Evolution of the GMT

The Evolution of the GMT by Tomvox1

Much like the first girl you kiss or your first car, one's first Vintage Rolex will linger in the memory, no matter where one's subsequent collecting interests may lead. For me, that "first" was a 1675 GMT-Master. It was a matte dialed, thin case model from the late 1960's. When I saw it, I knew I had to have it. It was great. Pepsi bezel. My first Rolex Sports watch and vintage, too! Set for life...

And then, I saw this baby: 


The 6542 "Pussy Galore!" I didn't know that it was called that then. Heck, I hadn't even become a regular on any forums yet and didn't really know much about no crown guards models or gilt vs. matte dials. But I did know that I really liked the look of the watch with that mini GMT hand and beautiful glossy "chocolate" dial. And that plastic bezel insert--Humina-humina… 



So I sold the matte dialed 1675 and, by the luckiest of coincidences, I was fortunate enough to purchase this 6542.


Here is the beautiful movement, engraved with caliber ID "1035" (although I have read that Rolex called this GMT-specific caliber "1036" and later variations included "1066"), featuring a decorated "butterfly" rotor. This 6542 is stamped "1 1958" and has a case/serial # of 35x,xxx.

I was sure that this 6542 was the only GMT I would "need." After all, when you have the rarest variety, who wants any other kind?

Well, clearly I had not come to grips with the fact that I was rapidly becoming a vintage watch addict and "needed" to get examples of the other types of gilt/gloss GMT's out there.


The next evolution of the GMT-Master incorporated pointed crown guards similar to those introduced on the Sub with the 5512 (ca. 1959-60) and did away with the plastic bezel insert in favor of a screen-printed metal insert, which had been phased in on the 6542. 



This first generation of the newly designated model 1675 featured a new caliber, as well, 1565, with a different style rotor, albeit still decorated. This example is date-stamped "III 61" and has a case/serial # of 69x,xxx.

That left me with one more gilt/gloss variety to acquire... 


The next change in the model came about four years later with the crown guards becoming square and the disappearance of the outer minute track. The character of the gloss dial is also somewhat different, with what seems to me a thicker, shinier layer of lacquer. 



The movement was also upgraded to caliber 1570/5, which became the workhorse for many Rolex models over the next 25 years. Note that all extraneous decoration is put aside with the introduction of this movement. This square crown guards 1675 is date stamped "II 65" and has a case/serial # of 1,30x,xxx.

Finally, from around 1968 until the end of the 1675 reference (ca. early 1980's), the GMT-Master featured a matte dial with white printing and a large-arrow 24hr/GMT hand.  From the early 1970's on, the customer could also choose between the original blue-red "Pepsi" bezel insert and a new, all-black version

Photo: Felipe



Here are the crown sides and bezels of these three versions of the GMT...     


..and the case backs (note the big Bubbleback/early Sub style of the 6542 back on the left):


After many years in the shadows of its more celebrated stable mate, the great Submariner, the GMT-Master--choice of test pilots, astronauts and world travelers--appears to me to be poised for its moment in the sun. It is one of the few affordable Vintage Rolex with multiple complications. It is a supremely practical tool watch with plenty of water resistance that can also tell home time when traveling abroad. It had a date function more than a decade before the Submariner acquired one. The 6542 was also the first Sports Rolex (not counting 1950's pre-Daytona chronographs) to be manufactured in gold. And every GMT-Master manufactured has been a Certified Chronometer.

But the main significance for me is that the GMT-Master introduced me to this wonderfully complex and fascinating world of Vintage Rolex and the often very fine people who populate it. For that alone, the GMT-Master will always remain my first love. 


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