In the Rolex sports watch hall of fame, the GMT-Master II is arguably the most practical. It is a relatively affordable, dual time zone watch; and there are, after all, more people who travel than those who dive or race or sail.
At the same time, the GMT-Master has always been available in precious metal, in 18k Everose for instance, and also lavishly bejewelled like the popular sapphire and ruby “SARU”.
The new meteorite dial GMT-Master II, on the other hand, is bling meets functionality without the gemstones, making it an unusual and compelling watch. And it’s also the first time Rolex has used meteorite in a watch other than the Daytona or Day-Date.
In fact, the meteorite GMT-Master probably the most practical ultra-luxe travel watch out there. And it costs only about US$1600 over the standard white gold GMT-Master with a blue dial, making it a worthwhile upgrade.
Maybe “Pan Am”
Rolex has not revealed what inspired the meteorite GMT-Master, but the GMT-Master “Pan Am” or “Albino” is obvious.
Reputedly made in small numbers for executives at Pan American Airways – the company credited for the creation of the GMT-Master – the GMT-Masters fitted with white dials are either the refs. 6542 or 1675.
A handful are known and have sold for well into six figures, but the white dial examples are controversial and often accompanied by unending questions as to whether they are legit.
A jewel of a watch
In contrast, the modern day equivalent of the “Pan Am” is unquestionably a beautifully made, hefty, and shiny object.
On the wrist it gleams; the white gold case has a slightly lighter, greyish tone than steel, and the meteorite dial sparkles when it catches the light just right. And because the dial is silver and the case is white metal, it catches the eye without being ostentatious.
Notably, the gold case and bracelet appear to be 18k white gold in its natural state, without the rhodium plating that is often used to give it a bright, silvery finish.
Consequently the case and bracelet are grey with a very, very slight tinge of yellow; personally I prefer white gold cases without plating as they are easier to polish or refinish.
The tangible function of the watch is identical to other Rolex sports watches – solid, precise and dependable. But the weight of the case, combined with its shine, give it an appealingly expensive feel.
But it doesn’t just look like good, it stands up to scrutiny up close. The remarkable quality of production is evident even in the smallest details of the case, like the notches on the bezel for instance.
Though the watch is heavy, wearability is excellent, particularly since “micro” adjustment of the bracelet is possible with the EasyLink extension integrated into the clasp.
The only impractical aspect of the watch, and this common to several Rolex sports model, is the mirror polished finish on the centre links and clasp, making them prone to scratches and scuffs, especially on the raised middle of the buckle.
Red, blue and silver
Although the meteorite GMT-Master lacks the stark, contrasting colours of most Rolex sports watches – the greyish-silver meteorite dial is essentially the same tone as the case and bracelet – the watch is striking on the wrist. In photos the lack of contrast seems obvious, but in the metal the way the meteorite dial catches the light gives it an expensive sheen.
That being said, the lack of contrast on the dial – the hands and hour markers sometimes blend into the meteorite – means that its readability is not as good as that on other Rolex sports watches, but it is an acceptable concession.
Up close the meteorite dial looks like most other meteorite dials. The streaky surface known as Widmanstätten patterns, which result from the nickel-iron crystals within the meteorite.
Specifically, the dial is made of iron meteorite, which is space rock composed mostly of iron-nickel in a crystalline structure. The other, more common, type of meteorite is stony, which is mostly rock.
Though iron meteorites are rare compared to stony meteorites, they are common and widely collected enough that the material is easily accessible, so meteorite is widely used for watch dials.
To produce a dial, the material is sliced, etched with acid to bring out the Widmanstätten patterns, and then polished. After that comes the operations to actually turn it into a dial, like drilling holes for the hour indices and printing the markings.
On the topic of printing, because the surface of the meteorite is not perfectly smooth as it is on conventional lacquer dials, the markings on the dial are slightly – visible only upon magnification – fuzzy around the edges. It’s an inevitable consequence of the dial material, and only stands out because of how perfectly the rest of the watch is manufactured.
As is expected for a Rolex watch, the tech inside is impeccable. The movement boasts 10 patents that improve various metrics of functionality, including a longer, 70-hour power reserve.
It’s powered by the cal. 3285, the same movement found in current GMT-Master models. The cal. 3285 is a latest generation movement that boasts all of the company’s recent innovations; the small coronet in between “Swiss” and “made” at six o’clock distinguishes it from watches with earlier generation movements.
As mass produced mechanical watches go, the latest generation Rolex movements are amongst the best in terms of performance. Rolex promises the watch will run within two seconds a day.
The meteorite GMT-Master looks a lot fancier than the standard model – it is discreet bling – but retains all the functionality. The only downside slightly diminished legibility with the lack of dial contrast, but it compensates by being a gorgeous timepiece.
As high-end travel watches go, this is reasonably affordable and not too much more than the standard GMT-Master II in gold.
Material: 18 white gold
Water resistance: 100m
Movement: cal. 3285
Frequency: 28,800bph, or 4Hz
Power reserve: 70 hours
Strap: 18k white gold Oyster bracelet with Oysterlock clasp and Easylink extension
Price and availability
The GMT-Master II with a meteorite dial (ref. 126719BLRO-0002) is priced at US$38,400. And in other currencies, it is €35,150 or 51,620 Singapore dollars.
The watch is already available at Rolex retailers, but naturally expect a long wait for one.
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