To start let me say that I like Rolex. I do, and I’m not ashamed to say it!
In my many years enjoying and collecting watches I realized, amazingly, that there are people out there that don’t like, or at least think they don’t like Rolex…
Why would that be amazing? After all peoples’ tastes are different and that’s what give us variety, so why should they like Rolex?
Absolutely correct, but the point I’m making here is that probably most of the people who say they don’t like Rolex do it either from prejudice or from lack of first hand knowledge of their products. I read a post some time ago in a well known watch blog that had quite a few interesting insights into the whys and whats of this so I’ll try not to emulate,
I decided to write this post trying to take this subject which is often discussed amongst “watch people” a bit further and to help me do so I am going to review the Rolex GMT Master II 116710 LN, which in my opinion is one of the most versatile watches around.
I’m not trying to promote Rolex, they most certainly don’t need me to promote them, and they are also not paying me to publicize their products, they have experts to do that. (Mmmm… But, anyway, Dear Directors of Rolex if you ever read this and feel like sending me a couple of watches I would really appreciate… Thank you!)
What I’m trying here is to be fair towards a brand that produces really great watches and it’s not by chance that they are one of the most recognizable luxury brands in the world. When during my twenties I started buying “proper” – as in swiss made mechanical – watches, I spent several years ignoring Rolex while buying other top brands that I thought at the time, with all the intensity of youth, were more appropriate to “connoisseurs” due to their longer tradition, their more “exclusive” image or their more complicated movements.
And one fine day I decided to buy one, just to figure out what was it that so many people saw in Rolex. I got myself a Submariner (no date) and I certainly got the point…
To be very clear Rolex is not my favorite watchmaker, but, ever since that first Submariner that I bought in the 90’s, Rolex is up there amongst the top places of my personal ranking. I’ve had a few since then and they are just what you’d expect – comfortable to wear, accurate, resistant, a good match whatever you’re dressing be it sport, casual or a suit and fundamentally they are very dependable.
Now, to the GMT Master II…
This one here is the 116710 LN which means that it’s the latest version of the model that was created by Rolex for the now disappeared Pan American World Airlines when they first started flying Boeing 707 jet airplanes in intercontinental flights and due to their extended range, felt the need to have a watch that would allow the pilots to shift easily between different timezones…
This model has been around for a few years now, and since its launch has been very sought after. The size is 40 mm, which by today’s standards is not considered big, but it has more than enough presence has is. The indexes are quite a bit larger than the previous versions which helps readability and gives it a more up to date look and it was the first model of the brand to come with a rotating bezel in Cerachrom – Rolex lingo for high tech ceramics – said to be virtually unbreakable and scratch proof and with the inserted numerals, representing in this case the 24 hours of the day, in platinum.
The Oyster case, which is carved from a single block of stainless steel and hermetically sealed, is perfectly finished with its surfaces contrasting between polished and brushed. The case back, unlike “older” Rolex models doesn’t have a green sticker with logo and model number anymore, being absolutely clean with no marks or writing of any kind.
The black dial is protected by a thick sapphire crystal, with the typical Rolex cyclops at three o’clock to magnify the date. Legibility is very good, even in situations of intense luminosity or strong reflexion, although it is widespreadly acknowledged that it could be improved with a double anti-reflection treatment.
The bracelet, with the links brushed on the sides and polished in the middle is very good, with a solid and pleasant feel to the touch. Fortunately the folding clasp, unlike some flimsy examples from the past, is now beyond reproach. It comes fitted with an “Easylink” that can be easily deployed, as the name suggests, in case the wrist gets swollen while traveling or during warmer weather.
The crown is a “Triplock” (you can recognize it by the three dots underneath the Rolex crown logo) exactly like the one you’ll find in the Submariner models and it screws into the case, rendering it impervious to water and dust. The crown, when unscrewed can be used to perform three operations – 1. wind up the mechanism – 2. set the date and time forward or backwards in increments of one hour (more to that coming) – 3. set the time in the traditional fashion.
The heart of the watch is an automatic self-winding COSC certified chronometer mechanism, built in house and sporting the “paramagnetic blue Parachrom hairspring” oscillator – you have to hand it to Rolex, they really know how to come up with cool sounding names – that has a stronger resistance to shocks and it is not affected by magnetic fields therefore achieving higher standards of accuracy. Well, you can read all about it at the Rolex website, what I can tell you is that after approximately three years of usage in the real world the accuracy is nearly perfect staying well within the COSC parameters (-4 to +6 seconds/day).
But the beauty of this mechanism for me resides also in the simplicity of use when you move between timezones. Let me explain – you have the long green hand (as you can see in the photo above pointing at 15 h in the rotating bezel) that gives you the time in a 24 hour scale and that when traveling you use as Home hour, then you have the traditional hour hand that you can move back and forth to adjust to the time at the place you’re going to. Simple, easy, brilliant! So you can forget about all you used to know about not moving the hands counter clockwise and not changing the date backwards, the GMT Master II allows you to do just that, and with such a well built, precise and responsive control that will rarely fail to bring a smile to your lips.
Another small difference from previous models is the inside ring with the word Rolex engraved all around and the serial number at 6 o’clock, it may sound like it “complicates” the image a bit, but in fact you hardly notice it when wearing the watch.
The lume is good. It is not excellent, but the green LumiNova gets the job done, and I feel that for a normal usage is more than enough. The latest Explorer II, Submariner and Yacht Master are using something exclusive to Rolex called “Chromalight” (once again a very cool name) that has blue luminescence and apparently produces better results.
In a nutshell – the GMT Master II – you can take it anywhere and change timezones with ease, you can see up to three different timezones at the same time, you can take it swimming or even diving (100 m water resistance), you can wear it to any occasion and you can rely in both the build quality and the mechanism’s precision.
What’s there not to like about it?
Well, I understand the argument that lots of people that don’t have a clue about watches buy a Rolex just because they heard about the brand and they like to show off but, that is not a reason for people who do appreciate watches and should snub a great quality product, is it? That’s why you see lots of collectors and people who work in the industry wearing Rolex as their day to day watch.
I’m sure this will keep on being a controversial theme of discussion, but what I believe is that…
There are lots of people with good taste that are savvy enough to appreciate a Rolex.
If you have an opinion on this subject, please make a comment, I’m really interested in hearing what you have to say.
Despite the stereotype of Rolex being exclusive to the elderly and nouveau riche (and my guilty aherence to this prejudice) I can’t admit to not loving a few pieces. The Submariner, GMT and DSSD (despite it’s massive size and ORIGINAL GAS ESCAPE VALVE) are all lovely pieces. I’d be happy to own even one and could probably live with the title of nouveau riche!
Hi Scott, I myself resisted Rolex for quite a few years, but, trust me on this, from the moment I got my first Submariner I realized that I should have gotten one much sooner. Get one, particularly the sport line, and you’ll understand. They are really, really good watches and they seem to grow into you. Regarding the “labels” like for the elderly and nouveau rich, well, the fact is that most of the people who make this negative comments never had one, furthermore it is good when a brand causes controversy, it shows that it is not bland, that it has character. So… As long as you like it who cares…?
I think I’d ultimately be worried about feeling the stigma of Rolex ownership even if I myself didn’t believe it. I believe I’d get over it, but there may be a while where I’d have a bit of social anxiety as to what people think about me for wearing a Rolex. You could probably wear a Patek in public and people think nothing of it, but that’s more due to brand recognition.
I’d love to get one but as a student something like an Orient Mako homage will probably make more sense financially. It’s definitely a fantasy for a future watch though.
Hi Scott, an Orient Mako is a very sensible choice for the price. Looks good, it has a reliable mechanism and it is sturdy. Keep your hopes high, work hard and soon enough you’ll see yourself with a great watch. If you think you won’t feel comfortable with a Rolex go for an IWC, I can tell by your comment that you like them, and I’m sure they’ll never make you feel uncomfortable. 😉
I can’t see anybody saying they don’t like Rolex!
I bought my first rolex a date just gold and s/s in 1982
, a gold day date on president bracelet in 1986
,a submariner in s/ steel in 2011,and a gmt master 11 ceramic 4days ago.
All these watches are beautiful and I never cease to admire them.
If you can afford one I recommend you buy one and enjoy.
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