Watch collecting is a habit that can easily get out of hand. For years, my privileged position as an industry analyst meant I was rarely desirous of owning the watches I was able to temporarily access with ease. It was like being part of a private members club that ensured I always had the latest novelties on my wrist. Why would I shell out my hard earned cash to own (and subsequently have to insure) these pieces I could just borrow for a couple of weeks before moving on to something new?
When I took a hiatus from writing to focus on growing the international sales network of a well-known German brand, I started buying watches for myself. The floodgates very quickly opened and, before I knew it, I had a list as long of my arm of watches I simply had to have. So fastidious was the nature of my obsession, I even compiled sub-lists broken down by which display case the watches would sit in, their groupings defined by brand, colorway, or function to create a mental map of reputational, aesthetic, and mechanical harmony. To turn this exercise into a game (and to fashion it into something at least vaguely realistic) I set a limit of 30 pieces.
Competition for places in my dream collection was tough. I was brutal with myself. If I added a new piece to the wish list, another had to be bumped off. I would spend hours wrangling over whether or not a particular Bulgari Magnesium Diagono deserved its place over something incredibly classic, cool, and collectible (but ultimately commonplace) like an Omega Speedmaster.
One piece, however, was never in doubt. Although I do not regard myself as a total Rolex fan-boy in that I always look at the fringes of the industry before reverting to the norm, there can be no denying the lure of the Crown. And what piece has a greater all-time lure for mere mortals hoping to own a piece of quintessential brand history than the Rolex GMT Master and Rolex GMT Master II range.
Yes, the Paul Newman Daytona and its range-mates will no doubt dominate headlines for the preposterously high resell values they boast, but for most of us, six-figure watches are simply a pipe dream. The temptation of the Rolex GMT Master, and especially its more modern iteration the GMT Master II, is that it is incredibly accessible. The retail price of the Rolex GMT Master II ‘Pepsi’ that launched to worldwide acclaim and much, much fanfare at Baselworld 2018 was a trifling $9,000.
I don’t mean to suggest that nine grand is a throwaway sum of money, but it is the kind of figure real people could countenance spending on a watch at some point in their lives. Especially in an age of finance options. Yes, it’s a lot in practical terms, but for what it is, and for the furor it caused upon release? It’s a no-brainer.
Anyone lucky enough to get their hands on one at the time of the release is already looking at a resale value way above the price they paid. Selling one of these pieces right now, however, is madness in my opinion. Look, Rolex could stop production on all other models and pump out enough GMT Master II ‘Pepsi’ watches to satisfy demand, sell them overnight, clear up and go home feeling pretty pleased with the takings for that day. But that’s not the Rolex way. They will never produce enough watches to ensure every man, woman, and über-rich child that wants one can get one on their wrist. The strategy of scarcity is one Rolex has perfected. They control the desire of the customers and would-be customers like a master puppeteer.
And if you are one of the lucky, loyal customers authorized dealers chose to sell to, flipping that watch for a quick profit immediately will see you blacklisted and your chances of getting another favor (and that’s how selling you a hot-ticket Rolex is seen in the eyes of a dealer) from your local retailer is out the window. Chances are your name will be mud. It’s just not worth the risk. If you don’t actually want it, at least have the courtesy to stick in a safe for three years, which is widely accepted as the minimum length of time you should hold on to one of these preferential models to avoid being kicked to the curb by the AD network.
But let’s assume you’re not likely to make that mistake and you genuinely want to keep and enjoy your purchase. There are myriad options beyond the most collectible Pepsi bezels to suit all aesthetic tastes. The cool thing is from a collector’s perspective is that everyone has slightly different tastes, but respect transcends these personal preferences. Buying into the Rolex GMT Master II club isn’t just buying a cool watch; it’s buying into a niche, passionate community of like-minded people.
Let’s start with a run-down of the big hitters: Last year, accompanying the famous Pepsi, came an update to the equally cool ‘Root Beer’. Available in a bi-color and full Everose gold configuration, the former accounts for my personal favorite entry into the collection ever.
Perhaps the darling of the masses, though, has to be the black/blue bezel nicknamed the ‘Batman’ (or less commonly, though rather more appropriately, the ‘Bruiser’) upon release in 2014.
If you simply can’t resist the Pepsi bezel colorway, you could upgrade your material choice to white gold with the rarely spotted reference 116719BLSOor the black lacquer dial variant that goes by reference number 116719BLRO.
For many people, the epitome of a luxury watch is a gold Rolex. Period. Luckily for subscribers to this commonly-held belief, there are several GMT Master II watches that can tick this box while also ensuring you have a member of Rolex’s currently most talked about family in your collection.
For the pseudo-conservative among you (those who are comfortable wearing a full yellow gold Rolex, but don’t want to go too far) the black-dialed reference 116718LN is about as subtle as it gets. If, however, you want your investment to truly sing, why not plump for the green-dialled reference 116718GSO?
You might think that the green and gold reference 116718GSO is as show-stopping as it gets. You would be very wrong. Rolex is never shy when it comes to adorning their most luxurious models with precious gems. Reference 116758BKSABK and the rock star reference 116769TBR.
So with so many options, and so much hype around the model, the question shouldn’t be can you afford to add a Rolex GMT Master II to your collection; it should be how long can you afford to wait before you do.