The Rolex GMT-Master needs no introduction. It is perhaps the most iconic travel watch, allowing its wearer to simultaneously tell two time zones. Developed originally in the 1950s for PanAm pilots, who had then begun flying transatlantic routes more frequently, this handy tool watch was vital in order to track home and local time.
The Ref. 16750 superseded the Ref. 1675 in the early ’80s and along with it came some significant advancements. While the physical watch itself looks nearly identical, the new Ref. 16750 came with an upgraded higher beat movement and the addition of a quick-set date. I am sure if you are a vintage collector reading this, you will understand how annoying it is to set your watch if it is a non-quick set date, having to wind the watch for 24 hours for every day change.
This example is a Ref. 16750 and the biggest difference between its predecessor is that it now came fitted with a glossy black dial with white gold surrounds. The 16750 is always a sort of transitional reference and an intersection between vintage a modern. For instance, the beautiful glossy dial has luminous material that has developed a nice yellow patina that we just don’t see anymore with newer watches.
What makes this particular watch so special lies in the ‘spidering’ of the dial. With the transition from matte to gloss dials in the ’80s, Rolex was still figuring out production methods and as such, the lacquer that was applied atop the dials to give them its shine was imperfect, resulting over time in cracking which collectors have come to classify as ‘spidering’. While this would normally be seen as undesirable, the rules are different in Rolex collecting circles, where defects are seen as hugely desirable traits. This is perhaps because Rolex is so perfect in their production methods that variances and mistakes in their otherwise perfect system are seen as unique and extremely rare.
Regardless of the reasons, when a glossy Rolex dial spiders evenly, it becomes quite beautiful and enigmatic, looking completely black and normal most of the time but revealing a beautiful mosaic of cracked lacquer when the light hits just right.
To travel with a GMT-Master on the wrist is certainly to travel in style, combining practicality with that 20th century cool. A genuine tool watch, I really do feel that the GMT function is the most practical complication to have on the wrist, even today. All it takes is one look at the wrist and you will be able to tell the time at your selected time zone. For someone like me, or I am sure many of you, who travels a lot or even conducts business on the other side of the world, a GMT-Master is without a doubt, a welcome tool. It certainly is faster than fumbling around with your iPhone to find out.