Article and images contributed by Michael Maximilien:
Let's be honest, Rolex watches are one of the society's symbol of success around the world. If you want people to know you've made it, then get a Rolex. And, this message is universal, it hardly matters where you are on the globe.
The Rolex models don't change much and some are so common that on a recent trip to the US east coast, I counted three of us, in close proximity, wearing Rolexes in the train at Atlanta's Hartsfield Jackson airport going from one terminal to the next.
While wearing a Rolex tends to exude this message of "I made it" (intentionally or not), there are however, plenty of other reasons why buying a Rolex is a great investment and will get you on the road to horological satisfaction and connoisseurship…
When I started my timepiece collection, I consider myself fortunate to have bought a Rolex GMT-Master II (ref. 116713 LN) as my first timepiece. It is one of Rolex's many iconic designs, and to be frank, it still remains one of my favorite watches to this day.
It's the measuring stick that I use to compare all of my other acquisitions --- those more or less expensive. I love the GMT-Master II for its classic design, its incredible construction, its feel, and of course the impact that it projects when I wear it.
Rolex created the first Oyster Perpetual GMT watch in the 1950s for Pan Am pilots who wanted a quick way to check and know the time in different timezones. The classic design has gone through various refinements, but it remains pretty much the same today.
The original Rolex GMT was one of the first watches on the market that could tell time in two timezones at once. Essentially, Rolex added a fourth hand (the green hand with the large arrow head, or the GMT hand) that circles the dial in 24 hours. The great innovation at the time was to create a rotating bezel with 24 hour markers that can be adjusted as one moves to different timezones.
There are two primary ways to make use of the GMT feature. First, with the bezel marker set to 12 o'clock, change the GMT to point to the current Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) which is the same as the timezone in London. Change the hour hands and set it to the current timezone. With the GMT-Master II this is done easily as the minutes move with the GMT hand when the crown (unscrewed) is pulled two positions and the hours hand moves by itself when the crown is in the first position.
That way, the GMT hand will indicate the current GMT reference time and using the bezel, one can move forward or backward to match the difference between GMT and the timezone you want to know. So in the pictures in this post, my GMT-Master II shows the time in US PDT and the GMT hand shows US EST which is -5 hours from GMT (or -4 hours as in now for daylight savings time).
The second way, is to use the GMT hand and the bezel to indicate your home time. As you travel to different timezones, you can change to local time by unscrewing the crown and pulling it in the first position and turning it. In this second usage mode, only two times are readable and since the bezel is not being used for timezone changes, it's not the most effective use of the watch's features.
The GMT-Master II reviewed here is the two-tone gold and stainless version. It uses Rolex's famous oyster case at 40 mm and it weighs in at 160 grams. The weight is due in part to the gold material and to Rolex's usage of high-grade 904L steel which is forged completely in-house and is supposed to be highly polishable and very resistant to corrosion. The gold is solid 18-karat which is also used in the bezel and the dial markers.
Two of my favorite features, which are new in this model, are the oysterlock with easylink clasp and the ceramic bezel. First, the clasp. It is secured with two locks, the first to close the bracelet and the second to lock it with a fall over gold buckle adorned with the Rolex crown logo. It is by far my favorite clasp on a steel bracelet watch as it is comfortable yet very secure. It has a feel that you must wear to understand… simply superb.
In this version, reference 116713 LN, one of the main new innovations is the use of a ceramic material for the bezel dubbed Cerachrom. According to Rolex, the result is a virtually scratch-proof bezel. Rolex also created a special patented nano-particle process to paint the bezel markers with gold, guaranteeing that they will remain timeless like the gold links.
In addition, what sets this bezel apart is the feel when turning it. The resistance is measured and the fluted marks make it easy to grip. It's simply a joy to use and I look forward to changing it to check different times, even when I usually leave it to show EST time...
Like all Rolexes, the movement is in-house and for this version, contains the Rolex Parachrom hairspring which is supposed to be better at resisting the negative effects of magnetic fields and thus keeping an accurate beat over the years. The sapphire crystal has some of the best anti-reflective coating (AR) I have ever seen on a watch. This makes the bezel visible at even the thinnest of angles…
The crystal contains a magnifying bump above the date. This makes the date visible at a glance. Some might see this as an unnecessary blemish on an otherwise perfect and symmetrical design but I believe that it is very functional and in time, I learned to appreciate and actually like this feature quite a bit.
The GMT-Master II reference 116713 LN retails for $11,750 for the two-tone gold and steel version reviewed here. There is also an all-steel version, reference 116710 LN ($7,900) and an all-gold reference 116718 LN ($29,500). Rolex also makes a yellow gold version with a green dial and various versions in white and yellow gold adorned with diamonds and other precious gems which all go for well above the $30,000 price point.
If I have any negative feelings about this watch is that the gold links will scratch. Mine did, ever so slightly after I wore it the very first time. Of course, this proneness to scratches is one of the consequences of wearing a gold watch (the material is relatively soft, compared to steel) and since I love the look of the watch so much, every blemish is accentuated in my eyes.
Besides this small nitpick, I would say that if you want a timeless classic that you can wear everyday for the rest of your life while lifting your spirits and confidence, then the Rolex GMT-Master II is the watch to consider getting. It won't be unique and you can expect to see a few others wearing it at a wedding or the next business meeting… However, you can also rest assured that you are wearing a superbly crafted timepiece that is simply superlative.