Saturday, September 21, 2019

Rolex Mythbusting.: The Mysterious Case of The Blueberry GMT-Master?

...Rolex Mythbusting...

The Mysterious Case of 

The Blueberry GMT-Master?

Separating Fact from Fiction

My readers know I specialize in separating-fact-from-fiction when it comes to Rolex history as I have busted pretty-much every falsely perpetuate myth ever put forth. If you're familiar with my series named "The Complete History of Rolex Mythbusting" you know I have done so on 23 major false myths, and I have done ever more that haven't made it into that story.

Hodinkee recently released a superb interview between Benjamin Clymer and actor Daniel Dae Kim which can be seen above. This video has created much controversy around a certain Rolex model which was nicknamed "The Blueberry GMT". 

If you fast-forward to the 5:05 mare in this video, we see Daniel Kim unintentionally put Ben on the spot by almost naively asking:

Daniel: "I recently heard a story about blueberries that I  would love for you to confirm?"

The screen shot below captures this really awkward moment which I believe caught Ben off-guard. I can relate to Ben in this confusing moment as I have been asked similar questions in the past where I have been positioned as this ultimate expert on a subject, and somebody asks me a question that I don't know the exact answer to. Of course I don't want to look stupid, but I have to answer the question. In this image you can see Ben (and yes I am speculating) saying "Oh no! He didn't just ask that!?!!" Ben sees this coming @ 5:14, and responds by looking away and laughing.. 

Daniel continues: I heard that there are no such thing as an original 'Blueberry' from Rolex?"

Ben responds: "That is a—nobody knows for sure. There's been a few guests on our series here. At least two—actually three that own blueberry bezel GMT's. One of them was told by Rolex U.S.A. that his blueberry bezel was not...correct. An assumption was made that all blueberry bezels were not correct!? (up-talking emphasis at end) 

I have heard that as well from some pretty reputable sources. I also know some pretty reputable sources that sell blueberry watches all the time. To be totally honest with you, and I'm not—this is not a copout, I really don't know. I believe they are real. I believe Rolex made them, but I think there are a lot of fakes ones out there. 

Daniel: No doubt. This watch (Points to the Blueberry GMT on his wrist) tends to be Frankensteined more than just about any other.

Ben: "I mean you are paying a significant premium for a bezel. Right? And I think some people get really into that, and some people don't. Bezels aren't signed, which a lot of people may or may not not know. So there is no real signature on a bezel. So it's pretty easy to fake that. There is only a certain accepted serial range where a blueberry could be? (up-talking) So if you have taken the time to research that, my guess is that you are probably O.K.? (up-talking) But you know when buy something like this, I'd really want to make sure it is from the best sources possible.

It's a Fugazi! Isn't it?

Today a reader wrote-in via email and asked: 

Hi Jake,

My name is Ary and I’m a big fan of your blogs, especially your Rolex blog.  I’ve been a collector myself for over 20 years and my love of all timepieces began when I was around 11 and held a Seiko my dad was given as a gift and I got my first watch, a Swatch “Calypso”. (No surprise I’d end being huge Cousteau fan lol) 

I just read a great article on Hodinkee and saw a Rolex “Blueberry” GMT. I’m almost embarrassed to say that I’ve never heard of this version before!?! 

I immediately went onto your site to see what I’ve been missing only to find that you’ve never posted about it!  Being that you are the “Grand Poobah” of all things Rolex, I was wondering if you could share any insights you may have about this rare watch and if you were planning on posting anything about it. 

Looking forward to see what you have in store next for us fellow enthusiasts!  Your eloquent words and fantastic pics keep us wanting for more!  

All the best

So to Ary's point that he could not find anything on and that I have never posted anything about it, I will point out that is not true. On the right side of Jake's Rolex World, there is an enormous list of labels and one of them is "Blueberry GMT".


Just to be crystal-clear the issue at hand, is that 'Blueberry GMT" models sell for a huge $$$$ premium over a normal or standard spec GMT-Master. 

The challenge is that an all Aftermarket blue bezel can be purchased for $10, and repainting a 24 hour hand in all red is no big deal. We see this with all the customized Rolex watches today. If you examine many of the watches that are customized by companies like Bamford, the level of detail and craftsmanship easily matches Rolex quality, especially on a Reference 1675 that was made 30 years ago.

If the Blueberry models are real, then they would be rare and arguably worth the premium, but on the flip-side of the coin, if they are all fake if you assume Rolex never made such a model, then a lot of money would have changed hands unfairly.

Back in 2008, I chronicled this example of a Cartier dial "Blueberry GTM" [Reference 1675] on a Jubilee bracelet, which was sold at auction by Christies for $35,754.

I must admit that at the time when I saw this I assumed it was completely legit as it had been sold by Christies. In other words, I assumed it was the real deal.

Real or Fake? As I can imagine Jerry Seinfeld would ask "So what is the deal with Blueberry GMT Master watches!?!! Are they real or not?"

Separating Fact from Fiction

'Just The Facts Ma'am"

To the best of my knowledge Rolex NEVER has published a catalog, brochure or magazine add that showcased a Rolex GMT-Master with an all blue bezel insert. 

And we learned from Benjamin Clymer that Rolex U.S.A. made a bold declarative statement by saying Rolex never made such a watch.

Daniel Dae Kim's controversial 'Blueberry' Rolex GMT-Master is pictured below. Notice it not only has an all blue bezel insert, but another unique feature and that is a 24 hour hand that is all red. This is unusual as Rolex has only ever made GMT 24 hour hands that have a red stalk/arm on the Reference 1675, with a stainless steel arrow head?

Some experts say Rolex never made such a watch, but they offered an all blue bezel insert as a service bezel. I have also heard the same thing about the 'all-red' 24-hour hand. 

I know a Rolex collector and expert I would say is the equivalent of a 7th degree black belt in Rolex collecting, and he said:

"I don't believe Rolex ever made a GMT-Master with an all blue bezel insert! I NEVER saw a GMT with an all blue bezel before 1999 at any watch show, market or auction. It's Bullshit!"

Another very high-ranking collector/expert said:

"There has never been one born out of the (Rolex) factory with an all blue bezel. They were all discovered from various service centers. The UAE watch is put together and the  military claim is Bullshit."

Update on September 22, 2019: On our @Rolex.Magazine Instagram page, Paul David Maudsley who previously was a watch expert for Phillips & Bonhams Auction Houses chimed in and said:

"I can only say in my 20+ years in the acution world, sourcing and selling over 100 + GMT Ref:1675's, all mostly from original owners, not ONE had the blue bezel in question."

So what about the Blueberry GMT pictured below with the Arab dial? The myth perpetuated behind this one is that Rolex made special GMT-Master models with blue dials for the UAE (United Arab Emirates) Air Force, or something like that. 

Speaking of the UAE, Rolex watches have always been very popular in the Emirites state. In the photo below, discovered by Nick Gould, we see Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan in 1965 rockin his Rolex Day-Date as he sits with his family while having a cup of tea near Abu Dhabi. Sheikh Zayad ruled Abu Dhabi for more than 30 years, and the photo below was taken just before he took over as the Ruler of UAE.

In conclusion, it appears Rolex never made or offered a 'Blueberry' GMT-Master for the retail market. This would suggest the 'Blueberry GMT' pictured below with the Cartier signed designation on the dial is a fantasy/frakenberry watch, as is the UAE watch.

Just as Ben Clymer said, "I don't really know". Over the past 12 years I have heard all sorts of rumors about this watch. 

In trying to logically deduce the truth, I ask the question, why would Rolex make an all blue service bezel? What purpose would it serve? It just doesn't make sense to me. 

Also, I am NOT aware of any time in Rolex's history that they made a watch with certain parts and then offered a later service part that was a retrofit that did not closely match the original.

Inside Baseball

I realize I may at this point be getting a little too Inside Baseball (i.e., Inside Rolex), but hey, that's what I do on Jake's Rolex World! I was speaking with Jose from about this, and we discussed how some watch dealers had suggested that 'Rolex service centers', and in particular the one in New York somehow discovered all blue 'Blueberry' GMT bezel inserts in their inventory. Jose went out on a limb and made an interesting point I never would have thought of. He mentioned how it is a fact that Pepsi Bezels on 1675 models are known for having strong color shifts, particularly on the red section where they would turn from red to fuchsia, or to a really faint red as seen below: 

Today, these watches with faded/patina bezel inserts are considered to be desirable, but it was NOT always that way. In other words, from Rolex's inception in 1905 until about a hundred years later, everybody wanted their old Rolex watches to look as close to new as possible. Rolex is still this way, which explains why they switched over from anodizing bezel inserts which would fade over time, to making them ceramic, as ceramic never fades. Also, the whole Tropical dial thing is relatively new where dials look like they are rusted are more desirable as they take on a more antique vibe.

Anyway, Jose said if the rumor was true that all blue bezel inserts were discovered in Rolex's service parts inventory in New York, maybe at some point customers had complained that their Pepsi inserts had the red fade too much, so Rolex experimented with making all blue replacement bezels, that ended up not being popular, which might explain why they may have been discovered in service part bins—assuming this is even true. I realize Jose and I just went out on a limb with this speculation, but we were just trying to figure out why Rolex would have ever made such a replacement bezel in all blue.

Hopefully one day we will be able to answer this question definitively, so today I can only conclude that the Mysterious and now Mythical Blueberry GMT-Master models sure do look cool. In the future I will reach out to Rolex and try to get an official answer on this mysterious issue :-)

One More Thing

Back in 2008, I wrote an article about how I had discovered what was purported to potentially be a stainless steel Rolex Submariner with a blue bezel and matching blue sunburst dial as seen below. Notice the dial features nipple indices. Assuming this is a real prototype, how do we know it would be stainless steel and not white gold? Because Rolex ONLY ever made gold submariner models with solid end links. The Reference 1680, which came out in 1967-1968 which was the first gold Submariner model was also the very first Rolex sports model to feature solid end links.

Back in 2008, Rolex introduced a white gold Rolex Submariner with a blue bezel and matching blue dial as we see from this 2008 Basel world press shot from Rolex. This watch was nicknamed "The Smurf". 

On December 5, 2011 I published the following article about how somebody had modified a stainless steel Rolex Submariner with a bezel from a white gold Submariner:

Update on December 7th, 2011: It is amazing how many people have mentioned to me that they love the look of this combination! My girlfriend saw it and freaked out and said, "I love that watch! That's the watch I want!!!" Since she saw the photos first without realizing what she was looking at, I had to tell her it was not available, at least off-the-shelf that way. Hopefully Rolex will offer this option in the future, because it looks great!!!!

A True Blue Sub
A Beautiful Ceramic Stainless Steel Rolex Submariner 
Customized–Kinda? Sorta, Maybe!?!

There are several schools of thought when it comes to customizing Rolex watches. First, there are the purists who say you shouldn't modify a stock Rolex and if you do, you end up with a Frankenstein watch. There is another school of thought that believes it does not matter what you do to a Rolex as long as you make it look better. 

What does Rolex think about customizing Rolex watches? I don't know for certain, but from what I have put together, they frown upon it. Some might argue Rolex should not really care, because the customizer has to pay for a real Rolex.

There is a third school of thought, which has a lot of grey area. It is an option where somebody takes a 100% genuine Rolex watch, and a part or parts from another model and combine them together. A really good example of this would be Xelor's Stainless Steel Rolex Submariner which he modified by putting a bezel and bezel insert from a white gold Rolex Submariner.

Photo Credit: sBmRnR

An all-new stainless steel Ceramic Rolex Submariner retails for around $8,000 and a White Gold Rolex Submariner retails for around $34,000. Of course, the standard black bezel stainless steel Submariner comes with a black dial, and the white gold Submariner comes with a blue bezel with a matching blue dial. 

So Xelor, got the bright idea to somehow purchase the blue bezel from the white gold Submariner and put it on a standard Submariner and in my opinion it looks stunningly great!!! So if you want to obtain a blue bezel insert like Xelor did, how do you do so? I don't know? In the United States, as I understand it, Rolex does not allow you to purchase parts without trading-in the watch part that is being replaced. 

I have heard that in Europe it is easier to purchase just parts, but never having done so, I honestly don't know. I just hope Rolex sees how beautiful this combination is, and eventually offers it, because it looks great!!!

Photo Credit: sBmRnR