I have to admit that it was rather surprising to see Rolex release a red and blue ceramic bezel version of the GMT-Master II (ref. 116710 BLNR) just one year after they released a blue and black version of the same watch. Indeed, as sales in Rolex stores for the “Batman” GMT-Master II ref. 116710BLNR are still hot, Rolex goes ahead and completes their mission of reviving the “Pan Am” bezel with the new for 2014 Ref. 116719 BLRO with a fully blue and red GMT bezel.
In a sense this new watch is a dedication to the original GMT-Master timepiece from 1955. We covered the watch when discussing our history of the Rolex Oyster Professional watch and explained how Rolex was late to the game with a pilot watch, but worked with Pan American (Pan Am) airline pilots to develop a timepiece for their needs. The red and blue segments of the bezel are meant to act (more or less) as an AM/PM day/night indicator, but the bright colors also happened to be rather distinctive.
Eventually, Rolex came out with the updated GMT-Master II that retained the blue and red color tones for the bezel, but also added other colors as well over the years. In about 2007 Rolex stopped producing the Pepsi bezel (as it is often known) and a bit later Rolex moved all GMT-Master II collection watches to have Cerachrom ceramic bezels. Ceramic as a material was clearly an improvement over the older aluminum bezels when it came out in 2008 but it would take a few years before Rolex was able to produce bezels in a color other than black or blue.
Rolex then added green with a version of the Submariner Date in 2010, and in 2013 released the first ever two-tone ceramic bezel for the GMT-Master II. The major innovation there was to create a single piece of ceramic with two colors. The process is complicated and involves a sort of chemistry cooking magic during the ceramic sintering process. Can you guess what color the bezel starts out as before the baking process?
It is actually green. The base ceramic material begins life as a brittle green ring which when baked shrinks and becomes red. The all red bezel is then chemically treated on the half of the surface that will eventually become blue. The completed sintering process specially developed by Rolex after years of trial and error results in a red and blue bezel, with an impressively bold set of colors that has a perfect demarcation between the two colors. It is really a brilliant effect, and no one but Rolex can come close to producing anything like it in bulk.
So just one year after the blue and black version of the GMT-Master II comes a blue and red version. Clearly, Rolex has been pushing for a return to a blue and red GMT bezel for a while, and given the complexity of working with ceramic colors I am impressed at how relatively short it took them. The real question is whether people who purchased (or will purchase) a ref. 116710 BLNR have anything to be upset about.