Man in the Sky Rolex GMT

Very few watches come to mind when you think of the “pilot’s watch.” A few IWC’s come to mind but you’d have trouble finding a list that did not have the Rolex GMT at the top of the list. Introduced in 1954 and made famous by pilots like Chuck Jaeger, the GMT has been synonymous with flight and travel. As military pilots begun transitioning towards commercial flight and planes traversed regularly across multiple time zones, there became a need from airlines for a wearable tool that allowed their pilots to track dual time zones. A floating rotating bezel and a 24 hour GMT hand was the “app” that allowed for this functionality.

Although the watch was introduced in the mid 50’s, it did not hit its stride until the late 60’s and early 70’s. Fast forward to today and after multiple evolutions of the watch the DNA and intent of the watch has not changed very much. Slow strides and a strict adherence to the adage “If it ain’t broke…” has allowed the GMT to still be instantly recognizable. Multiple references were produced but to us the golden years of the GMT were best represented in the 1675 reference which ran for nearly 2 decades. The 16710 came out shortly after the 1675 but had almost an equally long shelf life as its older sibling. It still carried an aluminum bezel and in the place of an acrylic window it adopted the sapphire glass crystal.

One can argue that tracking multiple time zones is perhaps a more useful tool than a chronometer function as found in the Daytona or a minute counter as seen on the Submariner. But for most of us collectors wearing watches today, functionality can also include versatility. The GMT’s that wore an aluminum bezel as opposed to their modern ceramic siblings allowed for an endless combination of patina’d colors of bezels. It is perhaps the one watch that can exhibit such a different look with a switch of a bezel insert. Black, Pepsi, Coke, Rootbeer, Faded Pepsi, Fuchsia, Ghost, and all the tones and colors in between each are just some of the nick names of inserts that come to mind. The minimalist collector can acquire a 1675 but have 3-4 inserts in rotation to make one watch feel like a whole collection.

Given the lack of travel during Covid, you would think one would gravitate towards other watches, however I found myself constantly wearing my 1675. Perhaps due to nostalgia of a time where travel and my GMT were inseparable. Our feature “Man in the sky” featuring our talented friend and pilot Dean aimed at showcasing the “man on the move”. A GMT is not at home nesting in a safe, rather it is 20,000 ft in the air with a clear horizon and no manifest. Happy travels…

-Curtis Chen

Co-Founder GP

Feature: Man in the Sky