Updated: Feb 28
Over the years, many watchmakers have created magnificent and extraordinary watches. Among the most innovative of these timepieces is the stunning Rolex GMT Master, a unique watch created specifically for pilots. It came into being after Pan American Airlines approached Rolex with a unique request: the creation of a wristwatch that could display the times of two time zones simultaneously.
The attempt to create the fascinating timepiece started right after Pan American made the request for the watch in 1950. After four years of hard work and experiments, Rolex finally announced the release of the very first model of the GMT Master. The name had been inspired by the Greenwich Mean Time, the time zone that had been adopted as the global time standard. The stunning timepiece featured an acrylic Bakelite bezel with a striking dark finish and the choice between a black and a white dial, which Pan American had specifically detailed in their request—the airline had already made plans for the air crews to wear the watches with the black dial while the ground crews wore the watches with the white dial.
The earliest model is a rare find these days due to the fact that the original bezel was replaced by a metal one almost immediately after Rolex released the GMT Master. Another change came about in 1960, when the color of the printed letters was changed from gold to white while the numbers on the date wheel were changed from an alternating red/black to all black. Similar to the other Rolex models in the 1960’s, Tritium was used in place of Radium and the words “Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified” were added.
In the 1970’s, the model 1675 GMT Master was released with a jubilee bracelet and a bezel with a black insert. The hack feature was also added, allowing whoever wore the Rolex GMT Master to set the time with ease merely by unscrewing and pulling out the crown, which made the second hand pause. In 1981, the model 1675 was fitted with the 3075 movement and was renamed model 16750.
No matter the number of changes the Rolex GMT Master went through, however, one feature remained the same; the distinctive 24 hour bezel that is divided into two parts. Day was represented by the red part while night was represented by the blue or black part. The special 24 hour hand was used to appropriately display the time. For example, if the 24 hour hand points to the numeral 10 in the red portion, then it is 10 in the morning. If the 24 hour hand points to the numeral 22 in the blue or black section, then it is 10 in the evening. Because of its versatility with showing the times of two different time zones, the Rolex GMT Master was an instant sensation for consumers worldwide, and still is to this day.
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