When pilots began to make the long trip across the Atlantic Ocean in the 1940's and 50's from the United States to Europe, there arose an urgent need for a watch that could read two different time zones simultaneously. As a leading name in the industry, Rolex released their very first GMT Master watch in1954 as a collaborative project with Pan American Airways, or Pan Am. Issued by the company to Pan Am pilots and crew members on long haul flights, the watch’s main benefit was the ability to simultaneously reference two separate time zones at once. In this way, a legend was born.
The now iconic watch took its name from Greenwich Mean Time, the time zone from which all others are measured and the point at which mean solar time is measured at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London. From 1954-1959 Rolex produced the first ever GMT Master watch and the item was a great success, proving popular both with the pilots and aviation crew it was intended for as well as with discerning members of the public.
New versions of the GMT Master arrived in 1959 and 1981, with both performing just as well as the original iteration. Then, in 1983, the GMT Master II was unveiled and the iconic series experienced a rebirth.
Although the original GMT Master remained in production until the late 90’s, the GMT Master II soon became the flagship watch for Rolex’s aviation line. The GMT Master II uses a movement equipped with the ability to use an independently adjustable hour hand, adjustable in one-hour increments without stopping the second hand or interfering with either the minute hand or 24 hour hand. As a result, this iteration of the GMT-Master II showcases rotatable bezel which now gave the wearer the option of reading a third time zone with ease.
These days, this original GMT Master II is considerably thicker than the original GMT-Master that preceded it, leading to its tongue in cheek nickname of ‘The Fat Lady’. Regardless, this is a beautiful watch, available only in steel with red and black accents, making it a no-frills, masculine watch of the utmost quality and accuracy.
The GMT Master II Gets Better
Today’s version of the GMT Master II, which has been through a range of evolutions since its initial release, is a triumph of modern aviation watchmaking. Revealed in 2018, the newest version sports the famous ‘Pepsi’ colorway of red, blue and black. Constructed from Rolex’s patented Oystersteel material and mounted on a Jubilee bracelet, this modern version of a classic is still leading the way. Internally, it is fitted with the brand’s patented caliber 3285 movement, featuring Chronergy technology allowing for three days of power reserves.
Since 2013, the Oyster Perpetual GMT Master II bezel has been crafted from a single piece of ultra hard ceramic material named Cerachrom. Each of these bezels takes 40 hours to create and must be dipped in a thin layer of yellow gold or platinum to allow for engraving. In recent years, the GMT Master II was made available for the first time in Everose Gold, a first for the series which brought a new level of luxury to what was long been one of Rolex’s most respected timepieces.
2019 has seen the introduction of two more additions to the GMT Master II family. Although the changes are wholly external, the introduction of a new ‘Batman’ colorway featuring black and blue bezel is sure to excite enthusiasts of the series. In addition, Rolex has released a white gold option featuring a red and blue Cerachrom bezel insert as well as a Meteorite dial and highly legible display.