From Bakelite to Ceramic – The Evolution of Rolex GMT-Master Bezels

The epitome of luxury watches – Rolex has always stayed resolute in its only mission to create the finest and durable watches since its inception in the market. And the GMT-Master collection is a perfect representation of the brand’s creativity, unique perception and excellent artistry.

GMT-Master is one of the most iconic Rolex watches that can exhibit multiple time zones simultaneously. So among all the essential design attributes, the most distinguishing and precisely, the most significant part of the watch is its bezel.

The GMT-Master’s bezel flaunts 24-hour marking that makes it accomplished for its purpose-specified role. However, besides its functionality, what magnifies the watch’s style and uniqueness is the dual-tone colour combination of the bezel.

Over the past six decades, Rolex has not altered the original appearance of the GMT bezel. But the brand has made significant improvements in the materials they used to forge out the high-tech watch part.

Thus, here will be taking a look at the different types of Rolex GMT-Master bezel that the manufacturer utilised to upgrade the collection.

Rolex GMT-Master Bakelite Bezel

Rolex equipped its first GMT-Master watch with a dual-tone Bakelite bidirectional rotating bezel. However, the bezel flaunted radium luminescent markings. Bakelite is known to be the first synthetic plastic in the world.

The material was virtually durable, easy to mould and lightweight, making it initially a perfect choice for the GMT-Master bezel. However, it was not too late that Rolex could perceive the fragile nature of Bakelite and the ill-effects of radium on health.

With that in mind, the brand replaced Bakelite luminescent bezel with a non-luminescent bezel in the 1950s. Nevertheless, the first GMT-Master reference 6542 was available in two types of Bakelite bezels.

The stainless steel versions featured blue-and-red bi-colour bezels, eventually moniker as the “Pepsi”. On the contrary, Rolex furnished the18ct yellow gold iterations with burgundy mono-colour bezels.

Rolex GMT-Master Aluminium Bezel

Rolex developed the GMT-Master Reference 1675, offering an aluminium bezel. Launched in 1959, the watch was in production until 1980. Rolex unleashed the stainless steel editions of the Reference 1675 initially only with the symbolic blue-and-red bezels.

However, the manufacturer later offered another all-black bezel choice for this model in the 1960s. Then, a bi-tone steel and gold GMT-Master Reference 1675/3 made its debut in the 1970s with three aluminium bezel options. They are all-black bezel, all-brown bezel and a brown-and-gold dual-toned bezel (nicknamed “Root Beer”).

Interestingly, Rolex continued to use this aluminium colourway from 1980 to 1988. What’s more, the first Rolex GMT-Master II Reference 16760 paved the way for a new colour scheme of the bezel – red-and-black “COKE”. Rolex made this watch out of stainless steel and offered only one red-and-black bezel option.

But what came as a real surprise for Rolex lovers is that the second generation of the GMT-Master II was available in different aluminium bezel colour options, including Pepsi and Coke bezels.

Rolex GMT-Master Cerachrom Bezel

In 2005, Rolex unleashed a refurbished GMT-Master II model to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the collection. The watch sported a new movement, a redesigned case and also, an entirely new bezel component.

The GMT-Master II Reference 116718 is made of 18ct yellow gold. It features a black Cerachrom bezel that is resistant to fading and scratching. More significantly, this new bezel has the 24-hour scale that is engraved using a complex process known as PVD.

The process begins with the moulding of the markings and numerals in the material. Later, they are subjected to PVD or Physical Vapour Deposition. Here the surface is varnished in a layer of platinum, pink gold or yellow gold, thereby resulting in metal-filled markings.

Rolex initially produced the Cerachrom bezels in monochromatic black, regardless of the metal type. However, this elite manufacturer introduced two-tone black-and-blue Cerachrom bezel in 2013. It was the iconic GMT-Master II ref. 116710BLNR to flaunt this bi-tone Cerachrom bezel that earned the nickname “Batman” among the enthusiasts.

Keep note that it was the first ceramic element in the world to feature a bi-tone combination.

Rolex GMT-Master II Gem-Set Bezel

Following the success of the Cerachrom bezel, Rolex unveiled a range of gem-set GMT-Master II bezels. Different gemstones, especially diamonds, replaced the standard layout of the 24-hour scale. Also, some GMT-Master gem-set bezels exhibit gemstones imitating the iconic “Pepsi” red-and-blue colour layout.

Some of the GMT-Master models with opulent gem-set bezels are the Reference 116758SANR, 116759SA and 116758SARU. Furthermore, in 2007, Rolex introduced the Reference 116769TBR, embellished with diamonds in its bezel, case, bracelet and bezel.

However, this Rolex GMT-Master II “Ice” is available only in a single colour. It flaunts one triangular-cut diamond at 12-hour mark and baguette-cut diamonds all over.

Rolex also launched a GMT-Master II model in early 2020. Encased in 18ct Everose gold case, the watch displays a gem-set “Pepsi” bezel featuring blue sapphires, red rubies and diamonds.

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