A close-up of the gorgeous Rolex “Fat Lady”
Rolex’s famed pilot’s watch, the GMT-Master, was first launched in 1953 as a way for Pan Am pilots to keep track of two time zones simultaneously as they flew to their multiple destinations. The GMT-Master was a milestone piece in the brand’s history and in the 1980s Rolex wrote the second chapter of that story by introducing the GMT-Master II series. Here we take a look at the vintage GMT-Master II 16760 and the number of “firsts” it presented with its debut.
Rolex’s famed pilot’s watch, the GMT-Master, was first launched in 1953.
1. The Rolex ref. 16760 was the first GMT-Master II
Introduced in 1983, the ref. 16760 was the first of the new GMT-Master II collection. In terms of design, the GMT-Master II 16760 sported a thicker case, a wider bezel, and larger crown guards than its predecessors. These design details led to the ref. 16760’s famous nickname, the “Fat Lady”. The ref. 16760 is also sometimes called the “Sophia Loren” drawing comparisons between the new curves of the watch and the Italian beauty. The Rolex GMT-Master II 16760 was in production until 1988 and was only ever crafted in stainless steel with a red and black bezel.
The ref. 16760 was the first of the new GMT-Master II collection.
2. The GMT-Master II 16760 debuted the “Coke” bezel
A notable difference in the first GMT-Master II over the previous GMT-Master watches was its black and red bezel. This was the first time Rolex used that color combination on the bi-directional bezel and it quickly gained the nickname “Coke” — perfectly complementing the other drink inspired monikers “Pepsi” (blue and red) and “Root Beer” (brown and gold). Not only are bi-colored bezels aesthetically pleasing and make the watch instantly recognizable as a Rolex GMT-Master, but they also serve a practical function by allowing the wearer to differentiate between day and night hours when reading the 24-hour hand.
Serve a practical function by allowing the wearer to differentiate between day and night hours
3. The Rolex ref. 16760 was the first GMT-Master to use sapphire crystal
Prior to the ref. 16760, GMT-Masters were protected with acrylic crystal. The first GMT-Master II was inaugurated with a sapphire crystal instead, which makes for a more scratch resistant timepiece. Of course, the iconic Cyclops lens remained on the crystal to magnify the date window at 3 o’clock. Today, all Rolex watches use sapphire crystal.
GMT-Masters were protected with acrylic crystal.
4. The Rolex ref. 16760 was the first GMT-Master to use white gold on the dial
New to the dial of the GMT-Master II 16760 was the use of 18k white gold around the luminous hour-markers. This was done to prevent tarnishing on the dial in an effort to maintain the watch’s beauty for as long as possible. Today, all Rolex watches are made using 18k gold to surround the indexes.
New to the dial of the GMT-Master II 16760 was the use of 18k white gold around the luminous hour-markers.
5. The Rolex ref. 16760 was the first GMT-Master to have an independent center hour hand
When it was unveiled, the GMT-Master II 16760 was powered by the new Rolex Caliber 3085. The new generation automatic mechanical movement from Rolex allowed the center hour hand to be set independently from the arrow-tipped 24-hour hand, thus also independently from the minute and seconds hand. Therefore, when travelers arrived to a new destination they could easily set the watch to the local time by having the center hour hand “jump” from hour to hour (forward or backward) autonomously from the minute and seconds hand, thus maintaining the precise time.
The GMT-Master II 16760 was powered by the new Rolex Caliber 3085.
Armed with these five “firsts”, the GMT-Master II ref. 16760 is undoubtedly an important watch within the Rolex archives. To own the Rolex is to have a significant piece of Rolex history as part of your private watch collection.