Rolex’s GMT Master with Pepsi dial is probably one of their most iconic watches after the Submariner. It was first released in the 1950’s as a sports utilities watch for the new jet set and contrary to popular belief it wasn’t named after the popular American soft drink. It was actually named because of Rolex’s development work between themselves and Pan Am airways on a two tone bezel.
Having been released in different model numbers over the last few decades it disappeared from the Rolex range for a good few years. However, that changed when it made a comeback again this year with a re-release at Baselworld to much delight and enthusiasm from journalists and watch collectors alike. That is UNTIL the spec was revealed which quickly deflated many as it is was made in 18ct white gold!!! And very very different to the sports watch of yesteryear.
The cerachom bezel 2 tone ceramic is a world’s first as light colors are extremely difficult to make but in doing so they assure you that it will never fade or age like steel ones. I’m not sure if this is a good thing or not. Make your own mind up with this early model with a stunning aged bezel and dial.
Below is part of the Rolex press release that explains the process. Check it out so you get an idea of how extremely difficult this process is.
Red and blue Cerachrom
The name “Cerachrom” derives from a contraction of the word “ceramic” juxtaposed with the suffix “chrom” from the ancient Greek word for “colour”. The range of available shades for ceramic is however restricted by its very manufacturing process. Colours are generally created by adding mineral pigments that can withstand the very high temperatures at which the ceramic is fired for its densification and to acquire its characteristic hardness. Red, typically, is a colour for which no stable mineral pigments exist to create a Cerachrom component. Rolex nevertheless managed to produce a red ceramic. But this innovation represented only half the journey.
Rolex’s in-house engineers finally found an answer to the second half of the challenge. The ingenious process consists of introducing an intermediate step in the manufacture of the standard Cerachrom insert. During this innovative bulk-colouring step, half of the red ceramic insert is coloured blue. The colour is achieved by impregnating the part of the insert representing night-time hours, between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., with a controlled quantity of a solution of chemical compounds. The solution is added before sintering at more than 1,600 °C, when the ceramic acquires its mechanical resistance properties as well as its colour. In the course of this firing, the ceramic densifies and the added compounds react with the basic elements of the red Cerachrom insert to conjure up the final blue colour.
Although the idea in itself may appear simple, a number of major technical hurdles had to be overcome before it could be implemented: the formulation of a solution of precursor chemical compounds that would turn red into blue; the homogenous application of an appropriate quantity of this solution; ensuring a sharp, precise and clear demarcation between the two coloured areas, the definition of the precise length of time and temperature for the sintering so as to prevent any distortion of the piece. Every single one of these parameters is crucial for the success of the process and the quality of the final product.
The case on the GMT Master II is 40mm so it sits nicely on the wrist but feels a little heavy due to the use of white gold. The bracelet can be adjusted and micro adjusted with the easylink extension system to fit any wrist perfectly. The white gold case and bracelet are less resistant to scratches compared to the hard 904L stainless steel on other GMT Master’s so the wearer would need to be more careful when wearing so not to scratch. The ceramic sheen on the bezel really makes it jump out at you when on wrist.
In my opinion I’m not sure if white gold works for this type of piece. With a history of being an everyday sports watch plus a price tag of $38,000 is white gold really worth about $25,000 more than its little sister the Rolex GMT Master II Black&Blue AKA Batman? That one comes in stainless steel (much more scratch resist) and a ceramic bezel and is available for a much more reasonable cost of $9,500?
Article by John Galt for WatchReport.com