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The Rolex GMT Master.
Designed by the ill fated Pan America company (formerly the biggest air fleet in the USA until it went belly up in the 1990's), a combined team of aviation and watch engineers designed this watch in the 1950's as a Pilots aid.
A marvel of engineering, it was the first watch to use a fourth hand as a 24 hour and world time indicator.
The standard hour hand moves around as normal on the 12 hour clock (marked by oversized luminous pips) and the extra hand (the red one) moves around at half the speed telling the time on the 24 hour outer bezel. Therefore, an up-all-hours world traveller such as a pilot will know whether it's AM or PM.
The bezel also rotates, so it can be utilised as a second time-zone by turning to 'local time'.
For example, if you're headed to New York simply turn the bezel back 6 hours (three increments on the 12 hour dial = 6 hours for the 24 hour hand) and your red hand will tell local time on the outer display while the regular hands don't need to be adjusted from UK time (Greenwich Mean Time, hence GMT).
Sounds complicated, but it really isn't. It's a near perfect design which has been copied many times over since its inception and it was another 'first' from the Rolex house!
The watch is a classic size. Huge when it was released, but a 40mm case is fairly standard now and it wears very comfortably despite being quite deep at 12mm. It sits proudly on the wrist, but still slips under a shirt cuff.
Also, despite the bezel being necessarily wide the dial is still a very easy to read 30mm wide and not at all cluttered as some of these pilot watches can be.
I've never struggled with the size at all. Some older Rolex watches are so small in todays market that they actually look like womens watches, in fact I've sold watches due solely to the small dimensions in the past. This is one which stands the test of time, as it's been a solid 40mm case since launch date in 1954.
As Henry Ford once said, you can have any colour - as long as it's black!
Pan Am actually gave their pilots a white dial option, but these are incredibly rare and were never released for general sale.
The dial is black on every variation of this watch apart from the solid gold model, which comes with a green option should you wish to part with close to £25,000!
(I didn't. Black on black for me - cheap and cheerful!)
The bezel on the modern variants is also black, although a blue and red version known as a 'Pepsi' bezel is occasionally seen.
On the original (pre 1980's) GMT watches there is a bronze dial with two tone brown bezel known to collectors as a 'Root Beer' model, and there is a black and red bezel insert known as the 'coke' bezel.
The original branded Pan AM watches came in both Black and White dials and now fetch a real premium if and when they pop up for sale. Don't expect change from £20,000 from one of those!
There are *ahem* 'affordable' models around though. A good looking Root Beer model can be had for around £4000 at the moment, with 1990's standard black dial models fetching £2500+.
Both are collectable and both will hold their money. If I had £4000 spare I'd stick it into a Rolex before considering a bank ISA account.
Well, you don't have to be a pilot!
I took mine on holiday and never once even messed with the GMT settings, just set the time to local as I would with any other watch.
It uses a self winding movement so doesn't need winding or new batteries, it's water resistant to 100m and has a locking screw down crown to prevent water and dust ingress. The glass is super strong Sapphire Crystal and the case and bracelet are made from high grade 904L steel, which is extremely strong, anti corrosive and totally stainless.
Long story short, this watch is perfect for everyday wear whether you use the functions or not! It's built to last and is designed to take a few knocks, (although mine is treated with kid gloves, so I'm a hypocrite)! It never needs to come off your wrist whether you're swimming, rock climbing or digging up the garden.
As mentioned, the watch also comes in steel and gold as well as solid gold, but I struggle to see the point of a gold sports/utility watch. Gold is a very soft metal and the watch usually looks a mess after a few months.
In fact, there are all manner of upgrades with prices stretching to £100,000 and up if you'd like a diamond dial and coloured sapphires around the bezel. Again, fairly pointless on a watch designed to be strong and functional.
Price and availability.
Well, as per the other Rolex watches I have owned I got a good deal on a vintage piece when I bought mine in 2010 and payed a little over £2000. It's currently worth half as much again.
They are a good investment as the prices are constantly climbing. Some models go up in value overnight, while others (like this) creep up gradually.
Still, buying a second hand Rolex GMT is a virtually recession proof and you could easily wear one depreciation-free for a year or more. There is always a collectors market for Rolex, both old and new, so it's a breeze releasing your money if you're in a squeeze.
A new model retails between £6000-£7000 for the steel model, close to £10,000 for a steel and gold model and £23,000-£25,000 for the 18ct gold model.
The steel model holds its value quite well, usually dropping 30-35% as a second hand watch, but with Rolex increasing the prices every few months, it'll probably have a second hand value of what you payed new within 5 years.
The other two drop in value significantly! In fact, a two colour model can be bought second hand for less than a new steel model. They are very unpopular and quite hard to sell which is why I stick to all steel.
If your numbers roll in and you fancy something flashy on your wrist, then diamonds and sapphires can be added just about anywhere you wish, pushing the price up to whatever you can afford!
While this isn't my favourite Rolex watch, it is the best I've ever been able to afford (watches are my only vice - promise!)
It's a great sports watch and the 24 hour/GMT complication is very handy if you travel.
Yes, the price is a bit of a kick in the teeth, but view it as an investment. £3000 spent now will equal the same if not more in 12 months time. Not like spending £500 on a high end Seiko for it to be worth £200 this time next year.
The vintage models are a little easier on the pocket than the new ones and hold their value a bit better too.
If the GMT was still the market leader as far as world-time watches, it'd be 5 stars all day long.
Sadly, a lot of companies offer GMT complications on their watches now and I own a couple that do the same job for under £50.
Rolex are now trading on the name here rather than the technology as they were 50 years back, and the watch isn't worth (in my opinion) what they are asking for a new model.
For that one reason, it drops a star.