Vintage Rolex GMT Master with Cigar and Champagne

A yellow gold Rolex – is it over-the-top or the missing piece of an evolving collection? For me, it was the missing piece. Sure it’s loud, but what full yellow gold watch isn’t? This watch was in ways a grail; you will need to continue reading on to find out what makes it so unique. You can learn more about the model family in our complete History of the GMT-Master.

In this review, you’ll learn more about:

  1. Technical specs of the GMT-Master (Including all measurements)
  2. Definition of a Nipple Dial
  3. What it’s like on the wrist
Yellow Gold Rolex Crown Detail

Rolex “Twinlock” Crown marking

The Watch Up Close

Tech Specs

  • Dial: Black with aged tritium luminescent “Nipple” hour markers
  • Movement: Caliber 3075 self-winding movement
    • COSC Chronometer
  • Case Diameter: 40mm
    • Lug to lug: 48mm
  • Depth Of Case: 12mm
  • Case Material: 18k Yellow Gold
  • Bracelet & Size: Jubilee, 20mm lug width
    • Punched lugs
  • Water Resistance: 100m
  • Screw-down crown, with crown protectors
  • Special Features / Complications:
    • Fixed GMT Function
    • Date window with Rolex “cyclopes” crystal
    • Quickset Date
    • Hacking Seconds
    • Bi-Directional Bezel
    • Sapphire Crystal
  • 8.5 Mil Serial – Dated to 1985
  • Pre-owned Price: $18,000 – $26,000 (USD) [At time of writing – April 2020]

I would classify the watch in the style category of business-casual or more formal. Being a vintage piece, avoid water even though the model is rated 100m.

Rolex GMT-Master Width

40mm Case Width

Rolex Calibre 3075

The caliber 3075, found in the GMT-Master, was introduced in 1981. It features a 42-hour power reserve and a fixed GMT hand. It was in production through 1988 when it was replaced by the calibre 3175 in the GMT-Master 16700.

Case thickness of Rolex GMT-Master

12mm Case Thickness

Unlike later calibers, this movement features a fixed GMT hand. What does this mean? It means that when you set the time, your center hours and GMT hours will align if the bezel is in its standard position at 12 o’clock. Once your time is set, you simply adjust the bezel to align with your second timezone.

Lug width of 20mm

What is a Nipple Dial Rolex?

The gold combined with the stark black dial and black bezel are eye-catching, but one of the understated details is the “Nipple” hour markers. The phrase itself is a nickname given to the particular style of hour markers, and it all started with the GMT-Master.

GMT-Master Nipple Dial Detail

Detail of Openworked “9” and “Nipple” Hour Marker

The indices are slightly protruding hour markers made in yellow gold. It is then filled with a luminescence for legibility. It is the shape and two-toned nature of the gold vs. the lume that give this style the nickname. The style is no longer manufactured and represents when the GMT Master started to be known as a luxury sports watch rather than a utility sports watch.

Review of the Vintage GMT Master – On the Wrist

This vintage GMT Master is the third generation model, taking over from the reference 1675. The GMT-Master was initially released in the 1950s and was replaced by the GMT-Master II in 1989, with reference 16700. You can read more about the modern version in my review of the GMT-Master II Batman.

GMT-Master and GMT-Master II

What makes this watch unique to me is that it is a birth year watch, and is full yellow gold! I had been eying a few yellow gold watches before deciding on this one. The useful GMT function, case material, and production year was the combination I was looking for in my next acquisition.

One of the things that drew me to the piece was the Jubilee bracelet. While I prefer the Oyster bracelet, the Jubilee was a nice change and made the watch feel more formal than the model would typically be. For a 30+ year-old watch, the bracelet is in excellent condition and is incredibly comfortable on the wrist.

View of Yellow Gold Jubilee Bracelet

The date wheel features the characteristic vintage open profile, adding to the charm of the watch. The text on the dial is also gold, matching other details like the gold applied indices and gold hands. Plus, for a vintage watch, the hour hand still has some great lume left!

Lume on Rolex GMT-Master II and Vintage GMT-Master

Vintage GMT-Master Left, Rolex Batman Right

Style & Versatility

While the yellow gold case, matching yellow gold Jubilee bracelet and black dial can be quite striking on the wrist, I find that it’s not as overpowering as one may think.

GMT-Master On Women's Wrist with Cigar

GMT-Master on Ladies Wrist

The 40mm case size makes it modern and a good fit on my 8-inch wrist. It is also versatile and is a great unisex piece as the case isn’t overpowering. The Jubilee bracelet just as easily wraps around smaller wrists. It becomes a great share piece especially when on a strap so no links need to be constantly added or removed.

Punched lugs for easy strap change

What makes it even better is the punched lugs make changing the bracelet to a strap very easy. To tone down the watch I’ve experimented with many different color straps. The gold case and black dial, fortunately, complement a wide range of colors. A black leather strap dresses up the watch while a maroon or green make it more casual.

Final Thoughts On The Vintage Rolex GMT Master

I love this watch and makes a wonderful older brother to my Rolex Batman.

The watch checked all the boxes when I was first looking at it, and I find myself loving it more every day. It is not a watch I daily wear for months at a time, but when I’m looking for something more formal than a steel watch, or a good conversation starter, it gets well-deserved wrist time.

One last note, when shopping for vintage watches, and especially vintage Rolex watches, you do want to make sure to do your research and trust the seller. I purchased this after seeing it in person at a local dealer; I was also able to talk to the Rolex authorized watchmaker who inspected the watch. Alternatively, Bob’s Watches is a reliable destination if you have a preference for shopping online.

Additional Reading

About the Author:

Paul Anthony is the founder and creative director at Bespoke Unit. He has had a life long affair with design, watches, fragrance and clothing. Originally from England, he now lives in the USA splitting time between NYC & Philly. Favoring "British Style", but has an overall eclectic taste.

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