeletonized structure. This design allows for more efficient operation and a longer 70-hour power reserve.
The Batman and Pepsi GMT-Master II: The Next Generation
The first Batman reference 116710BLNR wore on a flat, 3-link Oyster bracelet. Many Rolex aficionados suspected that the model would soon become available on the five-link Jubilee bracelet. They were proven correct in 2019 when Rolex released the current Oystersteel Batman reference 126710BLNR. While many die-hard Rolex enthusiasts are still quite loyal to the now-discontinued ref. 116710BLNR, the Jubilee edition has been met with great acclaim.
In addition to featuring the new Caliber 3285 Perpetual movement, the current reference 126710 offers a slightly more refined profile on the wrist. The lugs are thinner and less squared-off for a more rounded and fluid appearance, despite retaining the exact same case diameter.
The Pepsi Rolex was the second GMT-Master II to receive a bi-color Cerachrom bezel in the form of the reference 116719BLRO, which made its debut in 2014 in solid white gold. Those who wanted a stainless steel version of the classic Pepsi GMT would have to wait until Baselworld 2018 when the Pepsi GMT-Master II would, once again, become available in stainless steel – this time paired with the Jubilee bracelet in the form of the reference 126710BLRO.
While stainless steel Rolex watches will always be a popular choice for their practicality and comparatively affordable price point, there is something to be said about the current reference 126719BLRO in full 18k white gold. It offers a level of exclusivity that only a solid gold Rolex can provide and represents the ultimately luxury-oriented expression of Rolex’s original pilot’s watch.
How Much Is The Rolex GMT-Master II?
Stainless steel Rolex sports watches are currently in high demand and short supply, with many selling for significantly more than their original retail prices on the pre-owned market. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t still invest in one for a reasonable price.
The beloved GMT-Master II ref. 16710 is relatively affordable, with a price range of around $10k to $13k on the secondary market. While it isn’t the latest reference in production, the ref. 16710 is held in high regard for its classic styling and proportions. Additionally, this long-running model can also be found with either a Pepsi, Coke, or all-black bezel insert.
If you’re in the market for a newer-model GMT-Master II, you can expect to pay around $10k to $15k for the discontinued stainless steel reference 116710LN. As we already mentioned, the current stainless steel ref. 126710 is increasingly difficult to find at authorized retailers with multi-year waiting lists present at most locations. The retail price is $9,700, with prices averaging $15k to $18k on the secondary market. Gold and two-tone Rolex GMT-Master II watches from these generations typically require a bigger investment, with two-tone prices starting around $12k pre-owned and all-gold options commanding as much as $40k.
A Few More of our Favorite GMT-Master II References
We’ve already discussed what makes the modern Batman and Pepsi, along with the ref. 16710 and the “Fat Lady” ref. 16760 so legendary. Now, let’s take a quick look at a few other notable iterations of the Rolex GMT-Master II series.
Rolex GMT-Master II 116710LN
Even with the release of the brand new generation of GMT-Master II watches, the discontinued reference 116710LN is the only stainless steel option available with an all-black ceramic bezel and matching dial. Currently, all of the stainless steel GMT-Master II models are produced with either a Batman or Pepsi insert. Its novelty as a recently discontinued Rolex reference along with its relatively affordable price point compared to its Batman and Pepsi siblings is what makes the black bezel ref. 116710LN so desirable.
Rolex GMT-Master II 126719BLRO – Meteorite Dial
While the stainless steel Pepsi GMT-Master II ref. 126710BLRO is one of the most exciting additions to the series in recent years, it isn’t the only variation of the ceramic Pepsi bezel currently in production and Rolex continues to offer the red and blue bezel in a solid white gold watch. The ref. 126719BLRO mesmerized collectors worldwide when it debuted at Baselworld 2019 with a unique Meteorite dial, the first instance of one on any Rolex GMT watch. The model is also available with a striking midnight blue dial, just like its discontinued predecessor, the reference 116719.
Rolex GMT-Master II 16713 – Serti Dial
Our list wouldn’t be complete without at least one GMT-Master II in steel and gold. One example that stands out is the ref. 16713. It was produced on both the Oyster and the Jubilee bracelet and remained in production until it was replaced by the ceramic bezel reference 116713LN in 2006. With a bevy of options available on the pre-owned Rolex market including some gem-set Serti dials, it isn’t difficult to find the perfect two-tone GMT-Master II at a price point that will fit your style and budget.
Rolex GMT-Master II 126715CHNR
Rolex unveiled the first Everose gold (a proprietary 18k rose gold alloy) GMT-Master II during Baselworld 2018. The ref. 126715CHNR favors warm tones, pairing the polished and satin-finished rose gold case with a Cerachrom bezel in brown and black. It’s a sophisticated watch and one that is on-trend with the rising interest for rose gold luxury timepieces. It’s also a newer GMT-Master II, which means that the reference is equipped with the current-generation Caliber 3285 movement, Chromalight lume, and a Cerachrom bezel insert.