Rolex GMT-Master glorious history

Story of a Horological Icon

Introduced in 1955, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual GMT-Master is a traveler’s watch with a rich history. Symbolically, the name GMT is derived from Greenwich Mean Time. Greenwich Mean Time is also known as Coordinated Universal Time, and is the time zone that is required for all aviation planning and schedules. Today, Rolex GMT-Master is one of the most popular Rolex models of all and enjoys a strong reputation among collectors all around the world.

For the long-haul travel and adventure

The original version from 1955 witnessed the rapid expansion of intercontinental travel in the latter half of the 20th century. It even became the official watch od Pan American World Airways, better known worldwide as Pan Am, the most prominent American intercontinental airline at the time. In1959, a major event marked the partnership: the first non-stop Am Clipper flight from New York to Moscow. The captain was wearing a GMT-Master, which was used as a navigation aid during the flight. The James Bond fans also might recognize this watch as it was on the wrist of enchanting Bond girl in the famous Goldfinger movie.

Emblematic design

1955 – Launch of the GMT-Master24-hour graduated two-colour insert in Plexiglas

The bidirectional rotatable bezel and 24-hour graduated two-colour or single colour Cerachrom insert are central to the aesthetic of the legendary GMT-Master II. On the original 1955 model, the insert was divided in two halves-one red, to simbolically correspond with daylight hours, and one blue, for night-time hours. Over the years, the 24-hour graduated insert has been available in a range of other colours.

GMT-Master brochure published in 1956

Precise, reliable, robust

At the beggining, the bezel's 24-hour graduated insert was made from Plexiglas, with the colours, numerals and graduations painted on reverse. In 1959, the Plexiglas was replaced with aluminium, and the colours and inscriptions were created using anodization – an electrochemical process that also increased the metal's scratch resistance.

1959 – GMT-Master with 24-hour graduated two-colour insert in anodized aluminium

Independent hour hand

On the original GMT-Master, the conventional hour hand, the minute hand, and the 24-hour hand are synchronized. In 1982 Rolex introduced a new movement that allowed the hour to be set independently of the other hands. To clearly mark this this evolution, and to void any confusion with the existing GMT-Master watches, the models fitted with the optimized movement were named the GMT-Master II. From then on, using and setting the watch became easier and more intuitive.

1982 – Launch of the GMT-Master II The new movement allowed the hour hand to be set independently

Introduction of the ceramic bezel insert

Rolex developed and patented the Cerachrom bezel for specific Professional models to ensure lasting beauty and functionality even after exposure to the most extreme conditions

In 2005, Rolex replaced the aluminium by ceramic – a further innovation. As a pioneer in the design and creation of ceramic components, the brand developed its own knowledge and expertise to produce its monobloc bezels and ceramic inserts in-house. For optimal legibility, the numerals and graduations are moulded into the ceramics and then coated with a thin layer of gold or platinum via PVD process. This exclusive component is virtually scratchproof and is unaffected by the sun's ultraviolet rays.

2005 – GMT-Master II with 24-hour graduated insert in black ceramic
2013 – GMT-Master II with 24-hour graduated two-colour Cerachrom insert in blue and black ceramic
2014 – GMT-Master IIwith 24-hour graduated two-colour Cerachrom insert in red and blue ceramic

Recently held Baselworld introduced the long-expected Rolex novelties. In addition to the version in Oystersteel, the Baselworld 2018 was also premiered with the tandem of exclusive GMT-Master II models in Everose gold and Everose Rolesorwe have spoken about in our previous articles.

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