By way of this article, I’m starting a new series focusing solely on vintage Rolex watches. Why? Well, there are so many vintage references worth talking about and there are plenty of articles already discussing the modern ones. When we think of vintage Rolexes, we think of smaller, perhaps more utilitarian models which—with the exception of the Explorer 1—don’t really appear in the brand’s contemporary catalog. After discussing how Rolex handled the quartz crisis and the fact that the brand, perhaps surprisingly, made rectangular, dressy watches in the 1920s, what the Swiss brand also had the habit of doing was to match an event, a milestone of sorts, to a new release: regardless of whether or not Rolex was directly involved with it. Such is the case of the GMT Master “Concorde”, a watch that we’ll take a look at today. Source: www.acollectedman.com
Maybe Not Utilitarian, But Definitely Unique
Granted, at first look, the Rolex GMT Master Concorde, ref. 1675/8, does not look very utilitarian. It is made of yellow gold, brown tones on the bezel and dial, and being a GMT Master, it is equipped with a high-tech caliber 1565 with an independent GMT hand. However, it doesn’t look like the GMT Masters we are used to seeing nowadays: no dual-tone Pepsi bezel made of ceramic, no Mercedes hands, no glossy black dial with applied markers made of precious metal. The Concorde actually looks more elegant than most GMT-Masters you might have seen before. Of course, there is a reason for this, which we’re going to discuss below. This particular reference, I may add, showcases what Rolex knew how to do best many decades ago: unique iterations of its core collections.
History of the GMT Master “Concorde”
So what is the story being the GMT Master Concorde ref. 1675/8? If you were born in the 1950s/60s, or if you are a fan of aviation, you may have heard of the Concorde, a supersonic commercial airplane co-developed by France’s Sud Aviation and Britain’s British Aircraft Corporation in the 1960s. The first flight took place on March 2, 1969, and the last took place on October 24, 2003. During its existence, the Concorde was the fastest commercial airplane in the world and could fly from Paris to New York City in three hours. Although it was fast, the Concorde was found to be too polluting and too noisy and had to be retired. However, to commemorate the creation of the Concorde, Rolex created a special edition of the GMT Master.
To be specific, and according to this article from Analog Shift, the reference 1675/8 was named as such because Rolex published an add that read “If you were flying the Concorde tomorrow, you’d wear a Rolex”, showing an image of the above-pictured solid-gold GMT Master. There was, therefore, no affiliation between the Swiss horological brand and the two companies that made the plane. But hey, that’s Rolex for you, somehow taking credit for something they didn’t create.
What Makes It Stand Out
From a visual standpoint, the GMT Master Concorde ref. 1675/8 stands out in three distinct ways: first, it came with baton-style hands instead of the iconic Mercedes hands (and other references had Dauphine style hands); second, the brown color of the dial and bezel were rare and worked particularly well with the solid gold case (I believe the brown is due to the natural aging process of the dial, not that it was made brown to begin with, but I might be mistaken); third, the “nipples” hour markers—which are applied conical markers with a small plots of lume on top—are not unique to this model but are quite rare. Similar hour markers could be found on vintage Submariners as well and, personally, I wish Rolex would bring them back as they looked great and quite different from what was made during the same time period.
Specifications of the GMT Master Concorde
Mechanically, the GMT Master Concorde ref. 1675/8 was equipped with the caliber 1565 which, as far as I know, beat at 18,000 BPH, had 25 jewels, and came with 48 hours of power reserve (the latter fact seems pretty impressive for a movement made in the 1960s.) The case was made of solid yellow gold and measured 40mm in diameter, 12mm thick, and had a water resistance of 100 meters, making it a true tool watch. The domed plexiglass crystal, coupled with the brown tones of the dial and bezel, endow this model with a strong vintage vibe the likes of which I haven’t seen before. The 1675/8 truly had a look of its own which makes it highly collectible.
I’m amazed by the wealth of vintage Rolex references we don’t hear about. There is a reason why we talk about the Swiss brand so much as it has made so many contributions to the world of horology in the past century. While there is plenty to be said about its contemporary collections, I’m more interested in the vintage ones because I find them to be more unique. Rolex had managed to offer more variety in terms of design, colors, and limited editions which we rarely see nowadays. Personally, I find the modern GMT Master II to be somewhat bland and soulless, while the GMT Master Concorde 1675/8 had a personality of its own.Featured image: www.analogshift.com