There are so many must-have watches in Rolex family. However, when it comes to a Rolex that blends looks and real-life practicality, the GMT-Master is the best one. What started as a tool watch for commercial pilots has now become one of Rolex’s most popular sports watches. What makes the imitation Rolex GMT-Master watches so popular and desirable? To answer this question, we take a look at the brief history and develop of the Rolex GMT-Master collection.
Began With Pan-Am
There were already plenty of readable pilot watches at that time, but the former airline Pan-Am demanded more than that. They needed a pilot’s watch that could display additional time zones. This feature was extra important when pilots were flying across the Atlantic. So an accurate and reliable watch was a necessity, and adding an extra timezone would make pilot’s watch perfect. The airline then turned to the Rolex Watch Company for help, hoping that Rolex would make a watch with chronometer specifications and displaying an additional timezone.
Rolex GMT-Master 6542 (1955-1959)
In 1955, Rolex unveiled their product with the GMT-Master 6542. The imitation Rolex GMT-Master 6542 sported a 38 mm Oyster case made by stainless steel, which was water resistant to 50 meters. The black dial housed a Mercedes-style center hand and a red extra 24-hour hand with a luminous large triangular tip. The dial also had the luminous round, baton, and triangular indexes for hour markers. And there’s a date window at 3 o’clock with with the essential protruding Cyclops lens. In addition, the dial was protected by an acrylic crystal.
On top of the case sat the GMT-Master’s most distinguishing components—the bi-colored rotating bezel marked to 24 hours. Furthermore, the use of red and blue on the bezel was done to differentiate between day and night. The iconic bi-colored bezel now goes by the cute nickname “Pepsi”. It was the combination of the 24-hour bezel and the extra GMT hand on the dial that allowed pilots to read a second time zone easily.
Although the GMT-Master 6542 was only in production until 1959, in this short 4 years, this GMT-Master watch has undergone many upgrades. The first is the bezel upgrade that began in 1956. At first, this watch had bakelite bezels with luminous radium numerals. However, due to the tendency of bakelite to crack, Rolex began to replace them with aluminum bezels in 1956. The second is the upgrade of the movement. The internal movement of GMT-Master 6542 was upgraded from Caliber 1036 to Caliber 1065, and finally it was equipped with Caliber 1066.
Rolex GMT-Master 1675 (1959-1980)
In 1959 the ‘OG’ ref.6542 replaced by the GMT-Master 1675. The imitation Rolex GMT-Master 1675 would see many subtle changes to its design until it was finally discontinued in 1980. So, the ref.1675 was the longest-running GMT-Master even today.
This new GMT-Master 1675 possessed a larger 40mm case. Throughout its lifespan, the ref.1675 would also undergo various modifications. Such as, shape of crown guards, change a gilt (gold) print dial to white print, and replace the GMT hand to a larger variant. The earliest ref. 1675 GMT-Masters were equipped with a new Rolex Calibre 1565 which permitted instant date changes at midnight as opposed to the gradual turnover of its predecessor. The NO.1565 movement would also be upgraded in 1965 to the Calibre 1575, which featured hacking seconds that allowed for precise synchronization of the GMT watch. Moreover, the stainless steel ‘Pepsi’ has also expanded into two-tone variants. In addition, a new bezel style appeared, the black bezel.
Rolex GMT-Master 16750 (1980-1988)
A new version, the Rolex GMT-Master 16750, was introduced in 1981 and discontinued about 1988. This Rolex watch is equipped with NO.3075 movement, which offers hacking and a quickset date. Compared with its predecessor, this watch has two main upgrades. Compared with its predecessor, this watch has two main upgrades. The first is the upgrade of the waterproof level, ensuring a pressure resistance of up to 100 meters (330 feet). The second is to enrich the dial color. The imitation Rolex GMT-Master 16750 offered two different dial variations，a matte finish with printed luminous indexes and a glossy version with white gold indexes.
Rolex GMT-Master 16700 (1988-1999)
Even after the successful launch of the GMT-Master II in 1982, the GMT-Master is still being updated. Rolex GMT-Master 16700 released in 1988 replaced the previous GMT-Master 16750. This Rolex GMT 16700 is the last reference of the GMT-Master collection. It continued to be produced right up until 1999.
The imitation Rolex GMT-Master 16700 used the NO.3175 movement, Rolex’s last “fixed” GMT movement. The tritium lume will be added for the first 9 years of production of this watch. Since 1997, Super-LumiNova has been used instead.
Although Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) got replaced 1972 in the Aviation Industry by Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), the term GMT is still known and kept as part of the name of the GMT Master, although Pilots nowadays use it to set UTC.
The Rolex GMT Master was developed in cooperation with Pan Am. As in the 1940s and 50s flying distances got longer and the pilots travelled through multiple time zones, Pan Am asked Rolex in the 1950s to develop a watch which could tell different times simultaneously.
I can imagine why the discontinued Rolex GMT-Master watch was so popular before. It is a great and practical daily companion, with the added value of an extra timezone. The success of GMT-Master laid the foundation for the GMT-Master II collection that later inherited it. After understanding the amazing Rolex GMT-Master history, do you think the Rolex GMT-Master II imitation watches are more significant. Over the years, the Rolex GMT-Master became one of the most popular watch. Also for persons who aren’t flying that often, or do business all over the world. Now, the Rolex GMT-Master II has become a symbol of success and wealth.