7 Year Waiting List – 2018 Rolex GMT Master II on Jubilee Bracelet – Is It Worth The Money or Wait?
So this week saw the long awaited release of the GMT Master II on a Jubilee bracelet, and the watch world is abuzz with excitement, but why, what makes this watch that great, that unique or even worth the money?
Well let’s first take a brief look at what made Rolex one of, if not the most sought after watch brands in the world today.
The first Rolex watches would you believe were actually British they were produced in London in 1908, by founder Hans Wilsdorf who was born an orphan in Kulmbach, Germany in 1881. Many years later in his teens Hans went to study horology in Switzerland and then worked for a Swiss watch manufacturer in La Chaux-de-Fonds. In 1905 at the age of 24 he moved to London and setup Wilsdorf & Davis.
Prior to WWI London was home to the largest proportion of the world’s best known watchmakers and brands, they all fled to Switzerland during the war to avoid wartime taxes imposed by the British Government. So a bit of short sighted measure by the government, it’s amazing how some things just don’t change throughout history.
Anyway, it was in London that Hans created the Rolex brand. Hans was not just an incredibly good watchmaker, he was an incredibly ingenious businessman, so much so that his control and influences on the Brand continues today. Hans turned Rolex after his wife’s passing in 1944 along with its many subsidiaries into a Charity, yep, a Non profit Charity, so just like the big Not-for profit charities of today that pay fortunes to advertise through different forms of media, pay their top dogs good money, and put money into good causes.
A Marketing Master
But it wasn’t just Hans business antics that set him apart from the others, he was a marketing master of illusion, he didn’t just know how to produce the goods, he knew instinctively how to create the buzz and sheer demand around them.
For example in 1926 it is claimed that Rolex produced what was known as the first waterproof or today water resistant watch, but in order to gain global media attention Hans knew he needed to perform one of the best stunts he possibly could and he found just the ticket in a young British born lady, Miss Mercedes Gleitze.
In 1927 Miss Gleitze was about to perform her second attempt at swimming across the English Channel, this in itself was an incredible superhuman feat that attracted many spectators as well as global press outlets. Hans who had been working hard to get his foot in on the action ceased the opportunity with the combined efforts or let’s say pressure from the media, Mercedes under pressure agreed to wear the watch attached to some string around her neck. And the rest as we know is history.
However the waterproof Rolex was not the first water resistant watch, and I would be extremely surprised if Hans didn’t learn about this while training to become a watchmaker, the first water resistant watch we have on record came 76 years prior to the Rolex.
Let me paint the picture, it’s 1st May 1851 we are in London’s, Hyde Park in a ginormous temporary glass construction named the Crystal Palace. The event The Great Exhibition, every top industry from every nation exhibited at the fair and all those who attended were predominantly the world’s richest and most famous.
At stand 81, From no. 25 Victoria Street, Westminster, stood watchmaker W. R. Pettit (& Co) among his collection in the middle of the display sat a large round glass bowl filled with silver and gold tropical fish, suspended in the middle his pièce de résistance a waterproof watch.
So you maybe asking yourself, where they hell is he going with all this, well unlike many of the Rolex range of watches the GMT Master is by far unique, different and the first of its type in many different ways. Released the same year as the Submariner in 1954 the GMT master was built with aviation in mind working alongside Pan-Am pilots to discover what the pilot and wealthy traveler really needed from their timepiece, before the release of the cool looking Breitling Navitimer with its slightly complicated circular slide rule around the bezel in 1952 the only other type of watch available had a large case and dial for ease of telling the time.
What the pilot essentially needed was in an additional watch or means of telling two times, that could be easy to read at a glance, as well as having the ability to go swimming with once the pilots had arrived at their destination for a few days holiday. Well how times have certainly changed.
So, with that in mind the GMT Master used the submariner design with a similar bezel it had a 24 hour format with a blue and red insert that later became known as the Pepsi bezel, the Blue and Red bard no relation to Pan-Am but was used to helped pilots to quickly establish the day hours from the night, in addition to this change Rolex worked on redesigning the current movement to incorporate an additional hour hand that could be set independently from the main hour hand, the watch was also tested to reach depths of 50m, ticking all of the boxes set out before them.
Apart from those two pretty revolutionary advancements the watch really looked the part and unlike anything else at that time making it a pretty groundbreaking timepiece and one the most sought after and popular among pilots, astronauts, car dealers and real estate agents.
The Long Awaited Jubilee
Anyway it wasn’t until 1959 that the introduction of the long awaited, iconic stainless steel Jubilee bracelet became available for the Rolex sports and aviation range. Between the 1920’s and 30’s Rolex and many other brands such as Omega were purchasing there watch bracelets from Gay Freres a Swiss manufacturer it wasn’t until the latter part of the 1930’s early 1940’s that Rolex started to produce their own bracelets.
The iconic Jubilee bracelet was originally released in 1945 on Rolex’s 40th anniversary it only came in gold and was fitted to sold gold Datejust models, it was later by the 1950’s with the release of the president bracelet that the jubilee design was produced in two-tone and later that same decade stainless steel for the Datejust and sports models.
As you could image one of the most luxurious brands releases a unique and sought after watch in 1954 but the unique bracelet everyone wants and dreams about having on their GMT doesn’t exist in stainless steel until 5 years later. And what a success that marriage became.
Let us fast forward a few decades and we have had several variations of the GMT Master on an oyster and Jubilee bracelet then the release of the all new GMT Master II with solid end links on a new Oyster bracelet, but no Jubilee, then we are teased in 2014 with the possibility of an new Jubilee bracelet for the GMT, but there was just no sign of one!
So with its introduction at Baselworld and release this year the Rolex enthusiasts have gone crazy upon its final release, why, not because it was too difficult for Rolex to produce, they managed to get the Tudor Black Bay out all in good time and in good numbers, but, because they followed their master, Hans Wilsdorf knew how to draw in an audience, create a mysticism and demand for what he was working on in the background and selling you something else while you waited in anticipation for that next best thing.
So is the GMT Master II on Jubilee bracelet worth the money, it is undoubtedly a stunning timepiece with a long and interesting history and if you have a spare £6,800 burning a hole in your pocket and desperately want to get your hands on one then why not, it is certainly decent value for money but that is only if you can find one for that price.
While collating this content I have spoken to 28 different authorised Rolex dealers within the UK, Europe, UAE, Hong Kong and the US and all have pretty much stopped taking orders on the watch. There is over a 7 year waiting list if you want one and if you find one for sale online right now you will be looking to pay a minimum of £10,000 on top of the recommended retail price, why simply because of Hans’s remarkable marketing influences.
Personally if you have the money to spend, for pretty much the same amount as the RRP of the new watch you can still buy yourself an earlier vintage example of the GMT Master on a Jubilee bracelet, and if the previous decades of price increases are anything to go by, you will surely be financially better off owning a vintage GMT Masterpiece than it’s modern day counterpart.
- Rolex Webiste – www.rolex.com
- Google Images, Search Terms: “London 1900”, “Miss Mercedes Gleitze”, “The Great Exhibition 1851”.
- The Hans Wilsdorf Story, written by Jake @ www.RolexMagazine.com
- Rolex GMT-Master History and Overview of All Major References by Robert-Jan Broer – www.fratellowatches.com
- Time & Travel – Rolex & The GMT-Master by Sumit Nag – www.revolution.watch
- Gay Freres, Much More Than A Simple Manufacturer Of Watch Bracelets by Louis Westphalen – www.hodinkee.com
- Watches: Chrono24 – www.chrono24.com