Reference Points: Understanding The Rolex GMT-Master

Reference Points: Understanding The Rolex GMT-Master

Unpacking the world’s most famous travel watch.

One of the crowning achievements of humankind in the last century was the mastery of flight. When the Wright Brothers launched their Flyer into the seaside breeze of Kitty Hawk, N.C., a door was opened onto possibilities previously only imagined in myths or dreams. The first scheduled commercial flight took place in Florida a little more than 100 years ago, from St. Petersburg to neighboring Tampa. And the subsequent popularization of commercial air travel in the 1950s and ’60s allowed civilians to go places with greater speed than any previous generation. But while the possibility to arrive on another continent in mere hours was certainly game-changing, it created problems too, particularly as it pertained to keeping and adjusting to time.

Douglas DC-8-32 N804PA of Pan American World Airways at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport in 1967 (Credit: RuthAS/Wikimedia Commons).

There was no longer just the time. Rather, there was the time where one was and the time where one was going. This was a daily concern for the commercial pilots crisscrossing the world’s time zones in the nascent commercial aviation industry. One of the great American companies of the last century, Pan American World Airways, partnered with a Swiss watch brand by the name of Rolex to see if it could make them a watch capable of telling the time in more places than one. It is from this overture that came one of today’s most collectible, historically important, and iconic Rolex sport watches: The GMT-Master.

The GMT-Master didn’t come from a blank slate. We can trace its roots back to other classic Rolex sport watches, perhaps starting with the Rolex Zerographe reference 3346 circa 1937 with a rotating bezel, but continuing to the Submariner and Turn-O-Graph models that Rolex introduced in 1953. These watches featured rotating aluminum bezels for timing elapsed minutes, and they served as the platform upon which Rolex was to develop the first GMT-Master. To this day, if you think of a watch made for tracking time in more places than one, there is a very good chance that the blue-and-red bezeled Rolex GMT-Master, graduated for 24 hours, is the image that appears in your mind’s eye. What started as a purpose-built tool for pilots has transcended that role to become a totem of a cosmopolitan, urbane, and well-traveled life. As such, it’s been worn not just by pilots and navigators, but by famous actors, entertainers, artists, thinkers, and musicians – the people whose personalities and style influence us on a daily basis.
The Albino Dial GMT-Master Ref. 6542

The first GMT-Master was a large-for-its-time 38mm in diameter with a legible dial created for Pan Am Pilots. It is believed that at least some of these supplied watches featured unusual white, or Albino, dials. The name is appropriate in more ways than one. Such examples of the 6542 are, truly, white whales. In 2015, HODINKEE had this very watch in the office, and Ben went hands-on with it.

The first GMT-Master was a large-for-its-time 38mm in diameter with a legible dial created for Pan Am Pilots. It is believed that at least some of these supplied watches featured unusual white, or Albino, dials. The name is appropriate in more ways than one. Such examples of the 6542 are, truly, white whales. In 2015, HODINKEE had this very watch in the office, and Ben went hands-on with it.


The watch collecting community continues to show great interest in the GMT-Master’s vintage references. And the current collection of GMT-Master IIs accounts for several of the most sought-after watches at retail. The Rolex GMT-Master is, in all its many forms, quite simply the most famous travel watch the world has ever seen.

The first and the most recent Pepsi-bezeled examples.

Wherever possible, I’ve provided production dates for the references in this article. It is crucial to understand that what the numbers on the inside caseback tell us regards the case production, but that watches were often not assembled until a year later and then sold after that, sometimes many years later. In the mid-’70s, Rolex ceased printing case production dates on the inside of casebacks. For those watches, the serial numbers printed on the case between the lugs offer the best insight into when a watch was made, but this too is something of an imprecise science.

It’s been 65 years since Rolex launched the first GMT-Master, and in that time, there have been a great many variations if you take into account all of the gem-set examples and different strap / bracelet configurations. Showing you every single one of them would probably have been impossible, so instead we’ve decided to focus on the watches that we think tell the story of the world’s most famous travel watch, from 1955 to the present.

In order to do this, we’ve once again tapped Eric Wind, former HODINKEE contributor and the proprietor of Wind Vintage. Eric reached well into his network of friends and collectors to bring us more than 30 world-class examples of the Rolex GMT-Master to include in this article.

Reference 6542: 1955 – 1959

Reference 6542 (First GMT-Master, Small Lume Plots): 1955-59

This is where it all starts. The reference 6542 is the first GMT-Master ever made, a tool watch to aid in the work of commercial  pilots. More than 60 years later, its design is strikingly similar to that of the modern Pepsi-bezeled GMT-Master II. As with so much that Rolex has done, one can see how the GMT-Master’s design, with its clever bisection of the day into daytime and nighttime and its 24-hour hand, has influenced watchmakers through the years and helped to create a category unto itself. Many will recall that this watch was famously worn by Honor Blackman when she portrayed Pussy Galore in the James Bond film Goldfinger.

While the Bakelite bezel of the 6542 has come to be known as the reference’s defining feature, it proved problematic for two reasons. First, it was prone to cracking and was therefore replaced with a non-luminous metal insert toward the end of the 6542’s run. Second, the radioactivity of the bezels was the source of controversy in the United States when, in 1961, an American Naval officer and his family sued Rolex, claiming that his 6542’s luminous bezel had caused cancer.

Rolex recalled these bezels and replaced them with anodized metal ones. Owing to these factors, examples of the 6542 with original Bakelite bezels are exceedingly rare.

Over the course of its five years in production, from 1955 through 1959, the 6542 used a 38mm Oyster case and three different automatic GMT-Master movements. First, there was the cal. 1036, then the 1065, and finally the 1066.

The very earliest examples of the ref. 6542 feature the words “GMT-Master” written in pink and are rare, with at least one example known to feature the depth rating of “50m = 165ft” on the dial in red above the pink GMT-Master text. Very early examples might also have a long-neck Mercedes hour hand similar to the Submariner reference 6200, which was also from that period.

The steel 6542 cases had some variation over the years, with some having narrower chamfered edges/bevels and some having very broad chamfered edges/bevels. There were also variations in the placement of the red and blue on the bezel. For steel 6542s, there are also some examples with fully lumed tips of the GMT hands and others, like the ones featured in this story, that have lume inside a small triangle.

Reference 6542 (Big Lume Plots): Case Dating To Q3 1958

Here we have another beautifully preserved example of the first reference of the GMT-Master. Like the previous 6542, it has a black gilt dial, but looking closely, we see a change to the radium lume plots. This is a so-called “Big Lume” reference 6542 that is also sometimes called a “Maxi” dial 6542 (a term borrowed from the late-1970s to early-1980s Submariner reference 5512 and 5513 matte dial watches). With case production dating to the third quarter of 1958, we see that the 6542 dial design has evolved to these larger lume plots. The Bakelite bezel is still there, of course, as is the OCC text and the chapter ring. This unusual dial configuration quickly disappeared and Rolex reverted to dials with the smaller lume plots after this unusual dial run.

In addition to being larger, the lume plots of this rare 6542 are closer to the indexes of the chapter ring – almost touching. And the 12 o’clock marker is almost touching the middle tine of the Rolex coronet.

Reference 6542 (18-Karat Yellow Gold, Burgundy-Brown Bakelite Bezel, Alpha Hands): 1958-59

With the 6542, we see that gold examples have been part of the mix from the early days of the GMT-Master, making it the first of Rolex’s sport watches to be made in gold (though there were certain pre-Daytona chronographs made in gold). The literally high-flying world of international commercial aviation was better suited to precious-metal tool watches than the SCUBA environment that gave rise to the Rolex Submariner just a couple of years earlier, it seems.


As with the steel version, the gold 6542 had a 38mm case. The original gold 6542 bezels are likewise Bakelite, though rather than the bi-color blue and red, they were burgundy-brown in hue. There were two dials that came with the gold 6542. The version that we have here features the lighter champagne dial, but there is also a version of the gold 6542 with a darker tawny dial that is more close in hue to the burgundy-brown bezel insert.

This is also the first instance of what will become a recurring theme in gold GMT-Masters, the nipple marker for the hours. The nipple-style marker will be a hallmark of the gold GMT-Master for several years, right up to and including the transitional ref. 16758. The example that we have here is on a pristine gold Oyster bracelet. And the case came with a Twinlock crown, also in yellow gold, identified by the line underneath the five-pointed Rolex coronet, making it an “underline” crown.

Whereas the steel 6542 has a Mercedes hour hand and lollipop seconds, typical of Rolex sport watches, the minutes and hours of the gold 6542 are alpha hands, and the seconds are of a simple baton style with counterweight. Like the steel 6542, the GMT hand features a small triangle. The movement used in this watch is the cal. 1065.

Reference 6542 (Bezel Conversion): 1959

It would be easy to mistake this 6542 with a converted bezel for an early reference 1675. By the time of the aforementioned 1961 lawsuit, Rolex had already recalled the Bakelite bezel. The watch that we have here, with its nicely tropicalized dial, was born with Bakelite, but that bezel was ultimately replaced with the metal insert we see here as a result of a recall. Other times, Rolex service centers were known to have scraped the radium out of the bezel inserts and replaced it with tritium or left it empty of luminous material.


1n early 1960, Rolex issued a statement through its authorized dealers in the United States to address confusion caused by its recall of Bakelite bezels. From this document, we can learn a few things. For one, we can tell that as of the time this document was issued, just 605 GMT-Masters with Bakelite bezels had been imported to the United States – a tiny amount. The document also asserts that the GMT-Master at the time was “a special-purpose wrist chronometer used mostly by navigators and pilots for telling time accurately in two timezones simultaneously.” My, how the GMT has grown beyond its initial scope, and also grown in price. At the time of the statement, a stainless-steel ref. 6542 would have cost a pilot $240, and a gold model would set him back $600.

Reference 1675: 1959 – 1980

The reference 1675 was in production from 1959 until 1980, making it one of the longest-running Rolex references in existence. Over the course of that time, Rolex made many changes, large and small, to the GMT-Master, but the boldest line of demarcation dividing production into two categories is the one between earlier gilt and later matte dial variations. This separation is one that will be familiar to anyone who cares about vintage Rolex, as similar dividing lines can be found in vintage Submariners and Explorers too. One will find GMT-Master ref. 1675s with gilt dials in production dates from 1959 to roughly 1966-67. Matte dials pick up in about 1966 and continue through to the end of the ref. 1675 in about 1979-80, and they go on within the GMT-Master more broadly to include earlier examples of the 16750. In the early period of the 1675, one will notice that the bezel fonts are thicker or fatter than those seen in more recently produced watches. Because of their age and their limited supply, those fat-font bezels tend to command a premium over the thinner variations.

With regard to movements, we’ll see two used over the span of the ref. 1675. In watches produced until about 1965-’66, we’ll see the 18,000 vph caliber 1565. Around the 1.4m serial mark, Rolex transitioned the GMT-Master to the high-beat (for its time) caliber 1575, which received a hacking function around 1971. There is an exception to this two-movement rule, though, and it applies to very early and rare gilt dials that retain the OCC text. More on that in a bit. I’d like to thank Dr. Andrew Hantel for his scholarship of this reference, which can be found at

Gilt Dials

Continuing from the 6542, whose black-dial variations were all gilt-gloss, we get into the gilt-gloss dial as seen in the GMT-Master ref. 1675. Gilt dials were produced using a galvanic coating process. First, a clear coating was applied directly to the metal dial to mask out the writing, such as the world “Rolex.” This would prevent the galvanically applied paint from attaching to that part of the dial. Second, lacquer was then applied to the black paint, giving the dial a slick, glossy texture.

Reference 1675 “OCC” Dial (Officially Certified Chronometer): 1959-60

This is the earliest version of the Rolex GMT-Master Ref. 1675. The Bakelite bezel that defined the earlier 6542 is gone in favor of the metal insert that will grace the 1675 for its entire run. This bezel has aged and faded significantly from its appearance when it was made. When I think of an early 1675, I think of something like this: a bezel insert with a pale baby blue section for the night and a soft, faded red for the day.

The very earliest example of the 1675 is the so-called “OCC” dial, with text below GMT-Master reading “Officially Certified Chronometer.” The OCC text is understood to reflect the use of the non-microstella 1535 caliber, though there have been some seen that actually do include the newer 1565 movement. Soon, with the formal introduction of the microstella-regulated 1565 caliber, we’ll see a shift to the “Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified” text.

The OCC dial is very similar to those found in the 6542 but slightly larger, so they are not exactly interchangeable parts. As with the 6542, this 1675 has a hyphenated “Oyster-Perpetual.”

Apart from the standard-issue aluminum bezel insert, another defining feature of the first steel 1675s, and indeed all subsequent ones, is the appearance of crown guards on the side of the case. These will evolve a bit here and there, but if a 1675 is made of steel, it’s going to have crown guards.

Reference 1675 (Pointed Crown Guards, Tropical and Non-Tropical Variations, No Exclamation or Underline): 1960-62

Here we see “Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified” text, an indication that the movement inside is the microstella-regulated caliber 1565 automatic chronometer movement beating at 18,000 vph. These four familiar words continue to be printed on Rolex watches to this day.

One of the big differences between steel versions of the ref. 1675 and the earlier ref. 6542 was the use of crown guards, and in these early versions, the crown guards are pointed, resembling a parrot’s beak.

The version on top has gone tropical and its bezel insert has also faded substantially, whereas the example below has a dial that has not gone tropical. In keeping with what we saw with the 6542s, these early 1675s also have chapter rings.

Ref. 1675 with pointed crown guards that has not gone tropical.


Not tropical.


Reference 1675 (Chapter Ring, Exclamation): 1962-63

On the face of it, this 1675 is quite similar to the last couple of watches that we looked at, but there is something special about this one. Down at 6 o’clock, an additional application of lume turns this chapter ring dial into an exclamation point dial.

The exclamation point is thought to represent the moving away from the use of high radium content in favor of less radium content in the watch. It’s also likely that it represents the early use of tritium, before T designations on the dial became standardized, around 1964, meaning that this dial features a mixture of the two lumes. Exclamation point dials are found in a wide range of serial numbers, 62xxxx–990xxx, according to the website, though only on dials that also have chapter rings.

Exclamation point dials aren’t exclusive to the GMT-Master or anything. This highly collectible dial type can be found on Submariners and Explorers too.

Reference 1675 (Open Chapter, Double Swiss, Underline): 1963

And now we see a transition in the dials of our GMT-Masters. Up until this point, every watch that we have examined has had a chapter ring encircling the dial. From now on, in the ref. 1675, the chapters are open. This fairly major difference indeed opens up the dial quite a bit and provides for a much different look. As you can see, the hour markers appear quite a bit larger than the ones that we have seen until this point within the ref. 1675.

The transition from closed chapter to open chapter is only part of what distinguishes this gilt dial dating from 1963. It’s both an “underline” and a “Double Swiss,” meaning that the word Swiss appears twice at the six o’clock position, in addition to having a small line beneath the “Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified” text. This is a rare watch, and by virtue of its having both the Double Swiss and the underline, we can say fairly confidently that it was born in 1963.

This watch has a case in which the pointed crown guards extend out a bit and are less curved like a parrot beak. These specifically have been termed “Broad Pointed Crown Guards” by the community and are around the 1 million case-serial range.

Reference 1675 (Open Chapter, Double Swiss, T < 25): 1963-64

Here we have another Double Swiss, with two Swiss signatures at 6 o’clock. But next to the larger of the two, we now see the familiar T<25 designation. With this dial, Rolex is getting a bit more specific about the amount of radiation that is coming from the dials. The T<25 marking means that the watch contains an amount of tritium that emits less than 925 MBq (or 25 mCi, which is short for millicuries). This watch also has the Broad Pointed Crown Guards of the previous Double Swiss Underline 1675.

Reference 1675 (Open Chapter, Gold Hands): 1964-65; (Open Chapter, Regular Hands): 1964-66

This is part of the last run of gilt dial 1675s, which would place it around 1964 or ’65. The most striking aspect of this example is probably its gold-colored hands, which are rare and which are a bit earlier than the standard hands that we see below.

Here, we also see that the pointed crown guards that have typified the cases of the 1675 until this point have been changed for the rounded crown guards that are close to those you might find on a current production GMT-Master II.

And here we have another late example of the gilt dial ref. 1675, just prior to the conversion to matte dials. In this more typical example, the hands are not gold-colored and the lume plots are a bit smaller than in the previous watch.

Matte Dials

Right around 1966 case production, we see the first matte dial 1675s. We’ll witness an evolution in these dials from the earliest version, the retroactively named Mark 0, to the final 1675s produced. Matte dial 1675s account for some 14 years of GMT production, and in fact, matte dials continued into the earliest version of the reference 16750, which will ultimately retire the 1675.

Reference 1675 (Mark 0.5, Small Triangle GMT Hand): 1966-67

Mark 0 dials have only recently been discovered and named as such by the collector community. The Mark 0 matte 1675s have similar text and graphic style of the previous gilt models and are exceedingly rare. This watch is something in between the Mark 0 and the Mark 1 (and was previously known as a Mark 0 before the identification of that earlier dial, showing that scholarship constantly evolves in the Rolex collector community). Judging from the Long E on the dial, you’d perhaps think it was a Mark 1.

As this watch is somewhere in the middle of a Mark 0 and a Mark 1, it’s basically a transitional transitional. Some Mark 0s have the older 1565 caliber, but by the time we get to the Mark 1, the movement inside will be the 19,800 vph cal. 1575, which is the caliber associated with the matte dial era.

Reference 1675 (Mark 1 Long E): 1967-72

Ok, now we see the aforementioned Mark 1, a watch whose name would reasonably lead you to think that it was the first of the matte dials, but it’s not. The Mark 1, also known as the Long E, was regarded as the earliest matte dial GMT-Master by the collector community until the Mark 0, which combines a matte dial with the small 24-hour hand from the gilt era, was  recognized.

Its moniker comes from a characteristic of the “E” in Rolex on its dial. The middle bar of the letter is longer than the middle bars of this letter found on other models in this reference. Another distinguishing characteristic that one should expect to find on a Mark 1 is that the tines on the coronet are fairly thin. With the Mark 1, we’re firmly in matte dial territory, and we would not expect to see carryovers from the gilt dial era.

Reference 1675 (Mark 1 Long E Fuchsia, a.k.a. Pink Panther): 1967-68

Here we have another Mark 1 dial, which is easily recognizable thanks to that “Long E” that we just talked about. However, what really sets this version apart isn’t the dial; it’s the anodized aluminum bezel insert, whose daytime hours section has a beautiful fuchsia color. While the Mark 1 had quite a long run, from about 1966 to 1972, it seems that only certain Mark 1s produced circa 1967-68 were born with bezels in this beautiful fuchsia color. It is, of course, important to note that all-aluminum inserts can fade and age differently with wear. Known to collectors as the Fuchsia, or a bit more playfully as the Pink Panther, Mark 1s with these colorful inserts command a premium over many other 1675s and offer a pretty exotic twist on the GMT aesthetic. This watch also happens to have a Jubilee bracelet, which was an option at the time of purchase in many retailers. This GMT-Master to Jubilee bracelet pairing was more common in the 1970s and inspired Rolex to re-release the steel GMT-Master II with red and blue insert on a Jubilee bracelet in 2018.

Reference 1675 (Mark 2): 1972-75, 1977-78

The Mark 2 appears first in about 1972, and it is not difficult to distinguish from other matte dial 1675s. The thick, bold font used for Rolex is one clue, and looking closer at the Rolex name, the letters L and E are placed closer together compared to the other letters in the name. All of the letters in Rolex are also fairly squat, and several of them are wider than they are tall. The accepted serial number range of the 1675 Mark 2 is in the 2.8 to 3.9 million range, and according to the website, several original owner examples have also been found in the low 5 million range. Is it possible that the Crown used left-over Mark 2 dials in this period?

Reference 1675 (Mark 3 Radial Dial, Smaller Lume Plots): 1975-78

Also known as the matte radial dial, the Mark 3 is fairly easy to identify. One needn’t scrutinize the fonts to recognize a Mark 3 dial. Rather, look to the lume plots. They are smaller than the those on the Mark 2, and they’re placed a bit farther from the track when compared to previous matte dial 1675s. And in some ways, this dial is reminiscent of the earlier 6542s. Often Mark 3 radial dials were service dials, but some were also born this way. Notice the all-red 24-hour hand? These hands were often painted red in the aftermarket, as is the case with this one.

Reference 1675 (Mark 5): 1978-80

Here we have the Mark 5. This watch is fairly similar to the Mark 4 that preceded it. Telling the difference between a Mark 5 such as this and a Mark 4 (the watch owned and worn by Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now) can be a bit tricky, but there are a few clues. If you’re examining a watch, this would be a time to get out your loupe.

In a Mark 5, the right vertical line of the “M” in Master bisects the “CH” in chronometer. In a Mark 4, the right line of the “M” sits right on top of the “C” in chronometer.  Also, on a Mark 5, the “O” in ROLEX  should be stretched out a bit, wider than it is tall. The lume plots on the Mark 5 are often a bit puffier and wider than earlier 1675s as well, garnering the moniker “Maxi Mark 5” as well by some collectors and dealers.

Reference 1675 (Mark 2, Blueberry): Late 1970s

And here we have another version of the Mark 2, but what distinguishes this example is its all-blue bezel insert, which collectors have named the “Blueberry.” These watches hail from the ’70s and are thought to coincide more or less with Rolex’s introduction of the all-black aluminum insert, perhaps as a trial of a single-color bezel before Rolex settled on black as another option for people besides the Pepsi insert.

It should be stated up front that this bezel insert is a controversial part, and the collecting community remains divided as to whether these all-blue inserts were ever even made by Rolex. Bezels aren’t signed like dials, cases, movements, and bracelets, making them easier parts to fake, and many of the examples one is likely to find online are replica parts. What’s not debatable is that the Blueberry GMT-Master is among the most desirable watches of the ref. 1675s. Collectors that believe in the veracity of these bezel inserts as being made by Rolex generally settle on the fact they should be on watches in the 5 million serial range dating to the late 1970s. And watches in that 5 million case serial range include Mark 2, Mark 3, Mark 4, and Mark 5 dials, so you see these all-blue bezels on a variety of dial configurations.

For those who believe in them, it’s generally understood that original watches with these blue inserts were not offered at retail, but that the all-blue bezel insert was a test bezel offered to Rolex Service Centers and select retailers to offer to clients. Some have claimed they were reserved for military orders in the Middle East, as some United Arab Emirates (UAE) dial GMT-Masters have been seen and even sold at public auction with the Blueberry inserts, but it is certainly possible the bezel inserts were added to those watches.

Watches With Gold

Reference 1675 (Concorde, No Crown Guards) Early 1960s-65

Just like the 6542, there was an all-gold version of the 1675. And while early steel 1675s had crown guards, their gold counterparts did not, at least not at first. Both the above 1675 and the later gold 1675 below don’t have the Mercedes hand that we’ve seen up until this point in the 1675.

These gold 1675s are often referred to as Concorde models, taking the name from the supersonic commercial jetliner that crisscrossed the Atlantic from 1969 to 2003. The hands are very similar to those that you would see on a Datejust or a Daytona, which is a bit strange to see on a GMT-Master. Many of these early gold 1675s without crown guards have the alpha hands that we have seen on the reference 6542 examples in gold.

Reference 116710LN (Steel with Cerachrom Bezel): 2007-19

Rolex’s ad campaigns from the 1960s and ’70s are some of the most iconic and effective examples of watch marketing ever seen. In this ad from 1968, Rolex promotes this gold GMT-Master as the wristwatch worn by the test-pilots at the helm of the Concorde during its experimental flights.

Reference 1675 (Concorde, Crown Guards): 1966-69

And here we have another example of the gold 1675, though a bit later. Its case features crown guards, and it is on an Oyster bracelet. This one is interesting as it has an extremely thin minute hand, which is also seen in a 1968 Rolex advertisement showing this watch. That is perhaps one way to identify a Concorde with crown guards as having original hands versus hands that were swapped in the watch from another model such as a Daytona or Datejust.
It should be also noted that the crown guards and no crown guards gold 1675s are also seen with the Mercedes hour hand and typical pointed hour hand, and that starting in the later 1960s, we see the option of a gold 1675 with a black dial and black bezel insert. The gold 1675/8 continued into 1980.

Reference 1675/3 (Root Beer): 1970-80

The two-tone Ref. 1675/3, aka, Root Beer, is one of the most iconic takes on the GMT in all of its many forms. The watch that we have here is still a 1675, so it hasn’t yet been updated with the quick-set date that will come with the 16753, which is the two-tone variation of the 16750 that will come out in 1980/1981. It’s fairly easy to distinguish these two watches, as the version we have here has an applied gold coronet, while the 16753 and all-gold 16758 (which we see below) have printed ones.

The Root Beer GMT remains popular to this day, in both vintage and current executions. There are a couple of different versions of this reference, including a black dial variation that came with a solid black bezel.

The Root Beer was made famous on the wrist of Clint Eastwood, who wore one as his personal watch and often donned it in his films.

Reference 16758 (Gold, Quickset): 1980 – 1988

This is the gold version of the steel ref. 16750, which we will come to in just a minute. Likes its steel counterpart, the watch marks the end of the 1675’s long reign and the implementation of a quick-set date. As gold has been a constant in the GMT-Master from the early days, it should come as no surprise that when Rolex introduced the 16750, there was an all-gold version along for the ride. This beautiful example has a case that’s been spared the polishing wheel as evidenced by its slightly tarnished case sideband and intact beveled edges. Some 16758s (including this particular example) maintained the nipple-style hour markers (protruding gold markers filled with lume) seen in earlier gold references of the GMT-Master, while others came equipped with flat markers with gold surrounds, highlighting the transitional nature of the reference.

The gold 16758 was outfitted with a sapphire crystal and came on either a leather strap, an Oyster bracelet, or, as we see here, a Jubilee. There was also a version with brown bezel and dial, drawing a more ready comparison to the gold 1675 Concordes that we just saw. The steel equivalent to this watch that we’ll see next maintained its acrylic crystal. Gold being the more luxurious material, it seems to have necessitated the upgrade to sapphire.

To me, this all gold GMT-Master on a Jubilee feels like the quintessential 1980s luxury watch.

The Transition From GMT-Master To GMT-Master II

Reference 16750 (Spider Dial, Quickset): 1980-88

The ref. 16750 followed the 1675, making it the first new steel GMT-Master reference in some two decades. The defining feature of this reference was its quick-set date, made possible by the introduction of the new Rolex cal. 3075, a movement that also saw an increased frequency of 28,800 vph vs. 19,600 vph for the late 1675s. Water resistance was also revised for the first time in the GMT-Master. Whereas all four-digit references had been water resistant to 50 meters (165 ft), the 16750 doubled that rating. The 16750 is regarded today as a transitional model and was in production for about seven years, a short period of time considering the long run 1675 had.

Earlier versions of this reference continued the theme of the later 1675s by having a matte dial, but Rolex eventually switched out the matte dial in favor of a glossy lacquer dial with white-gold surrounds on the indexes. The example that we have here is one of the latter, and if you look closely, you can even see that the lacquer dial has hairline cracks running around it, making it a so-called “Spider” dial.


If you watched television in the ’80s, there’s a good chance that you saw this reference on the wrist of Tom Selleck when he played a private investigator on the hit series Magnum PI, which ran from 1980 to ’88, coinciding with the tenure of the 16750.

With the 1675, the order of the hands from the dial up was 24-hour hand, hour, minute, second. With the 16750, the order changes: The 24-hour hand moves up between the hour and the minute.

Reference 16700 (Last reference of GMT-Master): 1988-99

A fascinating aspect of the GMT-Master is that even after the successful launch of the GMT-Master II in 1982, the GMT-Master continued on, and new references of the older GMT-Master, like this one, were to be added to the collection as more affordable options. This watch replaced the previous GMT-Master ref. 16750.

Released in 1988, the ref. 16700 is the last reference of the GMT-Master. It continued to be manufactured right up until 1999. The 16700 used the Rolex cal. 3175, Rolex’s last “fixed” GMT movement, with all subsequent calibers allowing for independent operation of the GMT and hour hands, and therefore timing of a third time zone. The first nine years of this watch’s production would have included tritium lume. From 1997 on, it was switched to Super-LumiNova.

Around the same time that this last GMT-Master came out, Rolex also released the Ref. 16710 as the successor to the 16760. The 16760 was the first GMT-Master II, and we’ll be covering it next.

Reference 16760 (Fat Lady, First Coke bezel, First GMT-Master II): 1982-88

The 16760 is the very first GMT-Master II, and was produced between 1982 and 1988. One thing you’ll notice if you handle one is that it is a bit thicker than the watches we have so far seen. This thicker case was necessitated by the thicker caliber 3085, developed to incorporate the decoupled 12-hour and 24-hour hands. This allowed the 12-hour hand to jump in one-hour increments forward or backward as the user traversed time zones without the movement stopping. The ref. 16760 also introduced the so-called “Coke” bezel, with an aluminum insert in black for the evening hours and red for daylight. This reference has been given the moniker the “Fat Lady” by the collector community. Some also lovingly refer to this model as the “Sophia Loren.”

Reference 16710 (Second GMT-Master II): 1989-2007

The GMT-Master II ref. 16710 is the second reference of the GMT-Master II and the follow-up to the Reference 16760. This reference went on to have a quite long run that spanned from the late ’80s right up until 2007 and the introduction of the reference 116710 in steel with all-black Cerachrom bezel. As a long-running reference available with three different bezels (the Pepsi and Coke, which you see here, in addition to an all-black variation), the 16710 was produced alongside the GMT-Master Ref. 16700 until the former’s cancellation in 1999.

The thicker case of the 16760 was dispensed with in favor of a slimmer case made possible by the new 3185 movement. And some very late examples of the 16710, from 2007, even feature the cal. 3186. As transitional watches to the Cerachrom bezel models, some have an “error” or “stick dial” that is highly desirable to collectors. One sold recently at Phillips in December.

As a reference that spanned some 18 years (nearly as long as the 1675), we see quite a few variations in the 16710. Until 1997, these watches featured Tritium dials marked T<25, LumiNova from about 1998 to 1999, and then Super-LumiNova from 2000 to 2007.

In 2000, the bracelets that came with the 16710 received solid end links, and in 2003, the case was modified slightly to eliminate the exterior holes on the sides of the lugs.

Cerachrom Bezels

Reference 116710LN (Steel with Cerachrom Bezel): 2007-19

In 2005, Rolex celebrated the 50th anniversary or the GMT-Master by redesigning the GMT-Master II, beefing up the case considerably and introducing a ceramic bezel insert that, at first, was produced in a single color: black. The initial anniversary model was made in gold, but Rolex followed up in 2007 with the steel version we have here. It used the new cal. 3186 with Parachrom hairspring, which provided greater resistance to shocks and temperature variations. Rolex also made a two-tone steel and gold variation on the black Cerachrom-bezeled GMT-Master II, the reference 116713. Into the production of the 116710LN, the switch was made over to the blue-glowing Chromalight lume, so early examples have Super-LumiNova, while later ones have Chromalight.

It’s important to note that Rolex chose to debut the Cerachrom bezel on the GMT-Master II, not the Submariner, the Sea-Dweller, or the Daytona, which all have monochromatic bezels. While this watch had indeed already had monochrome bezels from the beginning with the gold 6542, it was the two-tone Pepsi, Coke, and Root Beer variations that came to define the GMT-Master in the minds of watch collectors. With the arrival of the Cerachrom lunette noire in 2007, Rolex discontinued its Coke and Pepsi variations with aluminum inserts, and the black, Cerachrom-bezeled GMT-Master II was the only steel GMT game in town.

Reference 116710BLNR (First Batman): 2013-19

That all changed in 2013, when Rolex presented the ref. 116710BLNR, the original Batman, which used a patented process that resulted in the first bi-color ceramic bezel. According to Rolex, the bezel began as an all-blue, porous piece of ceramic, to which black coloring was subsequently added, but only on one half of the bezel. The blue and black color combination had no precedent in the GMT-Master line, and some speculated that its appearance had as much to do with difficulties realizing a blue-and-red bezel or a black and red bezel as anything else. Regardless, the “Batman” became a bonafide hit, and customers embraced this GMT-Master II, which was also sometimes called the “Bruiser.”

Reference 116719BLRO (Pepsi Returns, First GMT in White Gold): 2014-18

Up until this point in the Cerachrom GMT-Master II, what has been notably absent, and what many collectors were left anxiously waiting for until 2014, was the iconic Pepsi bezel. Its red and blue halves had come to personify the GMT-Master from its earliest days in the mid-’50s. The release of the solid white gold ref. 116719BLRO marked the triumphant return of the Pepsi bezel, though with something of a caveat. Rumors had circulated that producing a red version of the material had proven elusive, and that this was further complicated by the need for it to transition to another color, whether it be black to form a Coke bezel or blue to make a Pepsi.

Rolex proved that it could indeed be done, but the fact remained that the choice of metal to debut the new Cerachrom Pepsi – white gold, a material not yet seen in a GMT-Master – imposed a limit on the demand that the watch could hope to generate. One theory was that the new Pepsi bezels were too difficult to make in the quantities required for a steel version.

Four years later, when Rolex did eventually make a steel Pepsi, it switched the dial of the white gold Pepsi from black to blue, and even offered previous buyers the chance to change their dials to blue if they desired. Rolex discontinued the 116719BLRO with black dial in favor of the 126719BLRO with blue dial, and that remains in production today.

Reference 126715CHNR (Everose): 2018 – present

The year 2018 was a very big one for the Rolex GMT-Master II. In addition to a new steel version with a Pepsi bezel, which we’ll get to in a minute, we also had a new all-precious-metal variation that joined the existing white-gold Pepsi from 2014. Rolex released this Everose example (and another two-tone Rolesor example, the 126711CHNR Root Beer) with a Cerachrom bezel in black and brown. While this combination of colors is technically new, the Rolesor 126711CHNR drew instant comparisons to the 1675/3 and later 16753 Root Beer GMT-Masters popularized in the ’70s and ’80s. The ability to make more variations on the two-color Cerachrom bezel had enabled the return of a fan favorite in a modern execution.

Reference 126710BLRO (Pepsi On Jubilee): 2018 – present

Four years after the return of the Pepsi GMT-Master II in white gold, Rolex presented the watch that GMT lovers had been waiting for. The stainless steel GMT-Master II Ref. 126710BLRO returned the Pepsi bezel to its stainless steel sport/tool watch roots while, for the first time, upgrading the GMT-Master II to include the new cal. 3285, a movement that represents a major step forward for the GMT-Master II dynasty. Befitting Rolex’s well-earned reputation for incrementally improving its watches, cal. 3285 offered meaningful gains in power reserve, precision, and resistance to shocks and magnetism. It has 70 hours of power reserve (versus 50 for the cal. 3186 it replaced) and introduced Rolex’s more efficient Chronergy escapement to the GMT-Master II family. Rolex applied for ten patents in connection with the development of the 3285.

While the stainless steel GMT-Master II Ref. 126710BLRO was virtually identical to the white gold Ref. 116719BLRO of just four years prior, Rolex opted to differentiate this new Oystersteel reference by placing it on a Jubilee bracelet, calling to mind certain GMT-Master references from the 1970s and 1980s. This new Jubilee-equipped GMT-Master II also features the Oysterlock clasp, allowing for a 5mm on-the-fly adjustment in length, useful for those hot and humid summer days.

In addition to being one of the hottest Rolex models currently in production and one of the most desirable stainless steel sport watches from any brand, the stainless steel Pepsi has seen the GMT-Master II rise to rival even the Daytona as the most sought after modern Rolex sport watch.

Reference 126710BLNR (Batman On Jubilee): 2019 – present

In 2019, Rolex released its follow-up to the original stainless steel Batman. Like the 126710BLRO Pepsi of the year before, the new Batman features the upgraded cal. 3285 automatic movement with Chronergy escapement and 70 hours of power reserve. The Batman, having caught on in 2013, was here to stay as a new color combo specific to the GMT-Master II. In being paired with a Jubilee bracelet, the new Batman, which was now also nicknamed the “Batgirl,” signaled that there might be a system of rules in place regarding the pairing of bracelets with GMT-Master II watches.

Rolesor and gold GMT-Master II models have recently been paired with Oyster bracelets, while recent stainless steel models have so far been presented on the Jubilee bracelet. What the future holds is anybody’s guess, and I think it very unwise for anyone to claim that they can predict what Rolex will do next. But for the time being, gold means Oyster and steel means Jubilee.

Bezel Variations Of The Rolex GMT-Master

The below chart is not intended to be a definitive guide to GMT-Master bezels. As we have already seen in the story, Bakelite and aluminum inserts have a tendency to age in their own unique ways. Rather, here are some of the more common types that we have seen in this article.

Collecting The Rolex GMT-Master

The Rolex GMT-Master has been with us for more than 60 years, and in that time, it has eclipsed its initial tool-watch origins rooted in commercial aviation to become one of the most desirable and collectible watches in the world. We’ve shown you 34 different versions of the GMT-Master from the original ref. 6542 in 1955 right up to a number of GMT-Master IIs that are currently in production. And to be honest, we could have included more, but we simply had to draw the line somewhere in terms of presenting this article and video as a piece of digestible content.

Taking a page from Stephen in his Reference Points: Understanding The Rolex Submariner, I asked the same four questions to three different watch collectors and experts with deep knowledge of the GMT-Master, each covering a specific slice of the pie.

The four questions are:

1. Are there any variations within this category that are undervalued? 

2. Is there a common mistake that people often make when they begin looking at this category?

3. What is the holy grail in this category? Is there a runner-up?

4. What’s the best advice you could offer to someone looking to collect the GMT-Master?

I then asked Eric Wind a fifth question about collecting gold references.

5. Are there any tips you have on collecting the gold category of GMT-Masters?

Anonymous Collector On Instagram – Ref. 6542

1. Well, you’re asking the wrong guy. I think the entire category is grossly undervalued when you compare it to Rolex Submariners of the same era (1950s), both “Big Crown” and “Small Crown” models. And, I would venture to say that the things we collectors find so appealing about 1950s Subs are even more present in this category. I think, perhaps, a part of it is because there is not a lot of information out there regarding the subtle variations within this reference – and because the radiation levels on these are so high, very, very few survived in truly untouched, unmolested condition. Given the small sample size of great examples, it’s harder for the market for them to develop, as great ones do not transact frequently. There may also be some nervousness about spending such sums on a watch with an antique bakelite bezel that is inherently fragile. None of that has deterred me, as I think the 6542s are some of the most beautiful within the pantheon of historic Rolex sport watches. The attributes of vintage watches we hold so dear – like the fact that each watch ages differently, the warmth of radium luminous, the glossy dial – are amplified on this reference. And then there is that gorgeous bezel that is unique to the reference, and the colors it can express depending on how it has aged…the white seconds hand on certain examples… All these attributes make this reference one of the most interesting, unique, and beautiful.

2. I can’t think of any mistakes specific to this category. With vintage watches, knowledge is power. If you are not armed with knowledge prior to considering a watch like this, you are at a significant disadvantage. And of course, buying the seller, as the saying goes, is paramount. These days, it seems the best dealers will stand behind their product no questions asked…as they should on such costly items, in my humble opinion.

3. I guess I’m slightly biased here, but purely on aesthetics alone, I would say the 18-karat 6542 in this story with the lighter champagne dial (they also came with a darker dial – I far prefer the lighter) is a sight to behold. Just a dazzling, gorgeous watch.  The steel 6542 in this story with the “maxi” dial, which means it has larger radium plots, either is, or should be, the holy grail within this category: only made within a small serial range and extremely rare in this configuration, not to mention state of preservation.

4. Let your budget guide you. Once you have a budget in mind, investigate which references and configurations are within your budget when you eliminate examples that are not in top, original condition. Don’t be tempted to compromise quality just to get into a reference that you cannot afford otherwise. If and when you decide to sell, you will thank me. Do your homework: The research and the hunt is one of the best parts of this hobby! Gather advice from trustworthy sources. Look at as many examples as you can. Don’t be in a hurry! But in the end, trust your instincts and your gut. And you’d better love it, otherwise don’t buy it, even if it seems like a good deal.

Dr. Andrew Hantel – Ref. 1675

1. I think the term “undervalued” is tough to use when prices have exploded, and you can’t find a decent four-digit steel reference for under $10,000. If we take undervalued in the relative sense, then I’d say examples in good condition and with an interesting and traceable provenance are undervalued. Those examples, even among the more quotidian 1675s, are harder and harder to find. Plus, these give you a peace of mind that is hard to come by in vintage Rolex these days. This idea of traceable provenance is starting to become important, though; I’m not sure it will be undervalued for long.

If I need to peg “undervalued” to a dial type, I think the transitional matte dial reference (the Mark 0) hasn’t had its day in the sun. These offer the durability of a matte dial while retaining the font, coronet, and puffy zinc sulfide lume of the late gilt 1675s. They don’t tend to run at much of a premium over other matte dials but, if you can find one, they have that little something that grabs your attention.

2. One is applicable to almost any category of watch: People try to reach for the most desirable variation they can afford, but do so at the expense of condition or by buying from a less than reputable source. Find the iteration of 1675 you think you can afford in good condition (i.e., something without service parts, damage, or more than a slight polish) from someone you know personally or from a dealer that has a good reputation.

The other is: if you don’t know how to surf, don’t start by paddling out to the Banzai Pipeline. What I mean is, if you haven’t spent a lot of time researching vintage Rolex, don’t start your journey by going straight for the rare pieces. Vintage Rolex knowledge is all post hoc and the reference material is annoyingly desultory. That means finding what’s considered correct for a rare GMT is difficult (and even harder to verify). If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll be stuck with a “franken” or outright fake, and someone will have a lot of your hard-earned money. Start with a ’70s matte dial with a Pepsi bezel and folded link bracelet from the middle of the accepted serial range, and leave the triple Swisses and Tiffany stamps for another day. The matte 1675s aren’t rare, so if you don’t pass on at least five examples before finding one that sticks, it’s more likely that you’ll be regretting your purchase than that you got lucky.

Marlon Brando’s GMT-Master 1675 Mark 4

(Photo: Mary Ellen Mark via Phillips) 

Until it sold for nearly $2 million on December 10 at Phillips in New York, the long-lost holy grail among 1675s was a Mark 4 personally engraved by one of the greatest actors in the history of film, Marlon Brando. Here Brando can be seen wearing it, famously, while portraying Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now.

In 2014, Ben Clymer included this watch in a story on twelve of the greatest missing watches of all time, and after it finally surfaced last year and was consigned to Phillips, James went hands-on with this important GMT-Master.


3. Well, the Brando GMT just sold…

Apart from that, the holy grail would be a publicly scrutinized and accepted Pan Am variant. There’s been a grudging acceptance of Pan Am 6542s, but at this point, there are only unproven claims of white dialed 1675s. I’m skeptical, and it’d take a lot to convince the community, but if they exist, it’d be something to behold.

There are a number of others that could stake a claim for runner-up – what you think it is just depends on personal taste. For the crested dials, the most well-known is the UAE falcon, but there are also few Khanjar-dialed 1675s that have surfaced and can be considered the apogee of that category. If you’re into the “but look closer” camp, I think the non-Tiffany double-signed examples, such as SyL, Cartier, or Asprey, are equally remarkable.

4. Like I’d mentioned above: Focus on finding a high-quality example and avoid the penumbras of vintage Rolex scholarship. The other thing that I’d say is half advice and half selling point. The 1675 bezel inserts provide a way for collectors to transform their watch while avoiding more five-figure purchases. Buy an unfaded Pepsi, a ghosted insert, and a black insert and voila: You have three different looks to switch between without having to remortgage your house.

Eric Wind – The GMT-Master In General (With An Extra Question On Gold Examples)

1. I hesitate to say anything as a general category or reference within GMT-Masters remains undervalued since we have seen a significant increase in prices across the board following the re-introduction of the BLRO (Pepsi) GMT-Master by Rolex in 2018. However, what I believe to be the case is that excellent condition watches, particularly for the references 1675 and 6542, will appreciate with time. The biggest trend within vintage the past few years has been a better understanding of condition and originality, and the price/value differential between average and exceptional condition continues to grow rapidly.

2. The biggest mistake people make is to try to reach for a poor to average condition example of a rarer and older model, rather than buying the best condition they can. For example, some people may reach for a 1675 with service replacement parts such as hands, bezel insert, or even dial as their budget may be close to or a little under $10,000. In fact, they should be looking at watches that are a little newer, like a 16750 with white-gold surrounds or a great 16700 or 16710.

3. There are different definitions of holy grails for the GMT-Master category, but one would certainly be a white-dial reference 6542 in mint condition or any reference 6542 with Pan Am provenance. Others may say GMT-Masters owned by famous individuals such as the Marlon Brando reference 1675 that sold for almost $2 million at auction, the undiscovered Pablo Picasso reference 6542, or even Tom Selleck’s GMT-Master reference 16750 as worn on Magnum P.I.

4. One aspect of GMT-Master collecting that is a bit different than collecting the Submariner is that some collectors buy multiple aluminum bezel inserts and swap them in and out of a watch depending on their mood, season, and outfit: for example, “fuchsia” inserts where the red is a more intense fuchsia pink, inserts that are more faded, inserts that are less faded with a darker red and blue color combination, and inserts with thick numbers called “fat font” or “super-fat font” inserts, to name just a few. Some have likened this to the watch being a doll and the inserts being the clothes with the collectors playing “dress-up.” While I understand it, I generally don’t like this approach as the watches often don’t look coherent when you are putting mint bezel inserts on a more worn watch or vice versa. I like the appearance of a watch that looks like it was born together and aged uniformly.

But my only other advice is to buy a GMT-Master from a trusted seller/dealer as there are so many fake/aftermarket parts, including bezel inserts, that are floating around now that a novice buyer probably couldn’t evaluate what they are purchasing and should leave it to the professionals.

5. I find that given the softer nature of the gold cases, many vintage gold GMT-Masters I see have been heavily polished, which I find visually unappealing. It is very hard to find crisp and untouched examples of the best vintage gold GMT-Masters (or Submariners) as they have typically been worn and serviced frequently over the years. If you find a great one, I would suggest buying it.

Quick Table Of References

Below is a table of the references covered in this article, including the approximate years of their production. Dating vintage Rolex watches by serial number is not a hard-and-fast science.

Editor’s Note: We’d like to extend a huge thanks to Eric Wind, without whom this article and video would not have been possible. We’d also like to thank Eneuri Acosta, Paul Altieri, Cameron Barr, Alan Bedwell, Jeffrey Binstock, Vincent Brasesco, Curtis Chen, Ben Clymer, Glynn Connolly, Menard Encarnacion, Paul Engel, Jack Feldman, Brandon Frazin, Adam Golden, Geoff Hess, Jonathan Kosow, Ricky Lassin, David Shorter, Leon Shoyketbrod, Rob Staky, Jon Yu, and an anonymous collector who goes by on Instagram all for lending us their precious watches. We’d also like to thank Dr. Andrew Hantel for his exhaustive scholarship of the ref. 1675, which can be found on his excellent website,

Photography: Tiffany Wade

Videography: David Aujero, Greyson Korhonen, Shahed Khaddash

Video Editing: David Aujero

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