The Rolex GMT Master is arguably one of the best known models within the brand, occupying territory along with the Submariner and Daytona as one of the three kings in “professional” line. Its history from conception to present day is a fascinating insight into the development of watches with purpose.
In a recent post we took a look at some of the vintage references of the GMT-Master. It was tempting to split vintage and modern into “bakelite/aluminium bezels and Cerachrom bezels” however, the last of the pre-ceramic bezel GMT-Master II’s is by all counts a modern watch with classic looks so it deserves to be discussed in these terms.
The Rolex GMT-Master II 16710, the last pre-ceramic reference.
The 16710 was produced from 1989 until 2007. It is 40mm in size with a twin lock crown for 100m water resistance, sapphire crystal, hacking (stop seconds) movement, quickset date feature, and from 2000 onwards – solid end links. With three bezel (Pepsi, Coke, all black) and two bracelet (oyster and jubilee) options it is the most versatile of the GMT-Master range and has the ability to offer 6 different looks using a combination of different bezel and bracelet options. Some examples of the different looks that the 16710 can achieve:
Due to its versatility the 16710 is considered to be the masterpiece of GMT-Master II production and for over a decade (2007-2018) was the last “Pepsi” that Rolex produced. Fortunately due to its relatively long production run, superb examples are still found and Official Watches can search one for you here – https://www.officialwatches.com/product/rolex-gmt-master-ii-16710-ow502332/
The Ceramic References:
In 2005 Rolex updated their GMT-Master II line when they released their 50 years of the GMT anniversary model in yellow gold with a green dial, reference 116718LN. The case was re-designed to make it appear chunkier while retaining its 40mm measurement, this became known as the “super case”. The crown was switched from “twinlock” to “triplock” in line with the Submariner range. Its indices and hands were increased in size to become “maxi” and the bracelet was redesigned completely using solid links with polished centres and a technically advanced clasp. The all important bezel was presented in fade and scratch proof ceramic.
GMT-Master II 116718LN – Anniversary green dial.
The 116710LN (LN = lunette noir = black bezel)
This reference, which made its debut in 2007 was the first steel and ceramic GMT-Master II and can be sourced here, although it is now discontinued – https://www.officialwatches.com/product/rolex-gmt-master-ii-116710-ln/
The 116710LN was initially met with some grumbling from enthusiasts who noted that it was at a glance very visually similar to the submariner due to the black bezel. The polished centre link bracelet was accused of being less “tool-like” than its predecessor the 16710 because the centre links, which were polished to a mirror finish, picked up hairline marks and micro scratches which were highly visible in comparison to fully brushed bracelets. That said, the new solid link bracelets were hailed as infinitely more robust than the “tuna-can” bracelet and stamped clasps of pre-ceramic references. If there’s one thing to note with Rolex aficionados, it’s that you can’t please everybody and you can’t hold back technological advances for the sake of nostalgia. The bracelets on 6 digit reference Rolexes are superb.
Bezel gripes soon settled when it became clear (way-back-when) that ceramic technology hadn’t advanced enough for Rolex to produce a bi-colour bezel as it was impossible to create a fixed line of ceramic that was both stable and didn’t bleed between the two colours. It looked like with the introduction of new technologies, we would be mourning the loss of the brightly coloured bezels that had become synonymous with the GMT-Master. Fortunately, all of this changed in 2013…
I will refrain from humming the theme tune.
Reference 116710BLNR (bleu/noir bezel) aka “Batman”
The 116710BLNR was released in 2013 and became an instant and roaring success. Rolex had mastered ceramic bi-colour technology by initially casting in blue and mixing the black in later using a patented process which leaves a flawless transition and sharp line between the two colours. This two toned ceramic bezel was a world first and “The Crown” had elected to use a new combination of black and blue to denote night and day. This colour mixture earned it the Batman nickname. On initial release it was also called “The Bruiser” but this (fortunately) didn’t last long as not many people wanted to name their watch after an injury.
Baselworld 2018 provided a huge shakeup for the GMT-Master range as Rolex introduced *Everose and steel and full Everose gold models to the collection.
*Everose is Rolexes patented variant of pink/rose gold. Patented and made with 76% gold, 12% copper (the element responsible for the pink hue) and 2% platinum to lock in the colour and prevent fading over its lifetime. A video of the foundry process can be seen here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KKgUzfwJplg
References 126715CHNR (full Everose) and 126711CHNR the new “Root Beer”
These two references are my favourites of the current line-up, and I say this as a diehard wearer of steel watches. The way that the Everose plays so well with the coffee and espresso colours of the bezel really works and adds such a warmth to the watch. Plus, as a huge fan of the “original” Root Beer, I am delighted that Rolex have seen fit to take the lid off it again for the 21st Century.
126715CHNR – Full Everose, warm, versatile, and has a beautiful weight on the wrist.
Can be purchased from Official Watches here – https://www.officialwatches.com/product/rolex-gmt-master-ii-126715chnr-ow502334/
126711CHNR the new “Root Beer”. Totally modernised and the use of bi-metal really compliments the bezel.
Can be purchased from Official Watches here – https://www.officialwatches.com/product/rolex-gmt-master-ii-root-beer-126711chnr-ow502335/
Basel 2018 was not only used by Rolex to showcase their Everose additions to the GMT range. Their primary focus of the show was to re-release the old favourite:
All hail the new Pepsi – Reference 126710BLRO
A first in the ceramic GMT era, the 126710BLRO was released on a jubilee bracelet. Solid link, over-engineered, and highly unlikely to stretch (a regular complaint regarding the hollow jubilees of old).
The blue and red bezel had been remastered in ceramic and the Pepsi was back.
It is available from Official Watches here – https://www.officialwatches.com/product/rolex-gmt-master-ii-pepsi-126710blro-ow502336/
When the Pepsi was launched in 2018, speculation began to circulate that the “Batman” would be discontinued now that Rolex had found a way to create the blue and red bezel. The assumption was that the arrival of the new mix would render the 116710BLNR obsolete. The speculation ended at Baselworld 2019 when Rolex unveiled the 126710BLNR.
126710BLNR – New 2019 “Batman”
The 116710BLNR has been discontinued-ish… Its successor now sports a jubilee bracelet to match the Pepsi.
The steel GMT-Master II line has lost its oyster.
Whether or not the sportier bracelet will return to steel in the future remains to be seen but for the moment, this concludes the history of the Rolex GMT-Master.