Blue and black, day and night

This year, Rolex caused a stir with a two-tone bezel presented in blue and black with its latest iteration of the Rolex GMT-Master II.


Rolex GMT-Master II

The words “day and night” I refer to in my title, relate to the hours conveyed with the respective colour scheme depicted on the bezel. These two particular colours, blue and black, appear for the first time on this latest version of the Rolex GMT-Master II. It may not sound much to the non-Rolex watch enthusiast, but to a Rolex fan it elicits much cooing and vows of undying of love.

Die-hard Rolex collectors

Die-hard Rolex collectors will obsess over the minutest detail. Take for example the legendary Submariner, huge piles of promissory notes will exchange hands to secure a version with the model name in red text or the words “Comex” on the dial. To the untrained eye, it would probably not register as significant, but to the cognoscenti it substantially enhances the appeal of the timepiece.

I remember a few years ago, a collector passing me a Submariner with the second hand resembling a lightning bolt and the word Milgauss on the dial. I must confess to my naive eyes, it offered little added value compared with my own Submariner, sharing otherwise similar aesthetics including near identical bezel. But then most auction houses would disagree with my stance.

To the Rolex obsessed collector, the devil is in the detail.

GMT-Master, depuis 1955

The GMT-Master chronometer has been in the Rolex range for many years and has evolved over the years. Rolex embraces the concept of evolution, rather than revolution. Since the original model of 1955, with Plexiglass insert presented on the bezel, little has changed to the casual observer. The GMT-Master II was subsequently introduced in 1982.

Bezels have been presented in blue and red, black and red, and black alone. Indeed the two-tone variants have attracted the nicknames “Pepsi Cola” or “Pepsi” and “Coca Cola” or “Coke” and respectively.

Subtle modifications over the years have included a move from hollow bracelet links to solid links, different movements and chunkier crowns. The bezels have grown, creating the illusion the 40mm diameter case has increased, except it hasn’t.

In 2005, Rolex launched Cerachrom, a unique ceramic material which was scratch resistant, corrosion proof and unaffected by the sun’s rays. I purchased a Rolex Deepsea shortly after it was released and must confess, I preferred the new bezel material to the bezel found on my Submariner of the 1990s. Traditionalists may disagree, but I liked the shinier appearance of the newer material.

This year, Rolex caused a stir with a two-tone bezel presented in blue and black. The bezel is in a single piece, employing a patented system which allows the two colours to be presented adjacent each other. Until recently it was thought that two colours in a single piece of ceramic-like material was impossible. I have to stress the phrase “single piece” as it is unlikely to be seen in this form elsewhere, as Rolex has patents pending on this innovative know-how. The result is stunning, with the two hues sat adjacent without the merest hint of a join.

Rolex GMT-Master II

The 24-hour markings on the bezel are coated with a thin layer of platinum, employing a PVD process.

Detailed description of the innovative process for creating the bezel – provided by Rolex

The black colour is achieved via a process that consists of impregnating half the insert with a controlled quantity of a solution of chemical compounds. The solution is added before the sintering stage, during which the ceramic acquires its final properties. In the course of this firing, the ceramic densifies and the added compounds react together as well as with the basic material of the blue Cerachrom insert to create the final black colour.

 

This original and innovative process, developed by Rolex, also requires mastery of high-temperature heat treatments to closely control the deformation of the ceramic. The two-colour Cerachrom bezel Insert obtained via this process presents a clear cut off between the two colours. By virtue of being manufactured in a single piece, the insert acquires homogeneous mechanical properties which respond to the quality and reliability demanded of a Rolex product.

To match the blue colour presented on the bezel, Rolex have equipped this watch with a blue GMT hand. It proffers excellent legibility and completes the aesthetic ensemble wonderfully.

Rolex GMT-Master II

The new GMT-Master II features a solid-link Oyster bracelet with highly polished central links. When I bought the Submariner, back in the 1990s, I saw nothing wrong with the bracelet but today’s bracelet feels far more substantial.

Beauty is more than skin-deep.

If you chat to several watchmakers, something I must confess to doing on a frequent basis, they will often say that Rolex create incredibly reliable movements.

Indeed, the whole business model of Rolex relies upon the watches leaving their factory gates, operating with faultless precision and never returning except for routine servicing. In this regard, they have succeeded with admirable competence.

The Calibre 3186 within the GMT-Master II is a manufacture movement. It is a self-winding movement with a frequency of 4 Hertz. The movement contains a blue Parachrom hairspring. The special alloy, created by Rolex, is said to offer greater stability, especially when subjected to temperature variations and shocks. Moreover, it is “insensitive to magnetic fields”.

Rolex GMT-Master II

Rolex GMT-Master II

The “proof of the pudding is in the eating” or in this instance the scrutiny by Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC). They have subjected the GMT-Master II to their onerous criteria and the watch fulfills its demands conferring Swiss chronometer status. It must be remembered that only 3% of Swiss watch production meets this standard and carries the highly regarded COSC certification.

Robustness

Like many Rolex owners, I have dropped my watch, banged it against brick walls, worn it in the gym, including the hostile environs of the jacuzzi and sauna, and yet never been able to discern any detrimental effects. I am not advocating this as the ideal method of preserving your investment, but it does stand testament to the bullet-proof qualities of a watch which bears the iconic crown symbol on its dial.

Rolex GMT-Master II

The fact remains, a Rolex GMT-Master II is a tough timepiece which I suspect. like the Submariner and Deepsea which have adorned my own wrist over the years, will provide resilience to regular wear and on occasion some harsher than desirable treatment.

Technical Specification

  • Model: Rolex GMT-Master II
  • Reference: 116710 BLNR – 78200
  • Case: 904L stainless steel; diameter 40.00 mm; water resistant to 10 bar (100 metres); sapphire crystal to front and solid caseback.
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; central seconds; date; GMT hand.
  • Movement: 3186, self-winding movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4Hz); 31 jewels; power reserve 48 hours
  • Bracelet: 904L stainless steel bracelet with folding clasp with Easylink 5mm comfort extension link.

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