The Rolex GMT Master has always been my favorite of all Rolex watches produced. I’ve always been a fan of dual time zone watches and how they operate. Whether you are keeping civilian 12 hour time or the 24 hour military, either way it’s just a very functional time piece.
The GMT Master was an idea of PanAm Airlines at the time in 1954. They came to Rolex to have a new watch design for their transatlantic pilots to combat jet-lag. With a dual time feature, pilots could set the watch to their destination time zone and not feel so tired upon arrival. As the GMT had 2 hour hands. The second hour hand was extended usually with a red arm for easy viewing. The outer bezel displayed military time zone while the conventional dial had the typical 12 hours.
The original GMT Master’s were originally produced in 18K yellow gold for their pilots and PanAm Executives. It is very rare that these watches ever come up for sale. The elusive GMT is the white dial version. These were the original dial colors of the GMT but soon were switched to black for the open market. If you ever see a white dial GMT come up for sale, be leery as many of these are refinished in white. The white dial GMT is my unicorn and Holy Grail of all.
The Reference 6542 was first introduced with a Bakelite bezel, an acrylic inlay with the numerals in radium. Due to the radioactivity the acrylic would crack so Rolex replaced many of them with the aluminum inlays that had been carried for decades. To find an original Bakelite bezel version is extremely rare and sought after. The Blue and Red inlay was first found in the Bakelite design along with just a few handfuls produced in 18K Yellow Gold.
The “Pepsi” version of the GMT Master has always been a favorite of my GMT collectors. There is just something about that Red and Blue color against the brushed stainless steel, highlighted by the black dial.
The “Pepsi” was eventually discontinued in the early to mid 1980’s. Replaced by a full black bezel and then came the “Coke” a black and red variant of the Pepsi version. A Blue/Red version came back on the watch scene in late 2005 with a caliber 3185 and then in 2006 it debuted with a caliber 3186. It is estimated only about 700 of these were ever produced that year. Instead of the Roman Numeral “II”, the ’06 version came out with II sticks. So if you find one, grab it. Then never seen again until now.
Rolex purists and enthusiasts have waited and hoped for a new Pepsi version. In 2014, Rolex introduced the hot anticipated GMT Master II in 18K White Gold, a first along with the Pepsi bezel in cerachrom. A first for Rolex to split two colors with this material but it’s one material. Rolex using a chemical process of turning one completely red bezel or shall I say half it to blue. Yes that process is patented as well. The engraved numerals are then filled with a light coat of platinum for readability.
Using the iconic 3186 calibre with a few tweaks, Rolex has continued to produce a sport watch for those with impeccable tastes. Regardless if you’re traveling across two time zones or just sitting poolside, at least you’ll know what time it is and what time it is in timbuktu.