A Steel Revolution – Rolex GMT-Master II

A major first in Rolex’s GMT-Master II collection: the appearance of steel! The dual time zone watch unveiled at Baselworld has been affectionately nicknamed “Pepsi” by its aficionados because of its two-tone bezel. It was a huge success. Let’s find out more about a piece that we’re hearing a lot about… and i’t all good!

1955 saw the launch of the GMT-Master tool watch designed for air travel and mainly intended for airline pilots fifty years after Hans Wildorf (1881-1960) founded Rolex. Its two-tone bezel (to differentiate between day and night) and dual time zone meant it was soon a must-have piece among aviators and globe-trotters before it became an icon on the watchmaking scene.

Oystersteel: a noble metal

The 2018 piece still has its big brother’s sturdiness, reliability and the famous bezel nicknamed “Pepsi” (because it’s in the same colours as the cola brand’s logo that forms a blue and red yin and yang) by some Rolex fans, but it now has a new movement and has been treated to all Rolex’s technological advances. On top of that, its 400mm waterproof case (to depths of 100m) is now available in Oystersteel, a 904L steel alloy renowned for its resistance and used by the brand from 1985.

Up to now, the only GMT-Master II models in the Rolex catalogue to be in steel had a two-tone black and blue or plain blue bezel. Also, in the same collection, this new piece is the only one to have a Jubile strap in Oystersteel with five links whilst other models with Oyster straps have three wide links. A deployment clasp fits it to the wrist with an Oysterlock security clasp and the “comfortable” Easylink system, an easy-to-fit 5mm extension link designed by Rolex in 1996.

Cerachrom: strong ceramic

Aside from being useful, the two-tone bezel on the GMT-Master II gives the watch a strong personality and visual signature that you instantly associate with Rolex. The Oystersteel bezel has a chapter ring in Cerachrom, a technical ceramic designed exclusively by and for the brand in 2005 that’s highly resistant to everyday scratches and wear and tear caused by the sun’s UV rays that tend to dull colours.

The link between the royal blue (night) and burgundy red (day) is clear and precise on the unidirectional rotating bezel: the day starts at 6am then makes way for night at 6pm. The 24-hour scale is made up of even Arabic numerals interspersed by dots and a rectangular midnight marker; the moulded markers are made by depositing platinum using the PVD technique (physical vapor deposition).

Superlative Chronometer: a certified calibre

The black lacquer dial has an hour rim with white gold geometric markers that glow blue with Rolex’s very own white Chromalight. A trio of gold luminescent hands in the centre display the classic hours (local), minutes and seconds. A fourth varnished red hand with a glow-in-the-dark triangular tip tracks home time along the two-tone bezel. The date display at 3 is linked up to local time and topped by a Cyclops lens for improved clarity.

The time features vital to any trip provided by two time zones are powered by a new self-winding in-house movement: the 3285 calibre. It has a total of 10 patent applications because of its high precision (a recently updated oscillator with a blue Parachrom spring designed in 2005), reliability, battery life (70-hour power reserve) and resistance (to shocks and magnetism). This calibre has been certified as a Superlative Chronometer by Rolex based on new standards established by the brand three years ago that guarantee the watch has passed a series of tests that are far more demanding than the usual ones conducted in the watch industry.

The GMT-Master II is also available in Everose gold either in part (dashes on the bezel, dial and strap) or completely covering the case and strap in Rolex’s exclusive gold alloy with unique and durable shine. The bezel on both watches bears a chapter ring in two-tone Cerachrom blending black (for night) and milk chocolate (for day).