Will Rolex Bring Back the All-Black GMT-Master II?

Will Rolex Bring Back the All-Black GMT-Master II?

In the depths of online Rolex forums and horological Instagram, discussions surrounding the all-black GMT-Master’s revival have been brewing. I’m not here to confirm nor deny these rumblings; I know as little as anyone else. Still, I think it’s worth discussing. Is this something Rolex would do? Would they reintroduce a unicolor bezel insert to the GMT-Master lineup? Keeping in mind Rolex’s recent difficulties producing bicolor Cerachrom bezel inserts, a unicolor option might be closer than we think. Before discussing what this might look like, let’s rewind to the inception of the black-bezeled GMT-Master.

The Precedent for All-Black Rolex GMT-Masters

Rolex 1675 black bezel

Image Source: lunaroyster.com

Black bezel inserts have been around for a vast majority of the GMT-Master’s lifespan. In 1959, Rolex released the GMT-Master ref. 1675: the first model specifically designed for an aluminum bezel insert. At launch, the ref. 1675 was only offered with the red and blue “Pepsi” insert. A few years later, they introduced a black-bezeled variant under the same reference number (pictured above). At this moment, the floodgates were opened. Later that decade, Rolex came out with the ref. 1675/8: a full yellow gold GMT-Master with a black bezel insert. In 1970, we saw the two-tone version with a black bezel insert (ref. 1675/3). 

Rolex 16758

Image Source: antiquorum.swiss

In 1980, Rolex introduced the quickset date function to the GMT-Master line. At launch, we saw examples with black bezel inserts (ref. 16753 and 16758, pictured above). Fast forward another few years, Rolex releases even more black-bezeled GMTs with the ref. 16700 (steel), 16713 (two-tone) and 16718 (gold).

In 2005, Rolex opted for Cerachrom (ceramic) bezel inserts for their major sports models. The very first GMT-Master II with a Cerachrom bezel, created to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the model, had a yellow gold case, a green dial, and – you guessed it – a black bezel insert (ref. 116718). One year later, we saw the two-tone version with a black bezel insert (ref. 116718). One year after that, we got the much more attainable steel version: ref. 116710LN. This watch, likely the most popular black-bezeled GMT-Master of all time, was produced through 2018.

Rolex GMT Master II 116710LN

Image Source: theoandharris.com

Long story short, the all-black bezel insert is a mainstay of Rolex’s GMT-Master line. Predicting its revival is, in my opinion, nothing short of a safe bet. That said, there’s no way to accurately predict a timeline for this, or anything else Rolex-related, for that matter.

The Black Bezel GMT-Master Comeback: How, Why, When

Rolex 116710LN

Image Source: tickingway.com

How will this release be done if/when it happens? Well, if the black bezel insert comes back, it will (obviously) be on the most current version of the GMT-Master II, if not, it will usher in a refreshed version. We all know what a black Cerachrom bezel looks like; the color of the GMT hand is the only real question mark. I don’t think Rolex would go right back to green (as with the recently-discontinued 116710LN). I’d love to see the red GMT hand come back alongside an all-black bezel – this look (as with the 1675 and 16700) is simple, elegant, and legible. I’ve seen mockups with a black GMT hand and I pray that it doesn’t come to fruition. I don’t know how you would read that watch.

Why would Rolex do this? There are lots of ways to answer this question, but I’ll just mention a few things. As we’ve established, the all-black bezel insert is deeply ingrained in the DNA of the GMT-Master. Over the last 60+ years, black bezel inserts have found their way onto the most iconic GMT-Master references time and time again. Furthermore, unicolor Cerachrom bezel inserts are easier to manufacture than bicolor ones. With Rolex’s recent efforts to increase supply, and concurrent struggles to produce ‘Pepsi’ bezels, why not bring back a classic?

When will Rolex do this? Again, trying to predict Rolex’s releases is a fool's errand (which makes me a huge fool). If I had to throw out a year, it would be 2025: the 70th anniversary of the GMT-Master. If Rolex’s production struggles with ‘Pepsi’ inserts are worse than we think, maybe we’ll see it even sooner.

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