Some call it the “Batman” in honor of its black-and-blue bezel. For more than half a century, Rolex fans associated Rolex GMT watches with two bezel-color combinations, red/blue and red/black. In this feature from the WatchTime archives, we test the first version of the Rolex GMT-Master II ever to sport this color combo.
The Rolex GMT bezels are so well-known that they have nicknames: “Pepsi” and “Coke,” respectively, because they call to mind those brands’ trade dress. So when a new, unprecedented, black-and-blue version of the Rolex GMT-Master II showed up in Rolex’s window at Baselworld last year, buzz abounded. Interest in the watch was so keen that every few minutes the booth’s cleaning team had to wipe from the window the fingerprints left by fairgoers’ pointing at it. It wasn’t long before the watch had earned a nickname of its own. Or, rather, a pair of nicknames: “Bruiser” and “Batman.” The bezel was notable not just because it was black and blue, but because it was black and blue and made of ceramic. No one had ever succeeded in combining two colors of ceramic in a single-piece insert. As long as the GMT bezels were made of metal, as they were for decades, it was no trick to make them two colors. But in 2005, when Rolex began to shift to ceramic bezels with the launch of a special 50th-anniversary model of the GMT-Master II, those new bezels were of necessity just one color. The advantages of ceramic over metal are that it is more scratch-resistant and less likely to fade after years of exposure to light. In 2006 and 2007, Rolex brought out, respectively, steel- and-gold and all-steel versions of the GMT-Master II, both with all-black ceramic bezels.
What brought bi-color back was a new manufacturing method that Rolex itself invented and patented. It involves applying a metallic salt to half of the bezel before the component is fired in a kiln, where the color is created. In a GMT watch, a bi-color bezel serves a practical purpose: it makes it easy to distinguish the second time zone’s a.m. hours from its p.m. ones. Rolex’s new color combination is more than practical, it’s attractive. Furthermore, it makes sense: blue is a more logical choice to indicate the daytime hours than is red. (This year at Baselworld, Rolex did launch a classic, red-and-blue “Pepsi” GMT-Master II with a ceramic bezel.) The downside is that the difference between black and blue can be nearly impossible to detect in poor light, but the upside is that blue is much less flashy than red, so this watch can be worn with a business suit. To match the bezel, the 24-hour hand is now blue, rather than green as on the black-bezel model (which Rolex still makes). The lettering on the dial is all white; on the black-bezel version, the words “GMT-Master II” are green. All in all, this new version makes a very harmonious impression.
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I decided to purchase this as my first Rolex over a sub. I fell in love with it when it came out and I was able to find one just before Christmas. It is an absolutely beautiful piece of art, and was well worth the search.
Bought this watch yesterday and it is an absolute stunner. I was thinking whether I should buy Rolex or Omega but then I thought Omega is not Rolex. So in a minute I went for this beautiful beautiful watch.
I also own this and I absolutely love it. It really is a stunner which also easily flies under the radar. I’m absolutely sure this GMT Master II model will become a collectors piece because of the bezel. Prices are already skyrocketing.
I love the GMT II but the only thing which has prevented me from buying one is the size I am over weight & have a large wrist with 40mm the watch does look small I only wish if rolex came up with a 42 mm if not 44 mm size case like the explorer II
My collection is vast by most standards and I have to admit the Batman is always in my rotation. I wear it in jeans and have even worn it to a wedding and of course with suits to work. I love others to include a non data Sub and the Batman gets the most wrist time. Very classy!
The Submariner 114060 and this GMT Master II 116710BLNR. What a team!!
I’m so proud to own both. Love ’em to bits!
Rolex GMT-Master II is simply an outstanding watch, in fact I got one just a few days ago.
Bought the Rolex GMT master II with the blue/black bessel last year. Had it 3 months now and absolutely love this watch. First ever Rolex I’ve owed, the best choice.
This model is a stunner I aspire to add to my collection some day
Wow! Here I am seeing my own post again!
I gladly own this baby now :)