The New Rolex GMT-Master II ‘Destro’ Left-Hand Drive
By far the biggest shock to emerge from Rolex this year, and for the last few years for that matter, is the latest addition to their world beating GMT-Master II range.
In fact the watch, launched at the 2022 Watches & Wonders exhibition, favored us with not one, but two surprises.
The Sprite? The Grinch? The Gremlin?
Firstly, the new color scheme. A bicolor bezel has been the GMT-Master’s unique selling point ever since it debuted in 1954, with the original red and blue livery quickly given the nickname the ‘Pepsi’. As well as being a now iconic aesthetic detail, it initially had a definite purpose. With the surround engraved with a 24-hour scale, the two shades were included as a quick reference as to whether the GMT hand tracking a second time zone was pointing at the first or second half of the day—anything in the red section meant your eventual destination was in daylight hours between 06.00 and 18.00, anything in the black was nighttime, between 18.00 and 06.00.
Over the watch’s long history, other combinations have come along, with the black and red ‘Coke’, brown and gold ‘Root Beer’ and blue and black ‘Batman’ all continuing the legacy.
This time around, we get black and green. Again, no-one was really expecting this at the time, but looking back now with some clarity it, of course, makes sense. Rolex is clearly giving the GMT a similar reach to their other legendary tool watch, the Submariner. When the brand invented their Cerachrom bezel, the first Sub to have it was an all-blue watch. That was followed up with the classic black model a few years later. Then, finally, we got the green piece in 2010 and ended up with a stellar trio; the same watch given three very distinct personalities depending on whether the bezel was in blue, black or green.
As for the GMT, we have already had the all-black piece, the blue of the Batman is still present and so we really should have guessed that green would follow to complete the set. And, if you look at the two models side by side, you can see that the shade Rolex is using for the GMT’s lower half is the same tone as on the current Submariner ‘Cermit’.
The only thing seemingly still undecided is the unofficial nickname. I’m pinning my hopes on ‘the Sprite’ to continue the soda theme.
The Crown Is Where?!
Ordinarily, a new color arrangement on a beloved Rolex would be enough of a talking point for one show. But the inclusion of a bit of green suddenly took a backseat when the ref. 126720VTNR was revealed to be a ‘destro’.
What’s a destro? That’s the name, taken from the Italian for ‘right’, to describe a watch designed to be worn on the right wrist. It involves moving the winding crown to the opposite side of the case to allow left-handed wearers to wind or set the watch without having to take it off.
To say the unveiling of the new model sent a shockwave through the community would be to understate matters, and the fact that W&W 2022 was held over April Fool’s Day did not go unnoticed. However, it wasn’t a joke (Rolex don’t really go in for pranks, as far as I’m aware) and, again with the benefit of hindsight, it does make a certain amount of sense for the GMT.
If the brand was going to issue a destro version of any watch, this is the ideal choice. It is the model where the crown will be used most often, not for winding the watch obviously, with everything Rolex produces containing an automatic movement, but for cycling through time zones with the additional hour hand. Lefties can now do that, for the first time, without taking the watch off.
Everything else on the piece is the same as the rest of the range; case diameter, movement, etc. with one other exception. The date and its covering Cyclops lens have been moved to the opposite side as well, and now sit at the nine o’clock rather than the three. And, in line with the other Oystersteel models, the ref.126720VTNR can be had with either a Jubilee or Oyster bracelet.
Is This Unprecedented?
Yes and no. This is the first time Rolex have made a full production destro watch, although in the past it was possible to custom-order them from the company. Perhaps the most famous example of this is the Rolex Oyster owned by none other than Charlie Chaplin and worn in the movie Limelight.
However, some brands, including Rolex auxiliary Tudor, have a longer history with the type. There is currently a LHD Pelagos dive watch in their portfolio, and in the 1970s they supplied a run of ref. 9401 Subs with the configuration, strictly for the French Navy.
Other watchmakers to take up the challenge include Heuer, with the first generation of automatic Monaco watches. When they developed the Caliber 11 at the end of the 1960s (one of the first self-winding chronograph movements ever made) they found the only way to add the chrono module onto their automatic caliber was if the crown was on the left. It also made a subtle selling point, tacitly announcing to buyers the crown wasn’t really needed anymore now the watch could wind itself.
Elsewhere, German brand Sinn, makers of superb professional watches and owners of the worst website on earth, have several destros in their portfolio, although not all are intended for lefties. Their toughest of tough professional models, those destined to be worn by firefighters and even special forces soldiers such as the EZM 1.1 Mission Timer, have the crown on the left but are also meant to be worn on the left wrist so it doesn’t dig into the hand during whatever testosterone-fuelled escapades they get up to.
IWC have a destro version of their Big Pilot’s Watch called the ‘Right-Hander’ which is a godsend for the left-handed, particularly with the size of the model’s famously huge conical-shaped crown.
And Panerai too have gotten in on the game, with the PAM 00026, a 44mm example in their Luminor Marina range, with that instantly recognizable crown and its protector on the left side.
Rolex Continue To Surprise
Why Rolex decided to issue a destro version of their GMT-Master II now is anyone’s guess (although it should be noted that Rolex CEO, Jean Frédéric Dufour is a southpaw, which may have had an influence).
But whatever the reason, it has certainly had the effect of getting the world talking about the brand, and the watch.
The only thing we do know, and this is from recent personal experience, is that the average person (very much meaning me) has little to no chance of obtaining one through official channels. My local AD has already closed the waiting list on it, with no word on when or even if it will open again.
So, whichever side the crown’s on, at least some things never change!
— Featured Photo: BeckerTime’s Archive.