One of Rolex’s most recognizable collections, the Rolex GMT-Master was created with the needs of avid world travelers in mind, particularly the needs of international airline pilots. Originally launched in 1955, the GMT-Master was introduced at a time when intercontinental travel was rapidly evolving and growing in popularity. It even became the official watch of Pan Am, the most renowned American intercontinental airlines at the time. The GMT-Master further solidified Rolex’s credibility and status in the 1960s, when both British and French test pilots for Concorde, the first supersonic passenger aircraft, performed its final test flights while wearing none other than GMT-Master watches. With hard-to-beat functionality and a signature look to match – most notably its distinct two-tone bezel – the GMT-Master is truly unmistakable as one of Rolex’s most coveted luxury sport watches. Let’s learn how to Use the Rolex GMT-Master.
Time-Telling Across the Globe
Perhaps the most distinguishable feature of the GMT-Master collection is its ability to tell time across two time zones simultaneously – giving pilots and world travelers alike the ability to read their local time, as well as the time back home or elsewhere. As the first wristwatch with this capability, the GMT-Master quickly grew in popularity for its unique and practical functionality while abroad. Its characteristic two-tone rotating bezel marked with a 24-hour scale, and an additional hour hand on later models, allow for this groundbreaking capability of dual time telling.
The launch of the GMT-Master II in 1983 further enhanced this unique function. Featuring a new and improved Caliber 3085, the GMT-Master series could now read a third time zone simultaneously, as the movement allowed the hour hands to now be uncoupled and set separately. Prior to this movement, both hour hands of the older generation GMT-Masters were synced and couldn’t be set separate from one another. As such, the watch’s bezel needed to be lined up with the numbers using the GMT hand to tell time in a second time zone. Thus, the introduction of the groundbreaking GMT-Master II marked a revolutionary start of a new era in Rolex’s travel-inspired watches. The favorited collection has since evolved to include even more advancements and upgrades over the years, making it an even bigger hit and “must have” for airline pilots and travel enthusiasts alike. While the GMT-Master II still remains in production, the original GMT-Master was discontinued in 1999, making it a highly sought-after watch in the pre-owned market.
How to use the Rolex GMT-Master II
Winding the watch. Before adjusting the time on a GMT-Master II, it’s a good idea to first make sure it is properly wound. To do so, make sure your watch is in Position 1 by winding the crown counterclockwise until it pops out of the case. Once in Position 1, manually wind the crown by winding it in the opposite direction (clockwise) for a minimum of 20 full turns.
Setting the hour hand. To adjust the time, first set the watch to Position 2 by pulling the crown one notch outside of the case. Turn the crown clockwise to set the hour hand (the shortest hand with the Mercedes design) to the time of your desired time zone. Note – the date window will also adjust accordingly anytime the hour hand passes midnight.
Traditional time-setting. Position 3 – when the crown is pulled all the way out – allows for the traditional time-setting functions of adjusting the minute hand (the long hand with the lume center). To adjust the minute hand, pull the crown out two notches outside of the case. Once in Position 3, turn the crown clockwise until you reach the desired time. Note that the hour hand will also adjust accordingly as the minute hand makes a full rotation, as will the date setting whenever the hour hand passes midnight – as it does when in Position 2.
Setting a second time zone. To set the secondary time zone, adjust the bezel so that it reads the current time where you are – making sure the 24-hour hand (the long skinny hand with the triangle tip) aligns to point at the correct number on the bezel to read the correct hour/time of where you currently are. That way, you can keep the current time with the bezel, while also keeping the time back home (home time) with the dial. Of course, you can also choose to have it the other way around – setting the current time on the dial and the home time on the bezel if you prefer. The way we suggested is just the most convenient and requires the least amount of adjustment to the watch.
Setting a third time zone. While the GMT-Master II can notably tell three time zones, it can only ever display two of them at once. To read time in a third time zone, the rotatable bezel can be turned accordingly to display the time in that time zone – a convenient way to read a third time zone with a simple tweak of the bezel. It’s worth mentioning that this function wasn’t possible before the introduction of the GMT-Master II, as both hour hands on the older GMT-Master watches were linked and could not be set separately – which only allowed for the two different time zones to be read at any given time.
Secure the watch after setting it. Once all the settings of the watch – time, date, secondary time zone – are set to your preference, make sure to return the winding crown to Position 0, securely set against the case between the crown guards. Turn it clockwise to secure it in place tightly, which will ensure the watch stays water resistant.
As mentioned above, the GMT-Master collection has truly set the bar within not just the luxury watch realm, but more specifically within its travel-inspired watch genre. As the GMT-Master II was already a major level up from the original GMT-Master, it is also functionally superior to other travel watches from Rolex, such as the Explorer and Explorer II, with its ability to read three different time zones. Even the Rolex Sky-Dweller, notably the brand’s most complicated collection, only reads two time zones at most. With all that said, the GMT-Master II is an iconic timepiece, practically within a genre of its own, and an easy fan favorite amongst avid world travelers.