The GMT Master II is one of the cornerstones of the Rolex line-up. As technological advancements made longer flights possible in the 1950s, the GMT Master was born out of necessity for the pilots who would frequently lead these flights across time zones. Pan American World Airways, more commonly referred to as Pan Am, wanted a watch to do exactly that, and thus Rolex launched the first GMT Master watch in 1955 for their pilots. The “GMT” moniker refers to “Greenwich Mean Time”, which is where the Royal Observatory is located and is the starting point for every other time zone. The original GMT Master used a Bakelite bezel insert, which is a plastic material often used in electrical equipment. Rolex soon thereafter switched out the Bakelite for more durable aluminum. It wasn’t until 2007 when Rolex gave the GMT Master line a refresh, reworking the case to the thicker “Maxi case” and updating the bezel to their Cerachrom (ceramic). It was this refresh that added the “Two” to the GMT Master name.
Rolex is a company that established itself through innovations that aided in their creation of what weren’t luxury products, but rather high-quality tools that tell the time. This is evidenced in the GMT Master II which was literally created to fill a need for pilots. These watches needed to be durable and accurate, and over the years, their quality spoke for itself. The GMT Master II is a very unique piece of history, and you get to experience a small part of that every time you strap this watch to your wrist.
In today’s market, one the greatest appeals of buying a pre-owned GMT Master II is simply that they are available to purchase. The GMT Master II is one of Rolex’s most in-demand models right now, so it is unlikely to find one sitting in an AD’s case. So, pre-owned is your friend. This second point mainly speaks to the older GMT Master models, and that is because there are so many interesting models to choose from. There are the classic “Coke” and “Pepsi” references (red/black, red/blue), white-dialed Pan Am, and the brown and gold original “Rootbeer” with nipple dial to name a few. The worn aluminum bezel adds a charm that is lost on the newer ceramic bezel models. Watchbox’s global inventory is a great place to start seeking out your Rolex GMT Master or GMT Master II!
As the name suggests, this watch’s main attraction is the added fourth hand on the dial which allows the watch to show an additional time zone on the dial, making the watch an ideal companion for the frequent traveler. The additional hand, also called the GMT hand, works in conjunction with the is bi-directional, 24-hour bezel to track the second time zone. Set the GMT hand to your home time. When you arrive at your destination, move the main hour hand to whatever your local time is (the GMT hand will still be accurate to your time back home). The GMT Master II’s rotating bezel actually gives the watch a third time zone. For this, you need to know how many hours forward or behind the desired time zone is. For example, London is five hours ahead of Eastern time where we are in Philadelphia. Rotate the bezel so the five is at the 12 o’clock position and read the GMT hand as you normally would.