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To understand the Vintage Rolex GMT-Master (Ref. 1675 & 16750), you have to understand the history and significance of the GMT Master line as a whole. In the early 1950’s, Pan American Airlines partnered up with Rolex to design a watch for their pilots. The result, released in 1954, was the Rolex GMT-Master (Ref. 6542): a watch that tracks two time zones using a 24-hour hand (in addition to the 12-hour hand) and bezel. While GMT watches are abundant (at all price points) in today’s market, the concept was very new in the early 1950’s. Pan America provided Rolex with the perfect opportunity to create the best GMT watch on the market – and Rolex delivered.
The first GMT-Master (Ref. 6542) featured the infamous ‘Pepsi’ bezel: two-toned red and blue. This bezel has become an horological icon, emulated by countless brands to this day. This two-tone bezel motif has become a flagship property of the brand accompanied by incredible nicknames: the green and black “Sprite”, brown and gold/black “Root Beer”, red and black “Coke”, blue and black “Batman”, etc.
Like anything in production since the early 1950’s, the Rolex GMT-Master has gone through a lot of changes. In 1959, Rolex released their second GMT-Master – reference 1675. This reference was a monumental change for the watch, including an improved movement (caliber 1565), the addition of crown guards, and a size increase from 38mm to 40mm. In many ways, reference 1675 is to the GMT-Master what reference 5512 is to the Submariner. The 1675 defined the trajectory of the GMT-Master, bringing it closer to what we see today. In 1982, Rolex unveiled the first GMT-Master II (Ref. 16760). The GMT-Master II cemented a lot of variables for the GMT line: sapphire crystal, glossy dial, and a quick-set date. However, the GMT-Master II is known for the addition of an independently-adjustable hour hand. This feature, in tandem with the 24-hour bezel, allows wearers to track three separate time zones as opposed to just two. The GMT-Master and GMT-Master II were produced at the same time for about 17 years. In 1999, the more capable GMT-Master II definitively replaced the GMT-Master.
Most modern Rolex watches are products of slow and steady evolution: decades of small changes resulting in a nearly perfect purpose-built tool. The modern GMT-Master II is no different. At a glance, the modern GMT-Master II (Ref. 126710) and 1959 GMT-Master (Ref. 1675) aren’t all that different. They share the same core elements: rotating two-tone 24-hour bezel, Mercedes local hour hand, extended arrow GMT hand, Rolex circular hour indices (found on other models), rounded crown guards, etc. They’re categorically similar watches. Over the decades, materials, proportions, and mechanics have slowly changed. Rolex will not change a watch unless the change is an obvious improvement: acrylic to sapphire, Bakelite to metal to Cerachrom, etc. Today, the GMT-Master II is a symbol of perfection. It’s an insanely durable, hyper-accurate, drop dead gorgeous tool watch.
As previously mentioned, The GMT-Master 1675 was a monumental reference. It defined the trajectory of the GMT-Master line. The 1980 GMT-Master (Ref. 16750) pays homage to the 1675, but features some major technical improvements (movement, quick-set date, water resistance). That said, both references are beloved by collectors. Everest’s Curved End leather straps are tailor fit to the dimensions of the Vintage Rolex GMT-Master (Ref. 1675 & 16750), seamlessly hugging the case and lugs. Dress it up or just reduce the weight – Everest’s Curved End leather straps have you covered. If you’re looking for a strap for your Vintage Rolex GMT-Master (Ref. 1675 & 16750), Everest bands are your best bet.