When Rolex first debuted the stainless steel GMT-Master in 1955 for Pan Am, there probably weren’t any immediate plans to make the pilot’s watch in solid gold. This was, after all, a tool watch to permit pilots to tell the time in two different locations. However, in the 1960s, that’s precisely what happened. Rolex rounded their GMT-Master collection with an ultra-luxurious solid yellow gold GMT-Master model—perhaps for those who flew Concorde!
From the original model to the most current one and some in between, here are four ways to wear the gold GMT-Master.
Crafted almost entirely in 18k yellow gold, the GMT-Master ref. 1675/8 featured a “nipple” dial with gold faceted hour markers on either a black or brown background. For a polished look, the black dial model came outfitted with a matching black bezel while the brown dial version of the ref. 1675/8 paired beautifully with its brown bezel.
The brown bezels on GMT-Master watches are often referred to as “Root Beer” bezels. For even more variety, there was also the choice between the sporty Oyster bracelet and the more formal Jubilee bracelet.
The 1980’s version of the gold GMT-Master was the ref. 16758 and it brought along sapphire crystal to protect the dial. Looks wise, there were similar options to its predecessor—black dial/bezel and brown dial/bezel combinations, along with the two bracelet options. Plus, the early “nipple” dial style eventually gave way to the flatter indexes.
Technically, however, the Rolex GMT-Master mens gold watch ref. 16758is powered by the Caliber 3075 with the handy quickset date feature. As a result, wearers could now quickly change the date independently from the hour hand.
A lavish edition of the gold GMT-Master ref. 16758 is the SARU variant, which along with diamonds, includes sapphires and rubies on the bezel to mimic the look of the iconic blue and red “Pepsi” bezel.
Introduced in the late 1980s, Rolex manufactured the gold GMT-Master II ref. 16718 until 2007. As a GMT-Master II model, the ref. 16718 ran on Caliber 3185 (and later Caliber 3186), which now allowed the Rolex pilot watch to indicate three time zones. While the GMT-Master models had the center hour and extra 24-hour hands linked, the newer GMT-Master II version had them autonomous from each other.
Just like previous versions, the gold GMT-Master II ref. 16718 had plenty of variety including the black or brown bezels, black or brown dials, and Oyster or Jubilee bracelets. There were also the gem “Serti” dials with diamonds and rubies on the face of the watch.
In 2005, the Rolex GMT-Master watch celebrated its 50th anniversary. To honor the occasion, the Swiss watchmaking giant unveiled a completely redesigned GMT-Master II. While there have been many variations since, the very first one was the yellow gold GMT-Master II ref. 116718 with a green anniversary dial.
Along with the green dial, other new features included a broader shape, a Cerachrom ceramic bezel, an enhanced Oyster bracelet with polished center links, and an updated Caliber 3186 with improved resistance, precision, and reliability. Today, the yellow gold GMT-Master II ref. 116718 is only available with a black ceramic bezel and Oyster bracelet, but dial variations include green and black. There are also plenty of gem versions in 18k white and yellow gold with diamonds, rubies, and sapphires.
Whether you prefer vintage glam or modern luxuries, there’s a gold GMT-Master out there to suit any highflier. In addition, you can view more selections of used Rolex GMT-Master timepieces here at BeckerTime.
It was 1954. Pan American World Airways – the little airline that had started in Key West with regular flights to Havana – had just opened up direct intercontinental flights to Europe. All of a sudden, it took 6 or 7 hours to get to Paris, not 13 or 14.
The most immediate – and unanticipated – result of these flights was a new phenomenon called jet lag. In order to combat the associated fatigue – at least with their pilots, Pan Am decided to keep them on “home time.” That way, sleep cycles would not be messed up.
Pan Am needed a watch their pilots could use to know the time at home (to stay on their sleep cycle) and locally (for their work). So, as with the Milgauss, a call was made to Geneva. A developmental team was formed and a watch was quickly produced. The GMT-Master, ref. 6542.
Based on the Turn-O-Graph, the new GMT-Master sported a new, additional hour hand directly driven by the hour wheel at a 1:2 ratio (the additional 24 hour hand could not be independently set).
The 6542’s plastic bezel was laid out in a 24 hour pattern, and it rotated so the wearer could set the second time zone appropriately. It’s instantly recognizable because it has no crown guards. Odds are against you seeing one in the wild however. It was only produced until 1959.
In 1959, Rolex released the watch that many collectors feel defines the GMT, the ref. 1675. 2mm larger, and with a crown guard and painted 24 hour bezel, the 1675 was the current production reference until 1980.
There were, of course, many color variations and combinations. Several were named for soda – Pepsi for blue and red, Coke for black and red, and root beer for brown and gold. and there’s the all-green Hulk, for the comic book character. Precious metals have always been part of the lineup too.
The GMT-Master II came along in 1983 with ref. 16760. A major difference between the GMT-Master and the GMT-Master II was the ability to independently set the 24 hour hand. The then- current reference of the GMT-Master, the 16750, remained in production until 1988. That was followed by the ref. 16700, which remained in the lineup until 1999.
A little confused that both the GMT-Master and the GMT-Master II were in production for so long? Yes, we are too. The independent quicksetting 24 hour hand ultimately won out. It was much more popular, and frankly, was a much more logical tool for the traveler.
The much beloved “Pepsi” blue and red bezel was discontinued in 2007. Collectors clambered for a revival, and Rolex relented in 2014. At Baselworld, Rolex released the ceramic-bezeled ref. 116710 (which had debuted in 2007) in a new, high-tech ceramic Pepsi bezel version, albeit in white gold only (for now).
And there’s the saga of the little-discussed relationship between NASA, the American astronauts, and the GMT. The Omega Speedmaster gets a lot of press for being first on the Moon, and timing rocket burns that saved Apollo 13 from total disaster. But Jack Swigert also wore a GMT-Master on Apollo 13. Years later, he framed the watch along with a photo, a mission patch, and a dedication note, and sent it to his friend René Jeanneret at Rolex. It hangs on a wall with several other photographs of NASA astronauts, who each wore Rolex GMT-Masters.