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ROLEX BLOG

The Abridged History of the GMT-Master

October 25, 2018

BY Paul Altieri

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First introduced in 1954, the GMT-Master II (reference 6542) was developed specifically for Pan-Am Airlines, after the company requested a reliable watch that could display more than one time zone at once (for use on transatlantic flights).

1963 Rolex GMT Master Pan Am

1963 Rolex GMT Master Pan Am

Rolex was able to answer Airlines’ request for a dual time zone display with the GMT-Master line of watches. With the addition of a 24-hour hand and rotating bezel with 24-hour markings, pilots could quickly reference another time zone by simply turning the bezel and using the 24-hour hand for reference.

Rolex GMT-Masters II ref. 116719 BLRO

Rolex GMT-Masters II ref. 116719 BLRO

Rolex’s GMT-Master started an entire class of multi-time zone watches, which has become a cornerstone offering in the luxury watch industry. A clear reference to Greenwich Mean Time (the prime basis of standard time used throughout the world), the GMT-Master name serves as an ever-present reminder that the watch was designed for long distance travel.

Rolex GMT-Master Root Beer

Rolex GMT-Master Root Beer

Although simple in execution, the GMT-Master was an instant success, and soon pilots and travelers alike we’re purchasing the watch for its dual time zone capabilities. While it is still a highly popular watch among commercial airline pilots, the Rolex GMT-Master has found a home on many wrists of the general traveling public.

The latest incarnation of Rolex’s multi-time zone watch, the GMT-Master II is powered by Rolex’s caliber 3285 movement, which allows for independent setting of the hour hand from the GMT hand. This feature, in conjunction with the rotating 24-hour bezel, allows users to simultaneously reference three different time zones without having to make a single adjustment to their watch.

Rolex-GMT-Master-II-16760-Fat-Lady

Rolex GMT-Master II ref. 16760

Additionally, the latest rendition of the GMT-Master II utilizes a redesigned case that is shared by Rolex’s Submariner line of watches. The most notable addition that accompanies the new case is the large, Triplock winding crown with three gaskets for improved water resistance.

Vintage Rolex GMT-Master 16700 Tiffany & Co. Dial

Vintage Rolex GMT-Master 16700 Tiffany & Co. Dial

Beyond the redesigned case and upgraded movement, the latest generation of GMT-Master II 126710 features Rolex’s Cerachrom ceramic bezel insert, which is impervious to scratches and will not fade over time from to exposure to salt water and ultraviolet sunlight, along with their ever-popular Jubilee bracelet.

The brand new GMT-Master II debuted at Baselworld 2018

The brand new GMT-Master II debuted at Baselworld 2018

Although the GMT-Master was originally designed for professional airplane pilots, it has found a strong following with a wide range of individuals whose lifestyles (or aesthetic preferences) require a watch capable of simultaneously displaying multiple time zones. Additionally, with 100 meters of water resistance and a virtually scratchproof bezel insert, the contemporary GMT-Master II makes the perfect travel companion, even though the most demanding conditions.

For those that frequently travel, there is arguably no better watch than the Rolex GMT-Master. As the watch that pioneered the entire multi-time zone sports watch genre, the Rolex GMT-Master (both contemporary and vintage references) is a fantastic option with one of the finest pedigrees in the world of luxury timepieces.

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