Released in 1954, the Rolex GMT-Master is the result of a collaboration between now-extinct airline Pan Am and Rolex on a watch that would display the time across two time zones at once. Thanks to the popularisation of commercial air travel, planes were becoming more advanced and travelling longer distances. This resulted in pilots crossing time zones during flights more frequently and thus a need for uniformity across the aviation industry was highlighted as communications between ground teams and pilots might be muddied by using different timezones. To eliminate errors caused by this confusion, the industry adopted a standard timezone, Greenwich Mean Time. Today, the GMT-Master has become one of Rolex's most iconic models, with its heritage and design standing the test of time and remaining as sought after and popular as ever.
Released in 1988, the Rolex GMT-Master ref. 16700 replaced the outgoing ref. 16760 "Fat Lady," so named due to its unusually thick case and lugs as collectors began to demand a return to the slimmed-down GMT-Master of old. With that, the ref 16700 that I have here was the return to form that Rolex collectors sought after with its elegant case, proportional lugs and otherwise more fashionable aesthetic. Powered by the 4Hz cal. 3175 movement, the ref. 16700 features a 48-hour power reserve, hacking seconds, a quickset date function and a synchronised hour and GMT-hand, resulting in the need to rotate the 24-hour unidirectional bezel for the watch to display its second timezone.
Discontinued in 1999, the ref. 16700 was produced alongside the modern GMT-Master II collection and its immediate successor, the GMT-Master ref. 16710, which was released the following year in 1989. As both of these options were more technically advanced than the ref. 16700, the ref. 16700 failed to sell as well as it might have. Collectors happily spent the extra money on either the cal. 3185 powered ref. 16710 instead, or the GMT-Master II when it was released. This has enabled the ref. 16700 to enjoy superior demand within the modern collectors market as it is now a scarce find. Offered here, I have the iconic red and blue Pepsi bezel variant with its full set and a beautifully preserved aluminium bezel insert. Marrying vintage with the modern, this example also features the rare "SWISS only" dial, which was only used during the last few years of the ref. 16700's production. This variant was produced from 1997-1999 and swapped the tritium luminescent paint of old for the far superior LumiNova.