Rolex GMT Master

Rolex GMT Master

Like the Rolex Submariner, the GMT Master first saw life as a tool watch. Its no-frills appearance and two-tone, red and blue bezel set the standard for a particular kind of pilot’s watch. This was not a watch meant for war, unlike the Breitling Co-Pilot or the Glycine Airman.

Instead, the GMT Master was meant for commercial pilots, specifically those of Pan American Airways.

At the time of its release, Pan Am was blazing contrails across the sky. From its start as an air mail and passenger service only operating between Key West and Havana, by 1947 it was the first airline to offer round-the-world flights. Moreover, it was Pan Am’s pioneering use of the Boeing 707—and, later, the Boeing 747—before any other airline that launched the world into the Jet Age.

And flying along with them was Rolex.

By 1953, the airline was the leader in around-the-world flights, and the problems they posed necessitated a new kind of timepiece. Pan Am’s pilots were among some of the best-trained in the industry—even though the airline embraced the most modern technology, each pilot was able to navigate using dead reckoning and celestial navigation. However, Pan Am realized that even the most well-trained of pilots needs a watch that could show two timezones at once, making navigation that much easier.

The watch that Rolex made for Pan Am—this watch—has become nothing short of an icon.

At the time of the GMT Master’s release, jet travel was the province of the wealthy. The need for a specialized timepiece—one that showed multiple timezones—was felt by only those who could afford to shell out the $295 ($2388 in today's currency) to fly from New York to Paris. Therefore, owning a watch like a Rolex GMT Master became a subtle way to telegraph that you’ve arrived.

Today, though budget airlines abound and jet travel is much easier, a GMT Master still holds a certain cachet—and vintage ones most of all.

For many collectors of vintage Rolex, this watch—the Reference 1675—is the reference of GMT to own. The 1675 featured crown guards and was powered by the Caliber 1565 movement, and later, the Caliber 1575. It was an example this reference that attracted the attention of a different sort of pilots—astronauts. In 1970, Jack Swigert wore his GMT Master Reference 1675 during the Apollo 13 mission; and the following year, Edgar Mitchell took his own Reference 1675 to the surface of the moon.

In most cases, that sort of lineage and appeal translates into dollar signs. For that reason, it’s become increasingly difficult to find an example of an affordable and wearable 1675. But a 1675 like this one presents the perfect opportunity to own just that.

Possessing a lightly-polished case, this 1675 shows some signs of the TLC that only a professional watchmaker can give. But the dial is an early one—a matte Mark I “long E”—with an early date wheel (possibly a service replacement, but correct) and the lume has taken on a greenish hue over time. Strapped on leather, it’s the best way to hint that you’re a part of the Jet Set without breaking the bank.


SKU: AS02279

Stainless steel Oyster case is approximately 39mm (excluding crown). Reference 1675. Circa late-1960s.Overall Condition: Case is in good condition overall, showing signs of previous polishing. Dial is in good condition, showing signs of age, particularly to the luminescent elements. Rolex screw-down crown.

Includes one 20mm dark brown leather strap.

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