Technology and History Behind Rolex GMT Master II


Since its founding in 1908, Rolex has created the most iconic brand of timepieces in the world and among the most recognizable examples of world-class quality in precision chronometry ever produced. For Rolex’s founder Hans Wildorf,  continuous innovation and growth coupled with eternal belief in the unbounded potential of the human spirit provided his growing company with uninterrupted dominance of the luxury watches market.  From the very start of its legendary history, Rolex has introduced many firsts to the world of precision wristwatches including the waterproof watch (which was eventually perfected to provide waterproof protection to a depth of 100 meters), the self-winding watch, features of multiple time zone tracking and the world’s first date annunciator function.

Debut of the Rolex GMT Master

In the world of post-World War II aviation watches, wherein both aviator and timepiece needed to be attuned to rapid and frequent time zone changes, the Rolex GMT Master became one of the best-known and most beloved watches on earth. Far more than just a watch, it was a reliable and enduring timepiece of unparalleled utility and quality. It was appropriately named for the time zone at the Prime Meridian in Greenwich, England…Greenwich Mean Time, GMT. The original GMT-Master was introduced in 1954 offering the world’s first dual time zone watch using a rotating 24-hour external bezel. The 24-hour bezel would be rotated and set to GMT while a 2nd internal 24-hour, arrow-tipped scale bezel would be set to reflect the offset from GMT for the local time zone. Pilots and flight crews for Pan American Airways and other airlines of the day considered this feature a true breakthrough as it enabled continuous real-time viewing of two time zones simultaneously for the first time. At a time of increasing intercontinental travel, flight crews found this to be both informative and valuable…and uniquely available from authentic Rolex watch sellers.

Next Generation, Rolex GMT Master II

1983 saw the introduction of the next generation Rolex GMT-Master II, which enables adjustment of the hour hand to set local time without interrupting the second, minute, or 24 hour GMT hand (achieved by pulling the crown to a 3rd position). By employing the external rotating bezel and the independently adjustable GMT and hour hands, and aviator could effectively now monitor 3 independent time zones simultaneously. This again was the world’s first and an innovative breakthrough introduced in the GMT-Master II.

As the world’s leader in precision timepieces, Rolex watches have evolved through a critically selective process adding robust features and exquisite market-driven styling in a meticulous, incremental fashion. The specific evolution of the GMT-Master II has been a methodical progression of engineering achievements providing increased functionality and improved performance. As a result, not only does it remain the watch of choice among aviation professionals, even in a time in which the technology of digital electronics has surpassed most of its analog and mechanical ancestors; it has an established following dedicated to its aesthetic and styling that has helped to cultivate the market including all its color schemes and nicknames.


Among the most popular GMT-Master II model nicknames are the:

GMT Master II Pepsi” (red and blue bezel employing colors reminiscent of the soft drink’s logo),

GMT Master II Batman” (black and blue bezel evoking the mysterious colors associated with the “Dark Knight”),

GMT Master II Root Beer” (a nod to its color scheme, but also known as the “Dirty Harry”, a favorite famously worn by Clint Eastwood in the title role of the film by the same name) and

Rolex Fat Lady”, so named for its noticeably larger diameter case. Very few “Fat Ladies” were manufactured and today they are quite popular with collectors due to their limited availability.

Intellectual Property and the Cultivation of Enduring Value

Throughout its history, as Rolex has focused on unique designs and robust engineering, it has obtained the protection of those designs by way of patents…over 500 of them. Clearly, this portfolio constitutes a truly encyclopedic summary of the systems and mechanisms developed for the manufacture of precision timepieces, as well as the materials and methods used in that manufacture. The entire Rolex product line has benefitted from this enormous body of engineering and design, none more so than the GMT-Master II. Innovative developments in resistance to magnetic fields, resistance to mechanical impact, resistance to water infiltration, reductions in energy consumption (critical to the practical, real-world use of a self-winding watch), increases in timekeeping precision, use of advanced materials, and myriad other features have contributed to this portfolio of licensed and protected inventions and to Rolex’s position of market preeminence.

In addition to providing a shield against competitive threats enabling Rolex to achieve market dominance, the broad Rolex portfolio of patented innovations has helped support and nourish the brand and established Rolex timepieces as objects of enduring value. Like all Rolex watches, the GMT-Master II is built like a tank and is manufactured to uniquely high standards of quality, performance, and aesthetic. Rolex quality standards yield a product that endures not simply for years, but for decades, for generations. As the Rolex timepiece exhibits a truly timeless aesthetic born from classic styling and attention to detail, it is not only welcome but remains in extremely high demand in its roles as a fashion accessory, a piece of luxury jewelry, an engineering marvel, and a family heirloom embodying unique sentimental and historic value.

At the Top for a Century…So Far

It is rare to encounter a brandable to maintain dominance and world-class supremacy in a sustained market over the course of a century. Many industries simply haven’t existed that long and among those that have, corporate longevity has failed to exhibit such endurance. Rolex is a distinct exception in a class by itself, and the GMT Master II has helped establish that distinction.

In today’s rapidly changing marketplace, Rolex continues to maintain its position of world-class excellence as one of the most prized brands of watches in existence. Specific models within the Rolex line remain uniquely positioned as the iconic leaders in their respective categories.  No watch has endured longer or more successfully as a leader in its category than have the GMT-Master and GMT-Master II. The exquisite styling, precision, and durability of this flagship aviator’s navigation and timekeeping workhorse maintain a strong appeal in both the new and previously owned luxury watches market. Tom Selleck, in his role as Thomas Magnum in the 1980s TV show “Magnum, P.I.”, helped illustrate its styling appeal when he chose it as an essential component of his ensemble along with his iconic Hawaiian shirts.

Vintage Rolex GMT Master

The Rolex GMT-Master was introduced to the world over thirty years ago, its predecessor nearly 70 years prior to that. Does the GMT-Master family have another seventy years in its future? Definitely, Yes, because as Rolex models get older and discontinued, their values increase with time. Check out some great GMT Master II watches on Diamond Source NYC website.

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