Guide to the Rolex GMT Master

Brief History & Background of the GMT Master

The mastery of flight is one of the crowning moments in the history of mankind. While traveling from one place to another in mere hours is truly game-changing, commercial pilots and even travelers were experiencing major daily concerns when it comes to keeping and adjusting to the time as they crisscross the world’s time zones. 

In 1953, Pan American World Airways decided to partner with Rolex to see if the renowned watchmaker could make them a watch capable of telling the time in more places than one. This history is a very significant achievement in the world of horology. Thanks to this master craft, we now get to enjoy a truly special, brilliant, and iconic Rolex GMT Master sports watches.

Throughout the history of Rolex, the famous watchmaker had always been clear with their purpose. They create timepieces as tool watches that can be helpful in different areas such as diving, traveling, racing, and more.

It sure did not come from a blank slate. We can trace the GMT Master to classic Rolex sports watches that may have started with the Rolex Zerographe reference 3346 in 1937, but the Rolex Submariner 6204 was used by the iconic maker as the basis for the development of the soon to be GMT Master.

Rolex Zerographe Ref. 3346

They famously added the cyclops, date wheel, two-tone bezel with numbers up to 24, and revolutionary 24-hour hand.

Rolex was the first ever to create a waterproof, self-winding, chronometer-certified watch with a date function. The Swiss brand was also the first when it came to the world time-telling GMT in 1954.


Rolex GMT Master Ref. 6542


References of the GMT-Master

The watch community consistently shows great interest in the GMT-Master vintage references. 

There have been many great variations to the model since it was first launched. 

In 1971, Rolex released a “hacking” feature that allows the watch wearer to stop the second-hand movement and set the hours and minutes hand for a more accurate time adjustment. 

In 1981, Rolex introduced a new version of the Rolex GMT-Master with the reference 16750 with an updated 3075 caliber movement. The series has models with 50-meter to 100-meter water resistance. 

Rolex GMT Master Ref. 16750

In 1983, they introduced reference 16760 and featured a red and black color gradient on the bezel which depicts the day and night hours. It was then known as the “Coke” bezel due to its colors.

Rolex GMT Master Ref. 16760

(Source: oakleighwatches)

During the production years of reference 16710, a lot of changes happened to make the model even more special. It includes the dial from titanium to luminova to superluminova from 1997 to 2000. In 2003, they improved the lug-holes in the Y-series, and in 2007, leaning towards the end of its production, Rolex introduced the new updated Caliber 3186.

Rolex GMT Master Ref. 16710

(Source: fratellowatches)

For the 50th anniversary of the GMT-Master, they released variants in all yellow gold with a brand new ceramic insert and a green dial.


Features & Options

Rolex GMT-Master collection is one of the most sought-after luxury timepieces of today and it is so easy to see why. The brilliant features and options for the series are truly remarkable. 



Rolex first added the Jubilee bracelet to their arsenal in 1945 which is the same year when they released the Datejust as their 40th anniversary. It is a more dresser option compared to the Oyster bracelet which is Rolex’s most common yet distinguished design. 

The best part is, you can also alter your favorite Rolex GMT-Master II ceramic watch with a high-quality Curved End Rubber Strap made from pure vulcanized FKM rubber. This versatile strap is available in black, green, grey, and blue.





For metal options, the GMT-Master has both stainless steel, gold, and two-tone. For the bezel, the red and blue “Pepsi” bezel is the most iconic option. Other loved options are Black, Coke, Batman, and Root Beer. The materials used are Bakelite, Aluminum, and Cerachrom.



Rolex used radium lume until the 1960s but due to growing health concerns, they switched to Tritium which is also radioactive but not nearly as harmful as radium. Both materials age like patina and many collectors prefer their varying shades over time.

The lume materials continue to improve when they introduced LumiNova, Super-Luminova, and Chromalight. They are photoluminescent and not radioactive. Today, all Rolex watches in production feature Chromalight. 



Rolex GMT-Master series feature Maxi and “Nipple” dials. On Maxi dials, the indices are larger and the hands at the center are also wider to match. The Nipple dial on the other hand is set with applied round hour markers in precious metal which is either black or brown depending on the watch. This dial variation was discontinued long ago and they are now considered a unique collector’s item.