Rolex GMT-Master II 16710: a Complete Guide
Today, there are many types of watches. When mechanical watches first came about in the form of pocket watches, they did one thing and one thing only which was to tell the time.
Today, a whole array of different functions are available. Moon phases, annual calendars, date functions, month functions, chronographs, and so on.
But despite the fact that there are so many different types of watches to choose from today, two of the most popular and iconic types of watches today are the diver’s watches and the GMT watches. People have always been fascinated by mechanical watches, but the Rolex GMT-Master has played an important role in the history of watches, but also in Rolex’s own history, all the way to modern times and the existing watches in Rolex’s lineup.
If you haven’t guessed it by now, in this article, we’re focusing on Rolex GMT-Master watches, and more specifically an important watch in Rolex’s lineup of GMT watches. We’re looking closer at the Rolex GMT-Master II reference 16710.
Background to the Rolex GMT-Master II 16710
Rolex has always been known for pushing boundaries and innovating existing things. At the same time, Rolex is known as a brand that doesn’t make huge changes to its lineup of watches, but more so slowly and subtly changes, innovates, and improves its watches in order to create a superior product.
Rolex very seldom makes dramatic changes that are huge surprises. Instead, they continue to build on their heritage and history and build upon this in order to constantly improve.
But throughout its history, Rolex has come up with a number of huge watch innovations – both in terms of design and function, and this has played an important role in Rolex’s history.
In 1954, Rolex released its first GMT-Master model. This watch had the reference 6542 and features a bidirectional rotatable bezel in bakelite. The bezel was a 24-hour bezel that features 24-hour markings. It was also made in a combination of two colors – blue and red in order to help the wearer distinguish between night and day – which is today one of the most iconic bezel designs in the world, known as ”Pepsi”.
The problem with a bakelite bezel was that it cracked easily. As a result, two years after the release of the 6542, Rolex replaced it with a stronger aluminum bezel which is also the bezel that the Rolex GMT 16710 is equipped with. The aluminum bezel was used until the discontinuation of the GMT-Master II 16710 in 2007, which means that the aluminum bezel had been standard for many decades.
Since the first GMT was released and the 16710 came into production, many things have changed, but there are still many things that are very similar or the same as the first watches.
The most notable feature was of course that the watch featured an additional GMT hand. This hand allowed the wearer to keep track of multiple time zones simultaneously. Now, as with all of Rolex’s watches, the first GMT-Master had a clear purpose when designed. The GMT-Master was specifically developed at the request of Pan-Am – Pan American Airways – pilots, as a tool to help them keep track of multiple time zones simultaneously when traveling across continents and different time zones.
As such, the Rolex GMT-Master is at its core an aviation watch. Despite being released in 1954, the Rolex GMT-Master is part of Rolex’s lineup of watches still to this very day. The modern GMT-Master is of course quite different from the first watch, but the watch still carries the DNA of the first watch – just like the vast majority of Rolex’s watch models.
And this is very typical of Rolex. First off, Rolex’s vintage models, in particular, their sports watches are extremely popular and appreciated. And Rolex never changes a winning concept – but instead, they continue to iterate it and improve it. As a result, the GMT-Master is still part of Rolex’s current production, but in true Rolex fashion, they’ve refined, innovated, and improved the watch many times over.
Over the years, Rolex has released numerous references to the GMT-Master model. Some references have meant huge changes from the predecessor while others have only contained a few subtle, barely noticeable changes.
The Rolex GMT-Master II 16710
As mentioned, in this article we’re looking closer at the Rolex GMT-Master II 16710.
Today, the Rolex GMT-Master II 16710 is no longer in production, however, it is a watch that has played an important role in the history of the GMT-Master lineup, and it is a model that was discontinued not too long ago – relatively speaking.
Rolex released the Rolex GMT II 16710 in 1989. For this watch, Rolex used the in-house 3185 calibers. This is needless to say a GMT-Movement, which means that it features a fourth GMT-Hand. It is this hand together with the bidirectional rotatable bezel which defines the Rolex GMT-Master – and any mechanical GMT watch for that matter.
The Caliber 3185 is, despite being released and used in a now discontinued model, being used in the modern Rolex GMT-Master II watches, with only a few modifications and subtle changes having been done to it, and this goes to show that it is a highly reliable and accurate movement, since, if the movement wouldn’t perform well, Rolex would simply not continue to use it. And again: why change a winning concept?
This could very well be Rolex’s motto and slogan because they seldom change winning concepts. They only make subtle and small changes to it.
Rolex movements are not known for being the most beautiful nor complicated movements in the world, but they are known for being extremely durable, and accurate, and for being workhorses that continue to tick year after year. The GMT movements have always been automatic, and the 3185 calibers, as well as the 3186, have always had COSC Certifications.
The movement has an independently-settable GMT hour hand unlike the early GMT-Masters, and this allows the wearer to keep track of yet an additional timezone shall they wish to do so. The benefit of having an additional GMT hand in a watch, on top of the already existing hour hand is that a GMT-hand display the time in a 24-hour format contrary to 12 hours.
At the end of Rolex’s production of the GMT 16710, Rolex used 3186 movements, which essentially were just modified, and again, improved movements, which at their cores were 3185 movements.
With the changing of the movement, it lost a lot of its thickness.
Until 1999, Rolex sold the GMT-Master alongside the GMT-II. As such, the GMT-Master was offered as a ”low-cost/budget” model, as it wasn’t as advanced as the GMT-Master II. It didn’t have a quick set date but an independent GMT hand. This meant that the bezel was necessary for showing a second time zone.
The Rolex GMT 16710 is part of Rolex’s GMT-Master II range. What does this mean? Well, the first GMT-Master watches only had the name ”GMT-Master”. However, the newer watches had the name ”GMT-Master II”, and this was to show that these watches were the new generation of GMTs. What was the difference? The difference was that these watches were updated so that the 12-hour hand to be set independently.
The great thing about this new generation GMT-Masters is that the local time display can easily be changed by one-hour jumps without having to fully pull out the crown and stop the movement from running when the watch is in full-time set mode or affecting the home time which is displayed on the 24-hour hand.
This also allowed the new generation can showcase yet another time zone – as mentioned earlier.
Now, this sounds like a terrific updated feature on the GMT-Master II 16710 – and it is! It truly is a helpful feature, but the catch is that in order to create a watch that functions this way, the movement cannot have a standard quickset date adjustment. As such, in order to change the date on the GMT-Master II 16710, the local hour hand has to go a full 24-hour circle. This makes changing the date quite frustrating when having to change the date by many days.
On the flip side, this way of changing the date is considerably faster than changing the date on a Rolex watch that doesn’t have a quick-set date, which is Rolex’s earlier models. This is because the date can be changed both by going backward and forwards, and also because the hand jumps six hours for every turn of the crown.
The Rolex GMT 16710 was discontinued in about 2007. While the 16710 was released quite a long time ago, and the earlier models have become classified as ”vintage watches”, the GMT 16710 can still be viewed as a ”modern” watch in many ways. And even though earlier examples have started to show signs of aging and patina, the truly timeless design of the GMT-Master 16710 makes it a watch that is just as relevant today as it was when it was first released. If not more.
The GMT 16710 replaced the predecessor with reference 16760. The changes between these models were notable since the 16710 in comparison has a slimmer design. This new slimmer design was well met when the watch was launched. In modern times, with the new GMT watch, Rolex has gone the opposite direction, but more on this further on.
Evolution and changes to the Rolex GMT-Master II 16710
With the release of the GMT 16710 in 1989 and the discontinuation of the model in 2007, it is a watch that was in production for a long time. But the fact is that over the years, smaller, often subtle changes were made to the watch – even though these watches continued under the same reference. As a result, you can find GMT 16710 watches from different years that have the same reference number, and despite this have a few differences between them.
Let’s begin with the movement, which we’ve already talked about briefly. The majority of the 16710s have a caliber 3185, but later models have the 3186 movement.
When it comes to the bracelet, this also varies. The watch came with an Oyster 78360 bracelet but back in the day also on a 78790 Oysterlock bracelet. What’s more, the GMT 16710 also came with a 62510 jubilee bracelet, which is the reason why you can find some 16710s that have a jubilee bracelet. In modern times, this jubilee bracelet on the 16710 has come to play an important role, but more on that later.
In terms of variants, let’s look at the dial indexes. The GMT 16710 had from its launch in 1989 until 1997 Tritium material as the luminescent material for the dial indexes. You can easily tell which watches have the tritium luminescent material since, at the bottom of the dial at 6 o’clock, you’ll find the text ”SWISS -T<25”, which refers to the amount of tritium used. This is also a great way to get a rough idea of the watch’s age, and whether or not it’s pre-1997.
From 1998 to 1999, the GMT 16710 had a ”Swiss” dial”. Instead of the text ”T<25” you’ll find the text ”Swiss”. This is because Rolex abandoned the radioactive tritium as the luminescent material, and changed to Luminova instead.
On some watches from 1998, you can find the ”SWISS -T<25″ text on the dial, even though the luminescent material is Luminova.
From 2000 to 2007, Rolex used Superluminova, which is the material that Rolex uses still to this very day as the luminescent material on their watches. This can be seen on the watch’s dial, as they have the text ”Swiss made”.
The reason why Rolex made this subtle change was that at the time of launching the Rolex GMT-Master II 16710, tritium was the best alternative for luminous material – which was crucial for a pilot in order to be able to tell the time in a dark environment, such as the cockpit during the night.
But as soon as a better material became available, Rolex didn’t hesitate to change its luminescent material. The ”problem” with tritium material, was that because of the half-life of Tritium, the glowing effect completely dies out after some years, and it also tends to age and change in color, as opposed to Superluminova which continues to glow, and which, at least in theory, doesn’t change color or show signs of aging.
In the year 2000, Rolex introduced solid end links for its bracelets. The end links are the links that connect the bracelet with the watch, and making these solid as opposed to hollow not only makes the bracelet feel higher quality, but it also makes it more robust and durable.
In 2003, Rolex introduced a new laser crown to the inside of the sapphire crystal. The crown is a minuscule laser-etched crown that can be found slightly up from the 6 o’clock index. This laser-etching is now standard on all Rolex watches today, as an attempt to help separate counterfeit Rolex watches from the real deal- just because of the difficulty of etching such a tiny crown on the glass.
Abandoning drilled lugs
Up until 2003, Rolex had drilled lugs on the GMT-Master 16710. The sides of the case where the spring bars held the bracelet in place were drilled in order to allow for easy access to the spring bars and thus for removing the bracelet, but starting in 2003, Rolex removed the drilled lugs because of the aesthetics, and to make the case look more refined and less tool-like.
Rolex introduced the no-holes case with late Y-series watches.
In 2007, Rolex introduced a new certificate card. This is the card that was used up until 2020. It has the shape of a regular credit card. This was introduced from the Z-series GMT-Master II 16710.
Last but not least, in late 2007, at the very end of the GMT-Master II 16710 production, Rolex changed to the caliber 3186 movement from the 3185. They did so with the late Z-series and M-series.
Specifications of the Rolex GMT-Master II 16710
Let’s have a look at the specifications of the GMT 16710.
First things first, compared to modern GMT watches, the 16710 has a slimmer case that sits well on the wrist. The case is 40mm in diameter, and it’s not that thick, at 12,4mm.
Especially not considering that the GMT Master 16760 which it replaced had a larger case design.
The 16710 is surprisingly lightweight. Especially if you compare it with similar-cased and designed watches that were in production simultaneously – with the Submariner being the closest.
The GMT-Master 16710 looks very much like a Submariner which was in production at the same time, and the same goes for modern Submariner and GMT watches in modern times as well.
The case of the two have very similar shapes and sizes, but between the 16710 and the Submariner in production at the time, the GMT is much slimmer, with things like the case thickness, crystal thickness, and crown and crown guards all being more diminutive.
This, of course, makes sense because the Submariner is a watch that is expected to handle more of a beating, and great depths, and therefore needs to be thicker and bulkier.
As a result, the GMT-Master II 16710 sits very comfortably and slimmed on the wrist, which means that it works great as a dress watch and isn’t clumsy or disturbing.
The watch has a sapphire crystal, as opposed to a hesalite/Plexi crystal which previous watches had. Sapphire crystals are now standard for watches due to their hardness and being very resistant to scratches.
Rolex GMT-Master II 16710 bezels
As we’ve already spoken about, the first GMT master features a bakelite bezel, but this shattered very easily, and therefore, Rolex discontinued it quite quickly. Replaced by the aluminum bezel, it became standard for many decades and was a standard bezel during the whole time of the 16710 productions.
Maybe the most notable difference between the 16710 watches is the color of the bezel. Because the truth is that it wasn’t only available with one type of bezel.
The bezel used on the 16710 is an anodized aluminum bezel with 120 clicks.
The complaint that some people may have on the aluminum bezel, or at least Rolex’s concern with aluminum bezels is that they tend to scratch relatively easily, but also fade over time.
If you look at many of the changes Rolex has done to their watches, they have been done in order to make the watch continue to look just the way it did when it was purchased, and not show signs of aging in any way. As such, the decision of abandoning the aluminum bezel was not a surprising move by Rolex. In fact, I can promise you that Rolex had looked at alternative materials to the aluminum bezels for a long time, but had a hard time finding a material that would be more durable and not show signs of aging. Or at the very least, they struggled with coming up with an idea of how they would be able to manufacture a bezel that would meet these criteria.
As you know, Rolex eventually came up with a material that matches these criteria, and this became introduced with the new generation GMT-Master II, the successor of the 16710.
When it comes to the characteristics of an aluminum bezel, the fact that it fades in color over time doesn’t seem to be an issue that disturbs collectors today, because if you look at vintage 16710 watches, you’ll quickly find that the watches that have faded bezels tend to be significantly more expensive. This is because the faded bezels tend to add personality, history, and charm to the watches, and yet another vintage element to the watch which collectors tend to appreciate.
When the GMT 16710 was released, it was available with three different bezels. Red and black, also known as ”coke” bezel, blue and red, now known as ”Pepsi”, as well as a solid black bezel. It’s a funny thing because the black bezel has been available on the modern GMT-Master since it replaced the 16710, but of course, with a Cerachrom ceramic material, the ”Pepsi” bezel was only available in white gold until 2018 when Rolex released a stainless steel version with a jubilee bracelet, ref 126710BLRO. But as of writing, in November 2018, Rolex hasn’t released a modern version of the ”Coke” GMT. At Baselworld 2018, everybody thought that Rolex would release a coke version of the GMT-Master just because of the fact that they already made a Pepsi version in white gold, and would thus make existing customers disgruntled for releasing an almost identical watch but in steel, naturally considerably cheaper.
This means that in modern times, Rolex has yet to release a modern coke bezel in cerachrom, in order to have built upon all of its 16710 bezels in aluminum, but if you ask me, I am almost completely certain that you’ll see a coke bezel GMT being released at Baselworld 2019. Mark my words.
Back to the 176710 aluminum bezels. You can actually tell the colors of the bezel by looking at the reference number of the watch and the last character of the reference number.
Here is what the letters in the reference number mean:
A: ”Coke” bezel. A color of the bezel where half is black and the other half is red.
B: ”Pepsi” bezel. A color of the bezel where half is blue and the other half is red.
N: A bezel where the whole bezel is black. (N meaning noir in French, which means black).
This is what the different references of the GMT 16710 look like:
- 16710A: Coke Bezel.
- 16710B: Pepsi Bezel.
- 16710N: Full black bezel.
When Rolex discontinued the 16710 range, Rolex only began by introducing an all-blacked bezel variant with the new Cerachrom material. The ”Pepsi” bezel had been the most popular – and also the most iconic and historic bezel color due to its strong connection with PanAm and the first Rolex GMT-Master 6542, so why did they not release this bezel type?
Well, after some time, Rolex did release a Pepsi GMT watch, but it was only on a very expensive white gold variant.
And the reason for that is the extreme complexity and difficulty of making a two-colored bezel in ceramic. Creating a bezel in ceramic, and making it two-colored and not having the colors blend, but instead have an edge that is essentially razor-sharp was essentially impossible at the time, and when Rolex did introduce the Pepsi variant, the process of making these bezels was extremely expensive and complicated, and many bezels were faulty and could thus not be used. As such, Rolex could only make these two-colored bezels available in an expensive watch.
Today, the process of manufacturing a ceramic bezel in two colors is still highly complicated, and Rolex has even patented this process, but over the years, the process has been improved, and Rolex has refined it. As such, you can now find a stainless steel GMT-Pepsi, and this is also a reason why the new generation GMT Pepsi was an instant success upon its release.
The bottom line is that making an aluminum bezel in two colors is a process that isn’t really that complicated, but on the flip side, aluminum tends to fade over time, and this is something that Rolex dislikes. As a result, Rolex waited with making their two-colored bezels available in Cerachrom until they had mastered the art of making them.
The Rolex GMT-Master II 16710 has become a true classic, and in recent years, we’ve seen the prices on the second-hand market increase steadily.
Today, you have to pay much more than what the 16710s retailed for, and this also goes to show that there’s a great interest in them and that they are watches that are truly timeless and loved.
As with most of Rolex’s watches, the GMT 16710 is a truly timeless design. It is built on the 6542 first GMT watch, and despite having changed quite a bit, just like across all of Rolex’s generations, the 16710 is very much a GMT watch, which clearly has taken inspiration from its predecessors, thus meaning that it combined vintage elements with, at the time, modern design elements and functions.
With a timeless design such as the 16710, it is a watch that will only increase in value and in demand over time, thus making it a true Rolex classic.
The Rolex GMT-Master 16710 is very much a tool watch. It’s a very versatile watch that works great for any occasion. And with its 100-meter water resistance, it can even be worn while swimming.
The GMT-Master is also a watch with a great history, built with a clear purpose. While pilots today have far more accurate equipment to keep track of time zones, the Rolex GMT-Master 16710 is a loved and appreciated watch, which now has become a piece of history and an accessory.