Many visitors to my blog, Fratellowatches.com, absolutely love Rolex watches. Whenever I write something about this brand, whether it’s about new product introductions at Baselworld or something involving vintage Rolex watches, I receive a great deal of commentary and questions. One of the most often-asked questions is,“What is your favorite Rolex model?”
My personal pick is the Rolex GMT-Master. Not only because of the interesting history it has, as the watch of Pan-Am pilots and NASA astronauts, nor even the fact that Tom Selleck had one on his wrist in “Magnum: P.I.,” but also because it is a very reliable and easy-to-use travel companion.
For this Fratello Friday article, I picked three of my favorite Rolex GMT-Master models. From the first models, with their bakelite turning bezels, to the current models that feature an independent extra hour hand and a ceramic turning bezel, there are plenty to choose from, as this watch has been on the market since 1954.
My first pick is the now discontinued model Rolex GMT-Master II (Reference 16710) with a blue-and-red bezel. This model was introduced in 1989 and was produced until 2007. Due to the independent hour hand and rotatable bezel, the wearer is able to read three different time zones.
With its variety of three different aluminum inlays for the bezels, and the ability to have them swapped every so often (either DIY or at a Rolex service center), it was a very versatile watch. Rolex aficionados have developed nicknames for the black-and-red-bezel version (Coke) and the blue-and-red bezel (Pepsi). The Oyster bracelet on this model had an all-matte finish and had a flip-lock on the clasp to ensure safety.
In 2008, Rolex introduced the current lineup of GMT-Master II watches. The case of the watch grew in both thickness and diameter and the lugs become a bit larger as well. The hour markers are bigger, and the watch featured a Trip-Lock crown (instead of the Twin-Lock crown it had in the past) and a ceramic bezel. The ceramic bezel will not discolor like the old aluminum bezels did and, more importantly, they won’t scratch.
The red GMT hand, which was so recognizable on the previous stainless-steel Rolex GMT-Master models, was replaced with a green one on this model. Also, the printing of the word “GMT-Master” on the dial is in green instead of white.
The bracelet of the Reference 116710LN GMT-Master II is quite different from the simpler and much criticized bracelets of old (although most of the criticism always seemed to come from people who didn’t like Rolex to begin with). The bracelet on the GMT-Master II 116710LN has a new clasp (with micro-adjustment and the capability to extend the bracelet) and a polished center link.
The polished center link of the bracelet and the green GMT hand are the reason that this watch comes in at #2. If the bracelet had an all-matte finish, or if the GMT hand were still in red, this one could well be ranked first on my list. The new black-and-blue model that Rolex introduced at Baselworld 2013 is a handsome version, but I still prefer the green model; the blue color probably has to grow on me.
Not the oldest GMT-Master, but still a nice vintage watch (1959 – 1980) that can be found for relatively decent prices. Since there are so many of them still around, you can pick one you really like (with patina hands and hour markers or ones that are still white and fresh) in a good, wearable condition. The plexi crystal adds a fun element, but must be – of course – treated with care. It easily scratches.
These vintage Rolex GMT-Master Reference 1675 (Tom Selleck wore one in the TV series, “Magnum P.I.”) are quite a bit smaller than the later models and noticeably thinner. This reference has no independent moving hour hand; you have to use the bezel to read a second time zone. The extra hour is a 24-hour indicator.
Aside from missing the independent hour hand, the vintage 1675 has the looks of authentic “tool watch” — no glossy dials, polished center links or white-gold rings around the hour markers. However, I’d pick one of the modern versions over this one if I needed a watch for daily wear.
What is your favorite Rolex? Share your thoughts using the comment box below.
This article was originally published on August 16, 2013, and has been updated.