May 18, 2023
by Jake Witkin
If I say “Rolex,” odds are that one of three things (in no particular order) come to mind: First is probably a black dive watch, second a two-tone sports watch, and third a bi-colored bezel GMT-Master. Well, this year, Rolex combined these three hallmark designs into what has the potential to be a modern classic, the Rolex GMT-Master II 126713GRNR in steel and gold — or as Rolex likes to call it, Rolesor. I know what some of you may be thinking — it’s just another two-tone Rolex. But those of you who have seen it “in the metal” will know what I mean. The balance of steel-to-gold, black-to-gray, and the highly reflective nature of the polished case flanks, bracelet links, and cerachrom bezel make the new bi-color GMT-Master II feel more like what a Rolex should be than any other Rolex released at Watches and Wonders 2023. No need to fear, if the two-tone isn’t ostentatious enough, the full yellow gold GMT-Master II 126718GRNR absolutely slaps, too.
Before I get too deep, let’s clear the air. There isn’t anything really novel here aside from the gray ceramic used on the bezel. Every other feature of the new GMT-Master II exists in some form in the Rolex catalog, but these releases mark the return of yellow gold — the world’s most popular precious metal — to the GMT-Master collection for the first time since 2018. Also, the specs are exactly the same as the rest of the GMT-Master II lineup. So, if you know Rolex specs, feel free to skip the next paragraph.
Both new GMT-Master IIs have a 40mm-wide case that is 48mm lug-to-lug and a thickness of 11.9mm. The Rolesor model case is 904L stainless steel and 18K yellow gold bezel, crown, and inner bracelet links, while the full yellow gold is entirely 18K yellow. Powering the GMT-Master II is the Calibre 3258 which provides 70 hours of power reserve. These in-house movements are chocked full of Rolex’s top-of-the-line bells and whistles like the Chronergy escapement, blue Parachom hairspring, and paraflex shock absorbers. It is also a “true” GMT movement that allows for independent adjustment of the local hour hand so you do not disrupt timekeeping when you travel between time zones. A solid steel caseback, Triplock crown, and sapphire crystal provide 100m of water resistance. A glossy black dial is home to solid 18k yellow gold applied indices and hands that are filled with blue-glowing Chromalight luminescent material.
The bezel of the new GMT-Master II is solid 18k Yellow gold with a 24-hour Cerachrom insert — we’ll get to this in a minute. The bezel mechanism operates through a ball-bearing mechanism, rotating in both directions with 24 “clicks,” one for each time zone. Every year, I hope Rolex will update this bezel mechanism. While tactility and the sound of the bezel are certainly subjective, I cannot help but be disappointed with the mushy feeling of the bezel action that sounds more like a muffled thump than a click. Out of all the refined details that make Rolex watches feel good, this bezel always disappoints. If we ignore this action, the bezel is genuinely phenomenal. The bi-color insert features a highly polished black ceramic on the top half and a polished gray lower half. Even number graduations are engraved and filled with gold that receives a spectacular frosted finish. The hue of gray chosen is excellent; while I do not know the exact color code, it is reminiscent of menacing thunderclouds. The brilliance of using this color combined with the polished finish is that it often disappears and remains neutral. In some light, you cannot differentiate the gray from the black segment, but as reflections shift, it becomes visible again. It is an elegant solution to provide a day-night indicator without using a polarizing color while still allowing Rolex to flex its bicolor ceramic bezel production capabilities. Additionally, the gray paired with yellow gold feels decidedly modern despite the somewhat vintage vibe created by the two-tone (or full gold) jubilee bracelet.
When the curtains went up at Watches and Wonders 2023, all the buzz was around the new RLX Titanium Yachtmaster and open-caseback platinum Daytonas, but I couldn’t take my eyes off the GMTs. They seemed familiar in every aspect and yet, it took me a moment to remember that these watches didn’t exist in the lineup until that moment. I am not alone in this sentiment as I heard a similar consensus from friends and collectors as we chatted about the releases. It is an excellent example of not only Rolex’s brand power but their brand identity. Using a few key features that are so strongly associated with the brand that any combination makes perfect sense. It doesn’t look like much but it’s what many brands strive for. While Rolex is the king of playing it safe (it even has a crown to prove it), it is certainly pushing the envelope each year with a few out-of-left-field offerings. Some may say the quirky releases dilute the brand, but watches like the GMT-Master II are reminders that the crown knows what it is doing, and it is doing it as well as ever. The waitlists are probably getting long, so I wouldn’t wait much longer to put your name down for one if you are interested. With price tags of $16,450 USD and $38,900 USD for the two-tone and full yellow gold, respectively, these watches are as timeless as they are expensive. Learn more about Rolex and its new releases at the brand’s website.