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A classic sports model that was in production for about a decade, the GMT-Master ref. 16700 marked the end of an era in the story of the famous Rolex dual time pilot watch. Read on to discover five things to know about the Rolex GMT-Master 16700.

5 Things to Know About the GMT-Master 16700
5 Things to Know About the GMT-Master 16700

16700 Was The Last GMT-Master Model

Rolex introduced the GMT-Master 16700 in 1988, five years after the company had already released the GMT Master II.

The main difference between the GMT-Master and the GMT-Master II is that on the original iterations, the pair of hour hands (12-hour hand for local time and 24-hour hand for reference time) are synched. Therefore, the reference time is displayed by rotating the bezel to align the correct numeral with the arrow-tipped 24-hour hand. Conversely, the GMT-Master II watches have decoupled hour hands, thus allowing wearers to set two separate time zones on the dial while leaving the bezel in the “0” position (where the triangle sits at 12 o’clock).

GMT-Master 16700 Pepsi
The last GMT-Master reference

Rather than discontinuing the GMT-Master I entirely, Rolex continued to make the GMT-Master 16700 and the GMT-Master II 16760 alongside each other with the former being the less expensive alternative to the latter. However, by 1999, Rolex discontinued the ref. 16700, paving the way for the GMT-Master II to take over the collection exclusively. Therefore, Rolex. ref. 16700 was the very last GMT-Master reference.

16700 Is The Only GMT-Master With Sapphire Crystal

The GMT-Master ref. 16700 replaced the preceding GMT Master ref. 16750, and its debut brought along a handful of enhancements. For instance, the GMT-Master 16700 was fitted with scratch-resistant sapphire crystal rather than the acrylic crystal found on previous references. And since the ref. 16700 was the last GMT-Master made, it is also the only GMT-Master to have benefitted from sapphire crystal. Naturally, because the GMT-Master has a date display the sapphire crystal also has the familiar Cyclops date magnification lens above the window at 3 o’clock.

GMT-Master 16700 Pepsi Oyster
The GMT-Master 16700 debuted with sapphire crystal

Other upgrades included the then-new Caliber 3175 to replace 3075, although it had identical functionality complete with quickset date, hacking seconds, and operated at a frequency of 28,800 beats per hour.

Furthermore, while Rolex fitted later examples of the older GMT-Master ref. 16750 with hour markers with white gold surrounds, this became a staple on the GMT-Master ref. 16700.

16700 Does Not Have Any Precious Metal Counterparts

Unlike previous editions of the GMT-Master, there are no gold or two-tone gold/steel versions of the ref. 16700. The GMT-Master ref. 16700 was made exclusively in stainless steel.

The assumption behind this is since Rolex positioned the GMT-Master ref. 16700 as the more affordable alternative to the GMT-Master II, it would not have made sense to have more expensive gold and/or two-tone editions.

16700 Came With The Option Of Two Bezel Colors And Bracelet Styles

Despite only making it in stainless steel, Rolex did offer the GMT-Master ref. 16700 with the choice of two bezel colors and two bracelet options. For bezels, which were fashioned from aluminum, buyers had the option of the red and blue “Pepsi” bezel–the most famous color combination for the collection since its debut in 1955. In addition to this, the 16700 was also available with a solid black bezel.

The GMT-Master 16700 with a black bezel

Buyers could also opt between the sporty three-link Oyster bracelet or the dressier five-link Jubilee bracelet.

16700 Can Have Two Types of Lume

When Rolex first launched the GMT-Master 16700 in the late eighties, the hour markers and hands were coated in tritium for luminescence. These dials are marked with “SWISS T<25” under the 6 o’clock marker.

This example has tritium lume as indicated by the “T<25”

By the late 1990s, Rolex abandoned self-luminous tritium for non-radioactive Luminova, which emits light after exposure to light. Therefore, due you can find GMT-Master ref. 16700 watches with tritium dials and Luminova dials.

The end of an era (L to R): 16700, 16753, 1675

In terms of the history of the GMT-Master watch, the ref. 16700 is significant because it was the very last example Rolex made before entirely switching over to the GMT-Master II collection. From its restrained pre- “Super Case” silhouette to its aluminum Pepsi bezel, the GMT-Master 16700 is a Rolex watch from another era. However, it also benefits from modern touches such as sapphire crystal and white gold accents on the dial. An archetypical GMT-Master that marked the end of a generation and bridged the transition towards the future, the ref. 16700 may not be considered a vintage reference yet, but it is undoubtedly a classic one.

Written by

Celine Simon

Celine is a freelance luxury watch writer who has enjoyed working in the horology industry for over ten years. Like many of the high-end timepieces she writes about, she comes from Switzerland—the heart of fine watchmaking. From Singapore to Montreal to Geneva to Dubai, Celine has lived all over the world but now calls Southern California home.