Although I have covered the Rolex GMT 116710 before on the Fourtané blog, I had the opportunity to wear the new Rolex GMT BLNR blue-blackbezeled wristwatch. Distinguishing this model from previous ceramic bezeled GMT’s is the two-colored blue-black ceramic bezel. The blue–black bezel is a first in the watch industry and known within the Rolex cognoscente as the Rolex BMT Bruiser or GMT Batman because of its iconic colors.  Solid colored ceramic bezels are nothing new to Rolex with the blue bezeled Submariner and Yachtmaster II’s, and solid green on the Anniversary GMT, but the GMT BLNR (BLNR for Bleu/Noir or blue/black) is the first time two colors are incorporated into one ceramic bezel insert by any Swiss watch company, and the research Rolex pursued to accomplish this feat is well worth the effort.

The two-colored bezel is ingrained in Rolex GMT lore because when the first Rolex GMT was unveiled at Baselworld in 1954, it possessed a two-colored bezel insert.  In the 1950’s intercontinental travel was becoming more commonplace and airline pilots required a timepiece that could measure time while flying over multiple timezones. The Rolex GMT was developed with input from Pan American Airlines to develop a watch that tracked multiple timezones, and could measure the airline standard Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Rolex developed a fourth hand geared off the existing 12-hour hand but traveled at half the speed such that one fourth-hand rotation was 24 hours rather than the normal 12 hours.  For the 24-hour hand to track time, a rotating 24-hour bezel was affixed to the watchcase. As pilots flew long distances, they could rotate the bezel to show GMT time to record in their logbooks.  For pilots to easily discern AM or PM in GMT time, the bezel insert was two colors, red-blue, -red for AM and blue for PM, and hence the two-colored bezel permanently engrained in GMT lore.

Since the 1950’s Rolex has updated the GMT line with innovations that trumped the earlier versions, including adding an independent 12-hour hand to track third timezone.  2005 brought the latest incarnation of GMTs by adding a ceramic bezel insert, Triplock winding crown, anti-magnetic Parachrom blue balance wheel, antireflective coating under the date cyclops, updated 3186 movement, solid linked bracelet, and a milled bracelet clasp with a 5mm Easylink for easy adjustment.

The only thing missing from the updated reference 116710 GMT Ceramic was the iconic two-colored bezel insert. Rolex utilized ceramic for the bezel insert because previous aluminum inserts scratched, faded, or oxidized over time. Ceramic inserts provide lasting legibility because they do not fade and the platinum infused numbers do not scratch or wear off.  The diamond-polished ceramic surface provides exceptional luster that will keep its shine longer than polished steel. 

All of Rolex’s modern innovations come together in the GMT BLNR. In a nod towards the optional jubilee bracelet that was available on the original GMT, the new GMT has a highly polished center link.  The polished link matches the polished case sides, bezel ring, and polished ceramic. Although some contend that the polished link is a scratch magnet, Rolex’s 904L stainless steel has unmatched durability and the mirror finish has a depth not found in any other polished steel.  The polished sections contrast well against the brushed links and watchcase.

Wearing the GMT 116710 BLNR is an easy affair. In this age of large watches, the GMT’s 12mm height fits within the dress watch category making it easy to wear with dress shirts and the polished sections make it fitting for any boardroom or first class cabin.  The 40mm watch face is large enough to easily read, pays homage to its tool watch ancestors, and the updated Chromalight lume make it easy to read at night. The black – blue ceramic insert is not as bold as the traditional red-blue insert, yet has subtle contrast to set this watch apart from others.  The blue 24-hour hand disappears into the watch face but provides better contrast for the 24-hour indicator triangle at the end of the hand making the triangle appear like it is floating above the watch face.

The latest stainless reference 116710 GMT BLNR is a delight to wear especially with the confidence that Rolex’s latest evolutions and innovations are in one watch.

-Sheldon Smith