Saturday, April 20, 2024

Grey & Black GMT Bezel

Now that the Watches and Wonder show has ended in Geneva, Switzerland, I thought it would be a good time to take a look back in the rear-view mirror at some of the novelties Rolex introduced and share my insight with you.

Grey & Black GMT Bezel
A New Point of Differentiation

Rolex recently introduced a new GMT-Master bezel insert model variant at Watches and Wonder 2024—in Geneva, Switzerland—which features a Black and Grey Bezel insert. When a bezel features a 50/50 split bezel like the Rolex GMT-Master historically has, it is commonly referred to as a First Quarter Moon bezel design, or a Half Moon Bezel design.

I believe Rolex created this color combination as a potential replacement for the standard all black GMT-Master II bezel insert model they discontinued several years ago. I assume this model is for people who prefer a much more subtle and low-key color combination, as apposed to the much bolder, colorful, popping Pepsi, Batman, and Sprite GMT-Master Models. 

It is worth noting the all-black bezel Rolex GMT-Master was the very first Rolex model to be introduced with a ceramic bezel insert, which was introduced in 2005. That first model came in the form of a yellow gold GMT-Master II Reference 116718. 

Next, Rolex came out with the all-black Cerachrom bezel on the stainless steel Rolex GMT-Master  Reference 116710LN. After Rolex introduced the new stainless steel "Pepsi" GMT-Master with the red and blue bezel, the surprised everyone by discontinuing the all black bezel GMT-Master, and now we might have a clue as to why:

Frame Of Reference

I remember talking with T. Walker Lloyd, back in 2008, who was a former long time Rolex USA employee, and he said that back in the mid to late 1960s many commercial airline pilots complained about the Pepsi GMT-Master saying it didn't look serious enough, or looked too Fisher-Price, which explains why Rolex eventually introduced a black bezel GMT-Master variant around 1967-1968. In the photo below we see Gunter Sachs rocking his all black dial GMT-Master back in 1968, which is one of the first known photos I am aware of that shows somebody wearing the all black bezel GMT-Master variant.

Below we see a 1975 Rolex GMT-Master with the all black bezel insert which is a Reference 1675. This image appears courtesy of Christie's Auction house. This is a rare version of the Rolex Reference 1675 as it features a 'mini dial' which features smaller hour markers which are located closer to the center of the dial. 
The great challenge with the all black dial GMT-Master is that it looked so similar to the Submariner, that it regularly confused customers at retail, in a "You can have any color you want, as longs as it is black"—kind of way. 

Also, for many years the GMT-Master had a much smaller winding crown than the Submariner, but with the advent of the Reference 116710LN family they showed up clad with supercases—and more importantly—the exact same JUMBO Big Crown, winding crown that the Submariner models historically featured, so now more than ever they looked almost like identical twins. 

The image above appears courtesy of Bob's Watches and shows how similar the Submariner and all black Rolex GMT-Master Bezel Insert looked several years ago, when they both had supercases and Big Crowns.

Beautifully Boring

One could argue, this super low-key Rolex GMT delivers on the original promise of what a professional looking, or perhaps serious looking pilots watch would look like. Or one could argue the new black and grey bezel GMT-Master II is like a naturally beautiful woman wearing no makeup, or lipstick, with plain fingernails, who is wearing a very plain professional business suit. Contrast that with a Pepsi GMT-Master II, which is like the same naturally beautiful woman all dolled up, with perfect warpaint (makeup), high gloss red lipstick, with matching red fingernails, wearing a form fitting yoga outfit :-)

As uneventful as a grey and black bezel insert may seem, it appears Rolex finally found a way to create a meaningful point-of-differentiation with this new model, that now lives up to the purpose of a split in half bezel insert, whereby the top hours represent nighttime and the bottom represents daytime. Basically, Rolex discontinued the all black GMT-Master bezel model years ago, and have now replaced it with the black and grey bezel variant as pictured below as shown on both Rolex Oyster and Rolex Jubilee trademark bracelets.

I recently was talking with Captain Danny about the new GMT-Master and he said he was surprised that Rolex has not yet replaced the SuperCase with the much more old-school, retro, streamlined case like Rolex updated with the the Single Red SEA-DWELLER as well as with the newest Submariner, which is a pretty profound point if you think about it.


My understanding is Rolex used to have a physical museum located in Geneva that was open to the public. If memory serves me correctly, it was located in a home in Geneva. One day, many years ago, Rolex closed the museum and moved all of its contents into a private museum collection in Geneva, located in Rolex's private archives. For years, I have wished Rolex would created a new Rolex museum, similar to the Patek Philippe Museum, located in Geneva, Switzerland, which is a masterpiece in and of itself. If you are ever in Geneva, be sure to visit the Patek Philippe Museum.

I can see the future Rolex Museum in my minds eye. It would be located in Downtown Geneva, on Lake Geneva, and the building would be in the shape of an enormous Rolex five point crown, but only from a top-down satellite view. 

The bottom of the crown would contain the museum itself, and would be similar to the Guggenheim Museum in New York in the sense visitors would take an elevator up to the fifth (top) floor, then descend down a continuous circular ramp, and see exhibition pieces all over the outer walls as well as Rolex watchmakers working on actual Rolex watches. If guest walked over to the inner walls, they would be able to look up to a huge glass ceiling or down to the basement level.

The center of the building would be open so you could see the roof from any place in the museum, and there would be a basement floor that would have a large water feature that looks like beach, and it would have Jacques-Yves Cosuteau's Calypso floating in it, where visitors could come on board and explore the great historic ship.

There would be a coffee store/cafe in the basement that would constantly bake cinnamon buns, so the entire Rolex Museum would always smell great. The five circles of the Rolex Coronet crown would have meeting rooms, for special Rolex events and training. I think if Rolex creates such a museum it would be like Disneyland for Rolex watch fans, and would become an international tourist destination where people could get a heaping helping of the Rolex Experience at it's finest.

Unfortunately my idea does not exist yet, but at Watches and Wonders 2024, Rolex put together what appears give us a glimpse into what an actual Rolex Museum might look like. The superb image below appears courtesy of Jason Heaton, via our Captain Danny's Coronet Rolex blog and shows the Rolex GMT-Master Exhibition.

People have already come up with nicknames for the new GMT-Model including The Dark Knight, and the Bruce Wayne. I think what was MUCH more interesting was the super cool Rolex GMT-Master History Exhibition, which was open to all attendees. Cameron from Craft and Tailored took all these superb photos of the GMT-Master Exhibition so we can get an idea of what it looks like.

Rolex also showcased many historically significant Rolex GMT-Master models, including the one below that belonged to one of the early pioneering Pan Am Pilots. 

Our Captain Danny discovered this watch when he was doing research to bring the 1958 Rolex Magazine ad pictured above to life. Danny assisted the daughter of Captain Clarence 'Jooj' Warren to bring her father's Rolex GMT-Master to auction and apparently Rolex bought it for their private collection as we witness below.

Cameron took the photo below that showcased the history of the differently Rolex GMT-Master Movements begging back in 1955, and moving up to current date.

The image below Shows the raw material elements that make up the pigments and ceramic material that Rolex refines into their Pepsi Bezel insert, which is totally fascinating!!!

Rolex put together this super cool all-new Rolex GMT-Master History video that offers some significant Rolex History puzzle pieces, which is really cool.

Stuart Roosa
Apollo 14 Commander

The entire Apollo 14 team which consisted of Alan Shepard (center), Stuart Roosa (left) and Dr. Edgar Mitchel (right) all wore Pepsi GMT-Master models as their personal watches.

NASA Apollo Astronaut, Stuart Roosa took this super cool photo of his Pepsi GMT-Master aboard the Apollo 14 Mission and profoundly wrote "MY GMT MASTER 200,000 MILES FROM GENEVA" —Stuart Roosa, APOLLO 14".