Rolex GMT Master II
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Date GMT Master is part of the Rolex Professional Watch Collection. Designed in collaboration with Pan Am Airways for use by their pilots and navigators, it was launched in 1954.
The Rolex GMT-Master wristwatch was originally designed in collaboration with Pan Am Airways and issued by the airline to their crews on long-haul flights. ("GMT" in the name stands for Greenwich Mean Time). The original GMT Master watch has a 24 hour display fourth hand complication directly linked and displaying the same time zone as the standard time display. This GMT hand was unique at the time as it enabled the crews to set the watch to GMT or another time zone, and using the rotatable 24 hour scale bezel set to the correct offset a second time zone could be read. GMT is the time zone that is required for all aviation planning, weather forecasts, schedules and other paperwork. In addition as Inertial Navigation and Global Positioning System technologies did not yet exist, and aircraft were out of range of normal radio navigation beacons during transoceanic flights, an accurate GMT time source was essential for use with specialist sextants for astronavigation (obtaining geographical position by relative angles of the horizon, the sun and other stars).
The second time zone on the watch also proved a great help to crews for managing jetlag and for communications home when abroad. It is this capability that has made them popular with businessmen and other travellers. They have also been particularly popular with NASA and military pilots and many soldiers and sailors who often require GMT or a second time zone.
In the early 1980s the Rolex GMT-Master II was released (although production of the original version continued alongside it until the late 1990s). Although the watch looks almost identical it uses a movement that has the additional capability of an independently adjustable quickset hour hand that can be adjusted to local time without stopping the seconds or disturbing the minutes and 24 hour GMT hand. As the watch continues to feature the rotatable bezel it is able to quickly compute any third time zone reference.
The GMT 24 hour hand feature has been adopted by many other watch manufacturers; however nearly all of these watches use a movement that is operated slightly differently from the Rolex GMT-Master II design (the 24 hour hand is quickset rather than the local hour hand).
Although the original Rolex GMT Master was only available in stainless steel, as it was conceived as a functional, work watch, Rolex have been making luxury versions in both mixed steel and gold and all gold since the 1970s and there are even exotic variations that incorporate elaborate designs that include precious stones. All variants have significantly increased in their purchase cost relative to inflation and are now often regarded as high luxury or status symbols.
50th anniversary edition
An updated Rolex GMT Master II was released in 2005. This new model features a number of technical changes, such as Rolex's patented Parachrom hairspring as well as a larger Triplock crown (from the diver's watches). The new model also has several cosmetic changes, such as larger case, hands and hour markers and also a new bezel made using an extremely hard ceramic material that is designed to be more scratch and fade resistant. Also included in the update is a new and more luxurious style of bracelet that has heavier solid links and a machined clasp. The stainless steel version now joins the precious metal versions by having highly polished centre links on its bracelet which gives the watch a more dressy appearance but can be prone to scratches when used as an every day watch.
- Rolex.com - Official Rolex Website
- GMT Master History - good overview over the evolution of the Rolex GMT Master
- Rolex GMT in Transition
- Rolex GMT Master 16710 review by John B. Holbrook II
- Brozek, John (2002), The Rolex Report. St. Petersburg, FLA: InfoQuest Publishing
- "GMT Master History". Rolex. Retrieved 2009-09-20.