Rolex GMT Master 'Root Beer'
Rolex GMT Master 'Root Beer'
We admit it: a two-toned sports watch can seem a little silly--almost ridiculous, even. You take what's supposed to be a sturdy, dependable watch with a robust stainless steel case and embellish it with a soft precious metal. But there's something to be said about the unique looks and timeless appeal of the Rolex GMT Master Ref. 16753 that's captivated collectors for decades, and we're no exception.
Almost from its inception, the Rolex GMT Master became a runaway--or shall we say, flyaway--hit. The GMT Master has its roots in aviation. With the advent of the first transcontinental flight in 1953, the pilots of Pan American Airlines required a watch that could tell two timezones simultaneously. They approached Rolex, and in short order the Rolex GMT (as in Greenwich Mean Time) Master was born, its name a bold declaration of what Rolex intended the watch to be: a master of two timezones.
That first reference of GMT Master, the ref. 6542, was essentially a heavily-modified Turn-O-Graph with the cal. 1035 movement upgraded to include a 24-hour driving wheel and a 24-hour-hand. The case was modified to include a rotating 24 hour Bakelite bezel in a distinctive blue and red, but lacked the crown guards that would adorn all subsequent references of GMT Master. But the ref. 6542 was only released from 1954 and 1960, to be replaced by the standard of vintage Rolex GMTs, the Ref. 1675.
The ref. 1675 is when the GMT Master took on the appearance that it would carry for the rest of its run. Here now are the crown guards, and the 24-hour bezel is painted, rather than the easily-chipped Bakelite. Another new modification is the inclusion of the words "Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified" on the dial, indicating the high accuracy of the new movement, the cal. 1565.
In addition to its association with Pan Am, the Rolex GMT Ref. 1675 also has another surprising connection: to NASA. While a Rolex was never flight-tested by NASA for manned space missions, unlike the much-vaunted Omega Speedmaster, Rolexes did in fact make it to space on the wrists of astronauts. Jack Swigert, from the crew of the Apollo 13 mission, credited his Rolex GMT Master--and not his Omega Speedmaster--for allowing him to make life-saving calculations that allowed the astronauts to fly back to Earth after their spacecraft's oxygen tanks ruptured.
The successor to the ref. 1675, the 16750, now featured a quick set date and a new movement: the cal. 3075. Some variants of the 16750 also featured glossy black dials with white gold indices, a similar modification to the Submariner ref. 16800. Another variant of the ref. 16750, the ref. 16753 that we have here, is distinguished by its brown--rather than black--"Root Beer" dial, slightly-raised "nipple" hour markers, and a two-tone steel and yellow gold bracelet.
Which brings us back to the idea of a two-toned sports watch. Gold on a sports or tool watch defeats the purpose of what the watch is meant to be: dependable, meant to be worn anywhere, in any environment. But we think the touches of gold on the ref. 16753 elevate it to a sphere of luxury that won't make it look out-of-place when worn with a tux. Sophisticated yet sporty, the ref. 16753 is the perfect compromise between casual and formal, at home on the Oyster bracelet or on a nylon strap--with gold hardware, natch.