|Year of production (circa)||
Original box, Rolex service papers
Rolex GMT-Master Ref. 1675
Back in 1954, Rolex introduced its very first GMT-Master watch, which was a big deal for watches. Now, 60 years later, they’re still making this famous watch, although it looks a bit different now. What’s really neat is that even though its appearance changed, the way it works and its great quality haven’t changed.
The GMT-Master came about because Pan-American Airlines, also known as “Pan-Am,” needed a watch that could show two time zones. This was really important for people who worked in airlines. Rolex got clever by changing their Submariner watch a bit, adding an extra hour hand and a new design for the outer part of the watch called the bezel. And that’s how they made the GMT-Master reference 6542.
By the end of 1959, they came out with the 1675 model after the 6542. It kept many of the original features, like the flat-looking dial and not being able to quickly set the date. But they also added some new stuff, like guards for the part you use to wind the watch, a larger size, and a label on the dial saying it’s officially certified as a super accurate timepiece.
This watch has an early version of a flat-looking dial GMT. The first ones like this are called ‘Mark 1’ dials, and they have a special stretched-out “E” in the word “Rolex.” The black bezel goes well with the beige markers on the watch, giving it a cool old-fashioned look. It’s almost like traveling back to the 1970s when bands like the Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones were super popular. Wearing this watch makes you feel like you’re in that time. Can you sense that feeling?
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The Rolex GMT Master was developed on request by Pan-Am airways in 1954. It was the age of air travel and for the first time in history, it became common practice to routinely cross timezones. Pan-Am requested a watch for its crews, that would allow for easy referencing of the time while doing so. Rolex obliged with an adapted Turn-o-graph Ref. 6202. It got a different bezel and a fourth 24-hour hand. It was labeled GMT Master Ref. 6542.
Rolex fitted the GMT Master with a bakelite bezel insert, displaying 24 hours. A, now iconic, color-scheme of blue for the night and red for the day was introduced. The Pepsi Rolex was born. Since bakelite was prone to breaking, an aluminum bezel insert was introduced in 1956.
The Ref. 6542 had a relatively short production period of five years, before being replaced by the fan-favorite Ref. 1675 in 1959. The updated model was equipped with crown-guards and a hacking movement. It is the archetypal Rolex GMT Master we all know and love. It has been produced in a variety of colors, in steel, gold and two-tone variants and with different bracelet options.
In 1981, the Ref 16750 was introduced, which came with a quickset date and a higher water resistance of 100 meters over the Ref. 1675’s 50 meters. It was accompanied by the Ref. 16760 in 1983, also known as the GMT Master II. For the first time, the fourth hand could be individually set, upping the number of trackable timezones from two to three. The two versions coexisted for about five years. The Ref. 16760 featured a sapphire crystal and a slightly thicker case, earning it the nicknames “Fat Lady” and “Sophia Loren”.
The late 80’s and 90’s saw a few more updates to both the GMT Master and the GMT Master II. In 2005, the ceramic GMT Master II (the six-digit references) was launched, putting us firmly into modern GMT territory.
The GMT Master is still a watch that exudes adventure. It is all about globetrotting in style. It is both rugged and elegant, a tool and a piece of jewelry. You can opt for that iconic blue & red look, or go for an almost-Submariner-like black version. And as with all Rolex, there are loads of rare and exotic versions to be found.
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