Rolex GMT Master

Rolex GMT Master

The Quartz Crisis shook the Swiss watch industry to the core. Although mass machining had revolutionized the industry in the late 19th century, the industry was still slow to adopt new technologies, and resistant to change. Not so consumers, who bought quartz watches in droves.

Old, revered names in the industry were faced with an almost-impossible choice: either embrace the changes and risk flooding a market already saturated with quartz movements, or offer something else entirely. Many manufactures like Universal Genève chose the former road, and did not last long. Rolex, however, chose the one less traveled by, and watches like this one—the GMT Master Reference 16758—were what resulted from that choice.

Now, Rolex had offered sports watches with touches of gold as early as the 1960s, with the Submariner Reference 1680. The GMT Master, its premier pilot’s watch, also boasted splashes of the metal in the two-tone Reference 1675/3. But before the 1970s, the manufacture had not fully embraced the possibility of casing the GMT entirely in gold.

Perhaps this decision was not entirely a coincidence. Early in the decade, a young designer named Gerald Genta changed the face of watches forever with the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. Its revolutionary octagonal case, with integrated bracelet, was initially cast in white gold, and although the Royal Oak would eventually be made in two-tone steel and gold, it’s in pure 18k gold that it’s best enjoyed.

The Royal Oak, in all its golden glory, created the notion of a luxury sports watch. Although sales of the Royal Oak were sluggish at first, its appearance on the wrist of Fiat head Giovanni Agnelli created a furor for the watch. This, clearly, was the answer to the problems posed by the Quartz Crisis.

Before long, other brands followed suit—including Rolex, with the GMT Reference 16758. Aside from the material, the case is the same Oyster case that consumers and collectors had come to love, in both proportion and appearance. Slightly slimmer than the case of the Submariner, the GMT Master slips easily under a cuff; while steel variants might not outwardly scream “dress watch,” the 16758 certainly does.

With a serial dating this particular 16758 to 1981, it has all the hallmarks that one would look for in a gold dress watch. The 18k yellow gold case is in very good condition, as is the gloss dial with tritium lume. Whether on a strap or a gold bracelet (which we can also offer if the buyer so chooses), it would not look out of place with a suit. 

And yet it’s a sports watch through and through, just as functional and it always has been, which is—in  a nutshell—the beauty of a gold sports watch: utility and beauty all in one, in a combination that remains as fresh and exciting as it was when it was minted.


SKU: AS02459

18k yellow gold case is approximately 39mm (excluding crown). Reference 16758. Circa 1981.

Overall Condition: Case is in very good condition overall with moderate signs of use and wear. Gloss black dial is in very good condition overall with patina to the luminescent (tritium) elements of the hour markers and hands. Rolex crown.

Includes one 20mm black leather strap. Bracelet is available on request.

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