In the early 1950’s, Pan American World Airways had a growing cache of pilots traveling ever more distantly and frequently. As their time abroad grew, Pan-Am realized that supplying their pilots with a watch that tracked both local and home time could help reduce scheduling error, improve jet lag, and even help morale. They approached Mr. Rene-Paul Jeanneret, the public relations manager of Montres Rolex SA, and requested that they develop a dual time-zone watch for their fleet.
As with most things Rolex, little is known about the actual development process. However, by 1954, Rolex introduced the now-famed GMT Master 6542. This model was cased similarly to the Submariner but featured a date window as well as a fourth hand and bi-directionally rotating Bakelite bezel, both graded to 24 hours.
From 1954 to 1959, the GMT Master 6542 became popular for pilots and jet setters alike – but soon it became problematic for Rolex. Its radium Bakelite bezel was highly radioactive and prone to cracking. The lack of crown guards, like its contemporary model the Submariner, left the crown and stem liable to damage from a well-placed impact. There has been debate over why exactly the Bakelite was scrapped. Two leading theories are concern from the United States Atomic Energy Commission and their being sued by a family over health fears from the radiation. What we do know is that the kerfuffle ended in the Bakelite’s replacement by a simpler, screen-printed metal bezel. This, the addition of crown guards, an upsized case, and an upgraded movement heralded the 1675’s introduction.
From 1959 to 1980, the 1675 was the only GMT model produced by Rolex. It became immensely popular and, as is Rolex’s style, was incrementally improved throughout those 21 years. As such, the varieties and succession of dials, hands, movements, and case components often bring a headache to those just starting out. Click through the pages to learn more about each type.
Here are some interesting pieces of collectables that are related to the 1675 GMT, including boxes, papers, stands, advertisements, and the like. Boxes & papers add value to the watch but the amount of that value is completely subjective and whereas some value it highly, others not. I will not get into the mire that is ‘verifiable papers’ but I have included a first-owner full set from a Mark 1 matte for some context and for what ‘box & papers’ versus ‘full set’ means.