Evolution Of An Icon


Photo of Stuart A. Roosa’s GMT-Master taken during the Apollo 14 mission, accompanied by a message from the astronaut. photos: Rolex

Described as the ultimate cosmopolitan watch, Rolex Oyster Perpetual GMT-Master II, the successor to the GMT-Master launched in 1955, is designed for professionals criss-crossing the globe.

It has come to epitomise the aeronautical watch, accompanying many groundbreaking aviation achievements, triumphing elsewhere as well, on the wrists of globetrotters, explorers and adventurers.

Thanks to its dedicated 24-hour hand and emblematic graduated rotatable bezel, the watch displays a second time zone in addition to the local time shown by the conventional hour, minute and seconds hands.

In so doing, it allows each wearer, wherever they may be, to strengthen their connection with their own personal “somewhere out there”, be it memories, plans, experiences or future journeys.

Rolex advertisement celebrating the first non-stop transatlantic flight from New York to Moscow operated by Pan Am, during which the captain, C. N. Warren, wore a GMT-Master.Rolex advertisement celebrating the first non-stop transatlantic flight from New York to Moscow operated by Pan Am, during which the captain, C. N. Warren, wore a GMT-Master.

A true “tool watch”, the GMT-Master II is instantly recognisable for its distinguishing features.

It includes an additional large, triangle-tipped hand that circles the dial in 24 hours. This hand points to the 24-hour graduation on the rotatable bezel, which, at the model’s launch, was two-coloured to distinguish between the hours of day and night: red for daytime and blue for nighttime.

By setting the bezel, the watch could simultaneously display a second time zone, allowing the wearer to see the time in two different parts of the world at a glance.

Following on from the watches in 18 ct yellow gold and the yellow Rolesor variants presented in 2023, Rolex has launched two new versions of the GMT-Master II in 2024.

Made of Oystersteel, they offer more discreet colour tones, subtly revealing their personality by way of a green 24-hour hand.

One fitted with an Oyster bracelet and the other sporting a Jubilee bracelet, these two new watches perpetuate the legend of the GMT-Master, expanding a range that now comprises multiple configurations.

Both feature a 24-hour graduated two-colour Cerachrom bezel insert in grey and black ceramic – introduced last year – whose graduation is clearly visible thanks to an innovative patented process developed by Rolex.

The black lacquer dial bears the inscription “GMT-Master II” in green, echoing the colour of the triangle-tipped 24-hour hand – an element that features strongly in the model’s design.

Driving the watch is the calibre 3285, a movement at the forefront of watchmaking technology which enables it to display the date and an additional time zone in 24-hour format, as well as the hours, minutes and seconds.

Like all Rolex watches, it carries the Superlative Chronometer certification, which ensures excellent performance on the wrist.

Tiger Woods, golf champion and Rolex Testimonee, with a yellow Rolesor version of the GMT-Master II fitted with a black Cerachrom bezel insert in black ceramic.Tiger Woods, golf champion and Rolex Testimonee, with a yellow Rolesor version of the GMT-Master II fitted with a black Cerachrom bezel insert in black ceramic.

Timeline of a chronometer

In 1955, Rolex launched the GMT-Master in a rapidly-changing world, where civil aviation made it possible for people to cross oceans and continents non-stop.

With its dedicated 24-hour hand and graduated, rotatable two-colour bezel, the GMT-Master enabled all those who constantly travelled in different time zones to know the time in two time zones at a glance.

In the 1960s, booming economic growth meant that the aeroplane was becoming an essential means of travel and transportation, and at the start of this crucial decade in aviation history, Rolex signed a partnership with Pan American World Airways.

The year 1959 marked a milestone for Rolex, when the GMT-Master became the official watch of the most prominent American intercontinental airline at the time.

Pan Am pilots were equipped with GMT-Master watches and appeared in advertisements for Rolex, helping to make the model an emblem of the aeronautical world.

Also in 1959, the 24-hour graduated bezel insert, previously made of Plexiglas, is now produced in anodised aluminium to make its surface more durable, and a winding crown guard was added as an integral part of the middle case.

In 1982, Rolex introduced a new movement that allowed the hour hand to be adjusted independently of the minute hand and 24-hour hand.

Left to right: GMT-Master II, Oystersteel, grey and black Cerachrombezel insert, 2024, ref. 126710; GMT-Master II, 18 ct yellow gold, greyand black Cerachrom bezel insert, 2023, ref. 126718; and GMT-Master, yellow Rolesor version, golden and brown bezel insert, 1979,ref. 16753.Left to right: GMT-Master II, Oystersteel, grey and black Cerachrombezel insert, 2024, ref. 126710; GMT-Master II, 18 ct yellow gold, greyand black Cerachrom bezel insert, 2023, ref. 126718; and GMT-Master, yellow Rolesor version, golden and brown bezel insert, 1979,ref. 16753.

By pulling the winding crown out to the first notch and turning it in either direction, the hour hand “jumps” forward or backward in increments of one hour, therefore allowing it to be set to a new time zone without affecting any of its other functions.

The introduction of the first bezel insert made of ceramic on a Rolex watch in 2005 marked another milestone for the model.

This high-technology ceramic is extremely hard, virtually scratchproof and its colour is unaffected by ultraviolet rays, and thanks to its chemical composition, it is inert and cannot corrode.

Initially entirely black, this component was subsequently produced in various two-tone combinations, immortalising the iconic design of the original GMT-Master.

(left) GMT-Master, 18 ct yellow gold, brown Plexiglas insert, 1957, ref. 6542 and GMT-Master, stainless steel, red and blue Plexiglas insert, 1955, ref. 6542.(left) GMT-Master, 18 ct yellow gold, brown Plexiglas insert, 1957, ref. 6542 and GMT-Master, stainless steel, red and blue Plexiglas insert, 1955, ref. 6542.

The bezel insert in ceramic – named Cerachrom in 2008 – confirmed Rolex’s place at the cutting edge of innovation for research and development into high-tech ceramic components.

In 2013, the first two-colour monobloc Cerachrom insert was unveiled – in blue and black, representing a triumph of engineering and applied research.

The following year, Rolex presented a red and blue Cerachrom insert – a nod to the original watch – which was a technical tour de force, as these two tints are extremely difficult to obtain on a single ceramic component.

In 2022, a new interpretation of the GMT-Master II was introduced, possessing a green and black Cerachrom insert which stood apart from others in the range for having its winding crown on the left side of the case, with its date window uniquely placed at 9 o’clock.

Follow us on our official WhatsApp channel for breaking news alerts and key updates!
   

Next In Style

Serving up style: Celebrity fashion moments at this year's Wimbledon
Will these spray-on sneakers crafted by a robot arm become an Olympic star?
Now that Burberry has a new CEO, how will it affect the fashion brand?
Why are men wearing this fashion brand if they are not the intended audience?
Big and beautiful: Tote bags are a trendy accessory for your everyday needs
80-year-old bag made for hauling ice is now a fashion staple
Want to hide signs of tiredness with makeup? Try bronzer instead of concealer
Eyewear giant EssilorLuxottica buys streetwear brand Supreme for RM7bil
'Still incredibly ambitious': Victoria Beckham on staying her course in fashion
Minimal upkeep, enhancing natural curls, short chops: 2024’s popular hair trends

Others Also Read