Rolex GMT-Master 1675 'Rootbeer'
The GMT-Master 1675 is one of the most prolific vintage sports watches out there, its production spanning twenty-one years from 1959 to 1980. This makes it an ideal candidate for the aspiring watch collector, because there are plenty of superb condition examples out there to choose from. For the brave, however, the 1675 has a few rarer, more intriguing variations that are just that bit more special.
There's no doubting which generation this beauty belongs to. It's a colour scheme that only lives on in caravan curtains
So the story goes, the GMT-Master was jointly developed between ex-aviation giant Pan Am and Rolex to give pilots a home-time reference when flying transatlantic flights. The GMT hand, separated from the others in style and colour, depicts home time in the twenty-four–hour clock, and the rotating bezel, a feature introduced simultaneously on the 1954 Submariner and Turn-O-Graph, is adjustable on the fly to give a quick readout of local time. A simple yet clever idea, ahead of its time, as many of Rolex’s concepts were.
Even Rolex’s production methods, which added simplicity in the way many modern production lines do, were pretty revolutionary. Shared components, rigorous family identity, collation of production facilities and a massive efficiency drive (that ultimately got Rolex through the quartz crisis unscathed) allowed the watchmaker to sell its rugged, reliable timepieces at a surprisingly affordable price. Most Rolex watches were the equivalent of a week’s salary in the mid-twentieth century, and that was the market they were aimed at, the hard-working professional.
The mix of golden hues on the dial, bezel and bracelet give the GMT-Master ‘Rootbeer’ it’s unusual nickname
There were special pieces, though, precious metal versions of standard watches with design titbits that stood them out from their entry-level counterparts. This 1675 ‘Rootbeer’ (so nicknamed for the use of golden-brown colours) is one of those watches, and—if the colouring appeals—it’s a cracking piece to add to any vintage collection, big or small. The dial, originally brown, and in some cases treated with a sunburst effect, ages into a mix of brown and purple, a rich velvety colour that’s hard to resist. The gilt print and gold hands and markers are the perfect finishing touch.
The venerable 1575 chugging away inside has been known to last without ever being serviced (not that we’d recommend it), and the simple bezel mechanism and bracelet lock are both bomb-proof. It’s worth watching out for over-polished watches with little material left on the corners, but other than that, if it’s a goer, it’s likely to be a good’un. Be wary of watches with newer parts in them—they may well be service items, which is fine, but they could also indicate a ‘franken’ piece, a watch bodged together from multiple other watches. Buying from a reputable vintage retailer will curtail that worry.
The uncommon marker style shows off the yellow gold surrounds, a precursor to the modern white gold marker surround
Perhaps the Rootbeer isn’t your thing, and that’s fine; there’s plenty of other, more sensibly coloured fish in the sea. But if you do like it, then there’s nothing else quite like it. The colours are so reminiscent of the seventies, it’s like Rolex managed to somehow prospectively make watches out of pure nostalgia. It’s one of those watches that if you love it, you really, really love it, even if it’s as a guilty pleasure. Perhaps it should’ve been nicknamed the ‘Marmite’ instead?
Nearly half a century on, the crisp lines are beginning to smooth and the watch is developing a unique style of its own
Watch Spec | Rolex GMT-Master 1675 ‘Rootbeer’
Case: Stainless steel Dimensions: 40mm Crystal: Plexiglass Water Resistance: 50m Movement: Calibre 1575, automatic Frequency: 19,800vph Power Reserve: 42 hours Strap: Stainless steel, 18k gold Functions: Time, date, GMT