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The Evolution of Rolex GMT-Master

The Rolex GMT-Master, renowned for its dual-colored bezel and dual time zone function, was introduced in 1955. It was originally designed to meet the needs of professional pilots who traveled across different time zones. Over time, it has become a symbol of extensive social connections and luxurious lifestyles. The red and blue "Pepsi," the red and black "Coke," and the blue and black "Batman" bezels are the most well-known variations, causing a wave of buying and selling in both the primary and secondary markets.

Photo Credit: WatchTime

As a representative of practical and functional timepieces, the GMT-Master has undergone continuous improvements over the years, with advancements in materials and technical functions. Twenty-seven years after the introduction of the GMT-Master, Rolex launched a new movement for this series, allowing the hour hand to be independently adjusted, enabling the tracking of a third time zone. To signify this technological evolution, the models equipped with the new movement were named GMT-Master II, showcasing the perfect balance between utility and aesthetic style. Today, the GMT-Master II remains a universally recognized symbol of a sophisticated lifestyle and can be considered a modern exemplar of wristwatches.

Significant Milestones in the Development of the Rolex GMT-Master Series:

1955 - The First GMT-Master

Photo Credit: Phillips

The first Rolex GMT-Master II (model #6542) was introduced in 1955, featuring a dual time zone function. Its distinguishing features included a red and blue two-tone 24-hour bezel and a brown dial, where the red represented daytime and the blue represented nighttime. This color scheme became the classic combination for the Rolex GMT-Master series. The 24-hour scale bezel was initially made of Plexiglas and was later replaced with oxidized aluminium in 1959. The movement also underwent several reforms, starting from the initial 1036 caliber and evolving into the 1065, which was then replaced by the 1066 in 1959.

1959 - Addition of Crown Guards

Photo Credit: Phillips

Starting with the model #1675, crown guards were added to protect the crown, and the dial featured the inscription "Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified." The hour markers on the dial were also enlarged. In terms of bracelets, in addition to the Oyster bracelet, the option of the Jubilee bracelet was introduced.

1981 - Addition of Quickset Function

Photo Credit: Menta Watches

The model #16750, introduced in 1981 as an upgraded version of the #1675, featured the new Caliber 3075 self-winding movement, offering increased precision and reliability. Additionally, this model introduced the Quickset function, allowing for independent date adjustment. It had a water resistance depth of up to 100 meters.

1982 - Introduction of GMT-Master II

Photo Credit: Couronne

Starting with the model #16760, Rolex introduced the new 3085 movement for the GMT-Master series, allowing both the GMT hand and the bezel to be independently rotated, displaying three different time zones. From then on, the models equipped with the new movement were named GMT-Master II.

1989 - Switch to the 3185 Movement

Photo Credit: Sotheby's

Starting with the model #16710, the GMT-Master II series adopted the 3185 movement, which reduced the thickness of the watch case. Up until this model, the GMT-Master II series still used aluminum for the bezel.

2007 - Introduction of Cerachrom Ceramic Bezel

Photo Credit: Sotheby's

Starting with the model #116710, the bezel began using the Cerachrom ceramic material. To ensure clear legibility, the numbers and markers were made using ceramic molds and coated with a layer of gold or platinum using the Physical Vapour Deposition (PVD) technique. The 3186 movement replaced the 3185 movement.

2013 - Significant Innovation on the Bezel

Photo Credit: Sotheby's

In 2013, the model #116710 introduced the first half-blue and half-black Cerachrom bezel. Later in 2014, the red and blue Cerachrom bezel, reminiscent of the original GMT-Master color scheme, was introduced. Through a process of mixing different ceramic powders with modified chemical compositions, the half of the bezel changed from red to blue, ensuring distinct contrast between the two colors.

2018 - Reintroduction of the Jubilee Bracelet

Photo Credit: Montrez & Co.

The new model #126710 featured a 24-hour red and blue Cerachrom bezel and was paired with the commemorative Jubilee bracelet, equipped with an Oysterlock clasp and the Easylink extension system. The watch was powered by the new 3285 movement, featuring the Chronergy escapement system and providing a power reserve of up to 70 hours.

2022 - Adoption of Left-Side Crown

Photo Credit: Hodinkee

In 2022, model #126720 introduced a left-side crown, with the winding crown positioned on the left side of the case, and the date window shifted from the 3 o'clock position to the 9 o'clock position.


From the early model #6542 to the latest GMT-Master II models, each generation of GMT watches brings technological breakthroughs and design innovations. Whether in terms of external aesthetics, movement technology, or material selection, the Rolex GMT-Master series has consistently maintained a leading position in the watch industry, embodying Rolex's commitment to uncompromising quality and continuous improvement.

Cover Photo Credit: WatchTime
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