Developments in watchmaking directly tie to progress in our world. As we evolve, watches evolve too. One model that perfectly exemplifies this connection between watches and our culture is Rolex’s GMT Master. The GMT Master, instead of continuing innovation under the same name, turned into the GMT Master II. We take a look at the GMT Master vs. GMT Master II.
Historical Context for the GMT Master
The 1950’s aviation boom resulted in increased nationwide and intercontinental travel for business and pleasure. It was an exciting yet demanding time to be a pilot. They began to travel through different time zones more frequently. As a result, they needed an instrument that could display time in multiple time zones at once.
In 1954, Rolex collaborated with Pan Am. They set out to create a watch that would meet the evolving needs of pilots and avid travelers alike. Together, they developed the GMT Master. It was the first wristwatch using a fourth hand and corresponding 24-hour bezel to display time in multiple time zones. It also became the official watch of Pan Am.
The GMT Master
The original GMT Master, Reference 6542, was adapted from the brand’s Datejust Turn-o-Graph. It featured an updated movement, two-tone 24-hour bezel to distinguish day and nighttime hours, and fourth hand. For many years, the design of the GMT Master only saw minor updates. In 1956, Rolex replaced the original Bakelite bezel with a sturdier metal, and in 1959, they added a crown guard. In addition, Rolex added a number of style variations over the years. They initially designed the two-tone bezel for function in Pan Am’s signature colors. However, the GMT Master has since become famous for its wide array of bezel hues, which have adopted quirky nicknames.
The GMT Master II
In 1983, Rolex made their most significant update to the model, and the GMT Master II was born. At first glance, the original GMT Master and GMT Master II may look nearly identical. However, the main differences are not as much aesthetic as they are functional. The GMT Master II features an all-new movement with a quickset hour hand. The quickset hour hand is independently adjustable. This allows the local time to be set without stopping the second, minute, or fourth 24-hour GMT hand.
In other words, the GMT Master II can display the time in not just two but three time zones simultaneously. The all-new movement is slightly heftier than the original, making the GMT Master II a bit bulkier in size. In 2007, Rolex introduced the first completely redesigned version of the GMT Master II. It comes equipped with a triplock crown, anti-reflective cyclops lens, green 24-hour hand, maxi dial, and ceramic bezel. In addition, it features a new bracelet and movement, as well as a Rolex engraving on the inner bezel ring.
Choosing the Best Model for You
Though Rolex discontinued the original GMT Master in 1999, both models continue to be two of Rolex’s most beloved watches. Are you a pilot or avid traveler in the market for a pre-owned watch? Then, the original GMT Master is an excellent choice with a rich history spanning 45 years. However, the GMT Master II boasts increased functionality for those looking to display more than two time zones. Plus, some of the modern updates are hard to beat. Each version embodies Rolex’s pioneering spirit and passion for aviators and adventurers.