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The Rolex GMT was designed as an aviator watch: The newly introduced fourth hand allowed the display of an additional time, with the corresponding number markings on the outer bezel. Pilots used the second time to display the Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), which led to the name Rolex GMT Master.
The Rolex GMT Master was developed in cooperation with Pan Am. As in the 1940s and 50s flying distances got longer and the pilots travelled through multiple time zones, Pan Am asked Rolex in the 1950s to develop a watch which could tell different times simultaneously.
In the world of Rolex collecting the different color variants of the GMT-Master and GMT-Master II have nicknames like ‘Pepsi’ ‘Coke’ and ‘Batman’.
The first GMT (Ref. 6542) was a regular Turn-O-Graph (Ref. 6202) with a different bezel and a modified movement. It was first launched in 1954 with a Bakelite bezel which was likely to crack. The advantage of the original bezel was its luminosity. Nicknamed ‘Pussy Galore’ because of its appearance in the James Bond film, Goldfinger, on the female character of the same name. In 1956 the Bakelite insert was replaced with a steel one due to the cracking.
Equipped with 3 different calibres during its life the 6542 had the 1036, 1065 and 1066 in its 5 year production run.
Next was the Rolex GMT Master reference 1675 equipped with calibre 1565. It ran from the years 1959 up until 1964 and the newer calibre 1575 from 1965 until 1980. With the Calibre 1565 equipped models they all featured gloss dials, whereas the later editions with 1575 calibres featured matte dials with white printing. Up until the late 1960s the GMT-hand was small, afterwards Rolex made the move to the larger GMT-hand that we see today. Originally all GMT-Masters had red and blue bezels, in the early 1970s the first ever all-black version was introduced. Another aesthetic feature is that some of the earlier 1675s had gold coronets for the Rolex logo rather than a white printed version.
1981 sees a slight facelift from the 1675 to the newer 16750, the main differences being a new calibre the 3075 and the quickset date feature. There are two different variants for the dial, matte with white gold indices and a glossy dial option. The matte black is the rarer of the two. Of note there is the variant 16753 which is steel and gold with a jubilee bracelet. This particular version is commonly known as the ‘Rootbeer’, due to the gold and brown bezel.
|1954||First ever GMT-Master, modified Turn-O-Graph 6202 with different bezel, featuring a Bakelite bezel.|
|1956||Bakelite bezel on ref. 6542 replaced with steel one due to inherent cracking issues.|
|1959||Ref. 1675 equipped with the new calibre 1565.|
|1965||Sees the new calibre 1575 introduced into the reference 1675 GMT-Master|
|1970s||1st ever black version of the GMT-Master is released with the designation ‘LN’ after the reference number.|
|1981||Facelift model 16750 replaces the 1675, new calibre 3075 has a quickset feature. 2 dial variants are also available matte black or gloss black. Also the first time we see ‘Rootbeer’ in the line-up|