The Rolex GMT-Master is an icon in the world of watches. It has been reliably displaying two time zones to pilots and globetrotters for over 60 years. Collectors and fans cannot get enough of this watch, making it a safe investment for years to come.
5 Reasons to Buy a Rolex GMT-Master
- Top luxury watch with a second time zone
- Desirable models are very likely to appreciate in value
- Bidirectional bezel with a 24-hour scale
- In-house caliber with chronometer accuracy
- Available in stainless steel, solid gold, or stainless steel and gold (bicolor)
Two Times Zones for Pilots, Businesspeople, and Leaders
Originally developed for pilots and produced until 1999, the Rolex
GMT-Master has become an icon. Like its fellow Rolex siblings, the Submariner
, this watch with GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) functionality is one of the most highly sought-after collector's watches worldwide. Notable characteristics include a second hour hand, which makes a full rotation once a day, and a bidirectional, 24-hour bezel. With the help of these extra components, you can view the time in two time zones simultaneously. This feature makes the watch perfect for businesspeople, politicians, and pilots traveling long distances across time zones.
The GMT-Master made its film premiere in 1964 in the James Bond film Goldfinger. Pilot Pussy Galore, played by actress Honor Blackman, wears the watch in many scenes, including one in the cockpit and while kissing Agent Bond. Actor Tom Selleck, famous for his role in the TV series Magnum, P.I., also had a GMT-Master. The watch is easy to identify with its blue/red bezel, earning it the nickname "Pepsi."
Jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie also wore a version of this watch.
The former leader of Cuba, Fidel Castro, was a Rolex fan as well. He was wearing a Submariner when he seized power in 1959 and later added a Day-Date
to his collection. He had a variety of GMT-Master models, including the watch with reference number 6542
without a crown guard as well as the reference number 1675
with a crown guard and black bezel. Rolex was founded in 1905 by Hans Wilsdorf and remains one of the most famous and successful independent Swiss watch manufacturers to this day.
How much does a Rolex GMT-Master cost?
||Period of Production
You can purchase a pre-owned Rolex GMT-Master for as little as 7,400 USD. Early models from the 1950s with the reference number 6542 are extremely rare, thus making them highly coveted and expensive. Prices vary greatly depending on the watch's condition and history and can range anywhere from 30,800 to 123,300 USD. The successor model, ref. 1675, was in production for about 20 years and is much easier to find. Set aside around 15,000 USD for a Rolex GMT-Master with this reference number. In the last five years, prices for the ref. 1675 have risen drastically. Watches from the 1980s and 1990s are the least expensive. A stainless steel Rolex GMT-Master with the reference number 16700 can be found for less than 8,600 USD, for example. Its predecessor (ref. 16750) costs closer to 11,100 USD since it was only produced in the 80s and is much harder to come by.
Is the Rolex GMT-Master II more expensive than the GMT-Master?
The Rolex GMT-Master II has a practical feature not found on "normal" GMT-Masters: Its hour hand can be set independent of the other hands. This makes setting the local time much easier and makes it possible to display a third time zone. Even so, the GMT-Master II is not necessarily more expensive. You can buy a first generation model from the 80s, also known as the "Fat Lady" (ref. 16760), for around 9,900 USD. At about 9,000 USD, its successor with the reference number 16710 is even less expensive. The current Rolex GMT-Master II with a black ceramic bezel and the reference number 116710LN goes for a relatively affordable 8,400 USD pre-owned and almost 9,600 USD in mint condition. The value of these watches has remained stable over time.
The so-called "Rolex Batman
" with a blue and black bezel and the reference number 116710BLNR
is one of the most hotly sought-after GMT-Master models. Never-worn examples cost almost 11,000 USD, which is above the list price. In fact, this stainless steel watch is so popular that long wait times are par for the course when buying from offline retailers. A highlight of the current collection is the "Pepsi" version, which is listed under the reference numbers 116719BLRO (white gold) and 126710BLRO (stainless steel)
. The latter was first announced at Baselworld 2018 with a Jubilee bracelet, the caliber 3285, and a list price of 9,200 USD. Expect to pay around 32,600 USD for the white gold model. Pre-owned pieces cost about 2,500 USD less. Considering this model of the Rolex Pepsi has a list price of almost 43,200 USD, you can get quite a good deal shopping on Chrono24 and will save almost 25% off the official list price. The version in 18-karat yellow gold only costs 28,000 USD, though it features a black bezel with gold markers. The list price for this model comes in at over 36,900 USD.
The bicolor editions in stainless steel and 18-karat gold are only slightly more expensive than the stainless steel models. They are truly a good bargain, considering how much watch you get for the money. You can purchase a never-worn Rolex GMT-Master II ref. 116713LN for 12,100 USD, while a pre-owned model costs only 10,700 USD. Those who like a bit of 80s style will find the perfect companion in one of these stainless steel and gold bicolor watches.
Which Rolex GMT-Master should I buy?
Originally, the Rolex GMT-Master was geared toward pilots and frequent travelers who needed to keep an eye on multiple time zones. Today, anyone who likes this luxury watch can indulge themselves. Your profession or intended use for the watch no longer plays a major role. At the same time, every Rolex watch is an expression of taste, prestige, and success. Thanks to its recognizability and the brand's fame, everyone will know what an extraordinary watch you are wearing at a glance. Since they are no longer in production, the original GMT-Master is especially attractive for lovers of vintage Rolex watches.
If you would prefer a current model and aren't looking to split hairs over the details, the GMT-Master II is a great choice. This watch offers excellent quality, functionality, and exceptional precision, all at a fair price. The beloved three-hand Rolex Submariner without a date display costs only 1,200 USD less than the current GMT-Master II in stainless steel with a black bezel.
Made for Pan Am Pilots
The GMT-Master has been on the arms of pilots and world travelers for over 60 years. Its story began in 1955, when Rolex introduced the four-handed timepiece for the first time. Rolex had received a request from Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) to develop a watch with a second time zone. Pan Am made the GMT-Master their official watch. Flight crews received models with black dials, while the ground staff's watches had white dials.
Rolex had already designed a watch featuring 24 time zones all the way back in the mid-1940s. However, for the first GMT-Master with the reference number 6542, they stuck to a two-time-zone construction, as requested by Pan Am. This resulted in a tidy and unmistakable watch. What was its trick? An additional hour hand made one full rotation per day and pointed to the corresponding time on a 24-hour bezel. The bezel could be set so that the red 24-hour hand displayed the current time back home.
A Variety of Designs: Various Bezels and Other Features
The bezel was first available in blue/red and nicknamed the "Pepsi Watch" in reference to the American beverage company. Later, Rolex also began producing black/red ("Coke") and all-black versions. The bicolor bezel symbolizes day (red) and night (blue or black). This allowed, for example, Fidel Castro to know if his brother Raúl was sleeping or at his desk in Havana while he was visiting Moscow. The three central hands for hours, minutes, and seconds displayed the local time.
The first versions of the GMT-Master had plastic bezels. They featured a Bakelite inlay, a plastic developed by Leo Handrik Baekeland. Rolex used this material to minimize reflection. However, it could not adequately withstand the strains and temperatures of the cockpit. Therefore, it was soon replaced with an aluminum inlay. Models with Bakelite bezels are incredibly rare and treasured by collectors.
Like the Submariner from 1953, the first editions of the GMT-Master did not feature a crown guard. The Cyclops lens for the date display was optional, and the watch was waterproof to 50 m (164 ft). In 1960, the second generation of the GMT-Master with reference number 1675 replaced the first. The newer models can be identified by their crown guards and larger bezels.
The watch with reference number 16750 replaced the 1675 series in 1981. With this new model, Rolex began using their new in-house caliber 3075, replacing the previous 1565 and 1575 calibers. Since Rolex only produced this reference number until 1988, it's a very rare watch and popular amongst collectors. Scratch-resistant sapphire glass replaced Plexiglass, which amassed scratches quickly. From then on, they used the reference number 16700, powered by the caliber 3175. Towards the end of the 1990s, Rolex began using Superluminova instead of tritium to illuminate their watches. A short time later, the company ended production of the GMT-Master. Since then, they have exclusively produced the GMT-Master II.
GMT-Master II: The Fat Lady
The GMT-Master II joined the Rolex family in the early 1980s. The watch with reference number 16760
featured sapphire glass and a red/black bezel, which gave it its nickname: Rolex Coke
. Its new caliber, the 3085, was also notable. This movement allows the wearer to independently set the hour hand when the crown is pulled out halfway. In this crown position, the wearer can also set the date. The minute hand and second 24-hour hand can be set when the crown is pulled out completely. Previously, moving the bezel in both directions was the only way to set the time back home, for example. Due to its large, thick case, the watch earned the nickname "Fat Lady."
As the first GMT-Master II, the watch is very popular with collectors.
The watch was refined in 2007, though the design remained faithful to the classic Rolex look. This dedication to classic aesthetics is part of their key to success. One of the most obvious changes was the black ceramic bezel. In comparison to the metal bezel used on earlier models, it is much more scratch resistant.
In 2013, Rolex reintroduced bicolor black/blue models. Another new detail was the Triplock winding crown with three sealed zones to improve water resistance. The Rolex caliber 3186 now powers the watch. Like all Rolex automatic movements, the 3186 meets the criteria set by the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC). The movement features a blue Parachrom hairspring made from a zirconium-niobium alloy, a typical Rolex characteristic. It's unaffected by magnetic fields and is much more resistant to temperature variations and shocks than normal hairsprings. Thanks to the spring's upraised last coil and reduced curvature, the so-called Breguet overcoil, it can 'breathe' more freely, improving the watch's precision. High-precision regulation occurs via Microstella nuts on the balance rim instead of a regulator – another typical Rolex characteristic.
- Introduced in the early 1980s
- Caliber 3186 with non-magnetic Parachrom hairspring and Breguet overcoil
- Reference number 16760 with caliber 3085 and sapphire glass ("Fat Lady")
- Featuring a scratch-resistant Cerachrom bezel in ceramic and Triplock winding crown since 2007
"Eye of the Tiger," "Nipple Dial," or "Root Beer"
In addition to the stainless steel GMT-Master, Rolex also offers versions in white or yellow gold as well as in a bicolor gold and stainless steel design. Nicknames like "Eye of the Tiger," "Nipple Dial," and "Root Beer," reference distinctive features in certain models. Models with gold/brown bezels and brown dials are known as "Root Beer" or "Eye of the Tiger." Watches nicknamed "Nipple Dial" have raised, gold indices filled with tritium.
From Service Watch to Icon
The GMT-Master has been accompanying pilots on their trips around the world for over 60 years. It was improved upon by the GMT-Master II, which has been available since the 1980s. Rolex originally developed this watch with a second time zone for the US airline Pan Am and their personnel. The watch's functionality, precision, and reliability also impressed many NASA astronauts. A few of them wore GMT-Masters on their Apollo missions, although the Omega Speedmaster Professional
is the agency's official watch. The GMT-Master has developed into a coveted collector's item over the years, and Rolex watches are generally stable investments
. Celebrities and heads of state have contributed to the watch's reputation and raised it to cult status.