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The History of the Rolex GMT-Master

April 5, 2019

BY Paul Altieri


The Rolex GMT-Master is the hottest watch in the world right now. While the stainless steel “Pepsi” GMT-Master II ref. 126710 BLRO retails for $9,250 and was released more than a year ago, the watch still has waitlists that span several years at most authorized retailers. Nearly all Rolex GMT watches are currently selling for significantly more than their original retail prices, and certain well-preserved vintage examples have been known to break the six-figure price point at auction. So, where did it all begin?

Rolex GMT

Rolex GMT History

The history of the Rolex GMT-Master dates back to 1954, when Pan Am Airlines approached Rolex about a watch that their pilots could use on long-haul flights to simultaneously track multiple time zones. Building upon the design of their existing ref. 6202 Turn-O-Graph, Rolex added a fourth 24-hour hand and fitted the rotating bezel with an insert that featured a 24-hour scale. This first GMT-Master was dubbed the ref. 6542, and although its design was relatively simple, it was highly effective and allowed users to reference a secondary time zone by simply rotating the bezel and reading the corresponding time against the 24-hour hand.

Rolex GMT

The split-color bezel was initially intended to serve as a quick reference for daylight vs. nighttime hours, and red and blue were selected as they were the company colors of Pan Am Airlines. Although the Rolex GMT-Master was originally created to meet a very specific need, its practical features and robust build quality have made it a popular favorite among both collectors and enthusiasts. For over half a century, the GMT-Master has been a cornerstone offering in the Rolex catalog, and today it is considered to be one of the most highly-regarded and desirable watches in the entire world.

For the complete history of this legendary traveler’s watch, check out our Rolex GMT-Master history page and be sure to watch the accompanying video, where we go over the entire history of the Rolex GMT, from its inception in the 1950s, all the way through its most recent updates from Baselworld 2019.

Rolex GMT



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