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Which Rolex GMT-Master To Buy?

Much has been written about the revered Rolex GMT Master. Most commentators write for the ardent and fervent collectors of the beautiful vintage 4-Digit references (6542 & 1675). Others cater to the aspirational tastes for the cutting edge 6-Digit references (126710, 116710BLNR, 116719BLRO).
In this article, we’ll examine the emerging “modern classics”. These 5-Digit references sit squarely between the darlings of vintage collectors and the upwardly mobile followers of Basel World.

These are entry points for newcomers to the Rolex GMT world and often stepping stones to either vintage or modern.

5-Digit Reference Approximate Production Years


Introduced in 1981 this reference arrived with calibre 3075 and offered convenient Quickset and hacking features. They arrived with traditional matt tritium dials up until about 1986 (9M serial range) then switched to the familiar, modern gold surround hour markers.

Early versions of these modern dials omitted the words “Date” reading only “Oyster Perpetual”. These were also offered in Two Tone (16753) and Solid Gold (16758) on both Oyster and Jubilee bracelets.

Reference 16750. Image Source: HQ Milton
Reference 16753 Nipple Dial. Image Source: Morningtundra


This was the first of the GMT Master II variants with the calibre 3085 and introduced in 1983. Production overlapped with its predecessor the 16750.
The new 3085 extended the hacking and quickset date to include quickset of the 24 hour hand too. This additional functionality and new movement qualified it for the II model designator.

This reference was rather unkindly nicknamed the Fat Lady or the Sophia Loren thanks to the slightly fatter/higher oyster case needed to accommodate the new movement.

This reference was the first GMT to feature Sapphire crystals and only available in stainless steel with the Black/Red (Coke) bezel on an oyster bracelet.

Reference 16760. Note the service hands. Image Source : HQ Milton


This reference was introduced in 1988 and featured calibre 3175. Dials featured Tritium (T<25) until about 1998 when Luminova was introduced to the product line.

This was the replacement for the 16750 but rather confusingly, did not have a quick set 24 hour hand nor the Master II model designation.

It was only available in Stainless Steel but offered two bezel colors, Red/Blue (BLRO, Pepsi) and Black (LN, Lunette Noire). Interestingly, the date wheel featured the ‘open 6s and 9s’ until about 1992.

Reference 16700LN. Image Source: HQ Milton


This reference arrived in 1989 and featured calibre 3185. It came with Tritium dials (T<25) until about 1997 then switched to Luminova (SWISS) in 1998 and then Super Luminova (SWISS MADE) in 2000. There was (apparently) a Luminova series of dials marked T<25 produced in 1998.

This reference was functionally the same as the 16760 it replaced but with a slimmer oyster case. In 2000, SELs were introduced to eliminate bracelet rattle. In 2003 crystals were marked with a Laser Etched Crown (LEC) and the case outer lug holes were eliminated (no holes case).

In 2007 the calibre 3187 was introduced (Z & M serials). These examples with the 3187 movements are rare and highly sought after and command a price premium.

It was offered in Stainless Steel, Two Tone (16713) and Solid Gold (16718) with three bezel options (Black LN, Coke LNRO & Pepsi BLRO).

Reference 16710. Image Source: Morningtundra

So, which one to own?

The 16750 is something of a transitional reference. As such, prices are a little softer. The movement is considered somewhat old fashioned with no quickset 24hr hand. However, if you like the vintage aesthetic you’ll enjoy the domed acrylic crystals and the open 6s and 9s. The Two Tone and Gold variants also featured the famed Nipple Dials with matching gold hands. If you like vintage but feel priced out of the vintage 4 digit references, this is the one to go for.

The 16760 remains under the radar and something of a curiosity. The movement offers modern features but the case is rather high/thick (you’ll either love or hate this). The sapphire crystal makes it contemporary looking. If you’re looking for a stainless steel Coke on Oyster or Jubilee, this is a good option and at a better price than the 16710. You can take discreet satisfaction from knowing you’re wearing a rather unusual and rare GMT. Only serious GMT enthusiasts would recognize it apart from the more common 16710.

The 16700 is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a contemporary looking GMT. It features a modern movement functionality, in a slim case available with Pepsi or Black bezels and first of the Oysterlock bracelet clasps. Prices are softer than the 16710 but showing signs of strengthening. This ones an emerging collectable for the smart money.

Of the four reference the 16710 is currently the most popular. It offers the most variations and combinations. Prices are strongest in the later models from about 2003. These have the no holes cases, SELs and LECs. These are in every sense a modern and classic watch; the final evolution of the iconic 5-Digit reference.
Earlier 16710’s with the holes cases make for easier strap changes. They also feature tritium dials (T<25), While they no longer lume they are acquiring delightful patina. This combination of ageing tritium with white gold surrounds make for a charming retro aesthetic combined with modern functionality.

My recommendation

Go for the 16710 if your budget will permit. If you can find a 16700 in excellent condition this would be an excellent second choice. If you like a thicker case profile (bigger wrists) and something less run of the mill then the 16760 is for you. If you really wanted something more vintage or eye catching (such as a nipple dial) then the 16753 is excellent value.

This Rolex and many others can be found in a new book, The Vintage Rolex Field Guide, Available Now at your favorite bookstore.