The Rolex GMT, a watch for the travelling man? A watch for the big banker businessman? Or a watch for the shorts and t-shirt stay at home dad? Well, it could be argued a watch for all three and many more, but this was not Rolex’s intention for the GMT. In this article we will explore the history of the model and in more depth one of the lesser covered GMT variants; the Rolex GMT Master II 116710LN, subsequently referred to as the 116710LN.
Let’s begin where it makes most sense, the beginning. At a time when world travel was experiencing a boom due to advances in aviation technology, Rolex launched the GMT Master. This introduction in 1955 saw a two-colour bezel in plexiglass to indicate day and night. This watch was seen as the answer to the question new wave of travelling had produced, how to tell the time in both your departure city and arrival city at the same time. Rolex partnered with Pan-Am in order to achieve this timekeeping milestone, allowing their pilots to be fully aware of the time in the designated time zones. The GMT was also the watch of choice for the French and English pilots on the Concorde’s final test runs.
Subsequently there were many different iterations of the GMT, but one of most significance for the next part of this article is the 116718LN. This was Rolex’s release in 2005 for the 50th anniversary of the release of the GMT MASTER and came in full 18ct yellow gold with a rather fitting green dial. Looking past the splendour and celebration, we see the 116718LN had a ceramic bezel, the first Rolex to do so, as well as a maxi dial and redesigned case. And that’s just what we can see, internally we see changes too but that will be discussed later. This release saw the new generation of the GMT MASTER II line for Rolex. Rolex recognised the need for a more affordable version of this new GMT and this model was the 116710LN.
The 116710LN is all steel GMT released in 2007 with the LN at the end of the reference denoting Lunette Noir (Black Bezel). This was the first all steel GMT with the ceramic bezel, the Pepsi, Batman and Batgirl that have attracted so much attention from watch fans and non-watch fans around the globe gets its DNA from the LN. So, let’s discover a little about what makes this watch special and why it hasn’t hit the heady prices of its later released 2 colour bezel brothers.
So, what changed from the previous generation 16710? Well, the 116710LN has a 3186 caliber movement, providing 48hr power reserve and ‘Superlative Chronometer’ specifications that allows accuracy to be advertised at +2/-2 seconds per day. This bidirectional winding calibre includes a free sprung balance, and Breguet hairspring allowing for maximum accuracy in timekeeping in more than one wrist position. The hairspring itself is Rolex’s Parachrom material- a paramagnetic alloy that allows the watches hairspring to be unaffected one of the nemesis of watchmaking, magnetism. This 3186 movement isn’t new in the GMT range, it was found in some very late 16710 transitional models, more often than not referred to as ‘stick’ or ‘error’ dials as they have no serif on the II of the GMT Master II.
What is undeniably new is the Cerachrom bezel with platinum inserts. This bezel ensures no colour fade as well as almost guaranteeing no cracking or tarnishing as previous aluminium bezel inserts would have been liable to and as the first generations GMT Bakelite bezel would have almost definitely done. The theme of robustness is echoed by the upgrading of the crown from a twin lock system to that of the trip-lock crown that was borrowed from the 300M water resistant rated Submariner. Even with the bracelet Rolex upped the game on the 116710LN, with the addition of the Easylink clasp allowing for convenient on the go micro adjustment.
With all this technology, not to mention the beefed-up case that Rolex managed to do without increasing the actual diameter of the timepiece, why does it have a place in our forgotten references?
It could be argued that the 116710LN is an amalgamation of parts from Rolex’s other leading models. The clasp was taken from the Daytona, a massive improvement on the previous option and the crown and maxi dial from the Submariner. Whilst these are necessary upgrades for the model and is a great example of chronological evolution, some view it as just cherry picking the best bits from other watches.
This GMT is of course a popular watch all around the world and well known too, the point is that in comparison to the Batman/Batgirl or Pepsi it is relatively unknown. You note how the 116710LN has no catchy nickname? The ‘all black’ or ‘LN’ could be argued however these names carry no real power to them. If you are discussing watches with anyone vaguely interested and mention a Pepsi they are going to know exactly which watch you are talking about. This easy link and lexical connection means people talk about it more, spread the word and help in adding to the undeniable hype that surround the rest of the GMT Master range.
The 116710BLNR or Batman was the first watch to have a two coloured Cerachrom bezel. This is achieved through a long and arduous process of treating the bezel so that it is completely one colour, then adding further treatments and chemicals. This addition creates a reaction in the second half of the bezel, allowing for a two-colour bezel with a crisp joint and no points of weakness as would have been found if two half bezels were joined together. This bezel really is a feat of engineering, but Rolex eclipsed this in 2014 with the release of the Pepsi and the red and blue GMT bezel. This is the first time that the colour red had been introduced as ceramic, as the pigment for the colour was previously thought too difficult to achieve. Note the release in 2014 was not in steel as the Batman had been, rather in white gold. This in turn naturally led to lower production numbers and the theory behind this was Rolex was struggling to produce the bezels.
This two-coloured bezel sent a clear message to the watch world, Rolex was taking on what was previously thought impossible. These Cerachrom releases caught a lot of media attention and this hype is another reason the 116710LN is a forgotten reference. Whilst we are talking about the Pepsi, the 126710BLRO introduced in 2018 is another contributing fact to the lack of popularity for the 116710LN. The release of the Pepsi in steel with the jubilee bracelet bought with it a plethora of upgrades; increased power reserve, shock resistance and precision came in the form on the new 3285 caliber that replaced the 3186. A new jubilee bracelet bought a differing look to the whole watch, something that changed it further from other GMT’s and provided a nod to previous references of GMT.
If we consider the very first GMT, the 6542 was a blue and red Bakelite bezel affair released in 1955 and then look at what came out for the 50th anniversary there is something that is amiss. Rolex would have surely released the Pepsi in 2005 for a true homage to the 6542. They had the capability to make the Ceramic bezel as shown in the released 116718LN, but maybe the two-coloured bezel was too soon even for Rolex, especially with the aforementioned issues with the red. Rolex could have also chosen to debut their ceramic bezel on the Submariner or Daytona.
This may lead us to the crux of the matter with the 116710LN. The Rolex fan base is acutely aware and technologically up to date as to what is going on in the watch world, they would have realised Rolex were going to release a blue and red bezel GMT so why would they purchase the all black variety? The Pepsi was surely going to be a better investment due to the technological first in creating the bezel, whilst also having the brand history following on from the first bezel insert and the most famous aluminium bezel.
Of course, this watch is still coveted by plenty of people around the world, and for me it’s the perfect covert watch for a Rolex fan who is looking for something away from the mainstream and the one I would have if I was in the market. It was the beginning of a new generation of GMT with the upgrades mentioned and the first steel Rolex to have the ceramic bezel, a point of huge significance. This watch is still readily available around the £10k, not being affected by the hyperinflation other GMT models have suffered from representing tremendous value for money. The 116710LN will also age better than its two-colour bezel brothers, it looks timeless to this day having been released over 10 years ago.
Let’s face it, if you are lucky enough to be able to purchase one of these outstanding watches by Rolex you’ll be impressed. It just depends how much you want to impress others if you pick this understated and underappreciate reference or one with more colour.