I was fortunate enough to work at the intersection of North and Luckie streets in Atlanta for over four years. Folks in Atlanta would know that as the headquarters of The Coca-Cola Company. For a marketer, leading social media at The Coca-Cola Company was the world’s greatest job. For a watch collector, it made the Rolex GMT “Coke or Pepsi” decision relatively easy. So, knowing all that, do you really have to ask my bezel preference?
The Rolex GMT II (16710) is a legend of a watch. It predates ceramic bezels, it even predates full in-house movement design at the House in Geneva. The story goes that the first Rolex GMT watches were designed in the 1950s for PanAm pilots to help them acclimate to the newly discovered issue of “jet lag.” If pilots could easily glance at their watch and see their “home time” (as well as quickly adjust local time), perhaps their bodies could handle the shifts of time zones better. Well, over 60 years later, the GMT complication is still very popular (and one of my personal favorites).
When the Rolex GMT IIc (116710) with the ceramic bezel came out in 2008, I had one of the first ones in Pittsburgh (where I lived at the time). It’s a significantly different watch than this one with a bigger case, bigger bezel, stronger and more reliable movement and better bracelet/clasp. I wore my GMT IIc almost daily for four years. Still today, it is my go-to travel watch. But after almost ten years, I really wanted a more old-school Rolex.
So, I found a mint condition 16710 Coke bezel, circa 1998. It had all of the boxes, papers and even Rolex service records. It was a pre-SEL (solid end links) version that also featured the drilled lugs. I don’t like the pre-SEL bracelets, but I knew I was going to put some sort of strap on this baby so it really didn’t matter. And for that reason, the drilled lugs (which appeared until the mid-2000s) were actually a benefit. I could put new straps on it relatively easily.
The aluminum bezel was original, and had just a small bit of lovely fade. Getting the Everest perforated leather strap on wasn’t necessarily easy, but it completely changed the feel of the watch. I liked the Everest perforated leather strap – a lot. But after wearing it a few times, I questioned its durability. So, I ended up also getting the Everest black rubber strap as well. Now this is a strap! The quality of the rubber (or is it silicone) is second to none. It has a nice matte finish that feels smooth to the touch. The brushed stainless steel tang buckle is also good looking and comfortable.
Compared to my GMT IIc, this baby was already super-light with the bracelet. But putting on the leather strap made it feel as light as a dress watch. And the overall thickness (or in this case thinness) was such a departure from the more modern-era watches that I have been wearing lately.
The only issue I have with the Everest straps (and from I understand this is an issue when you put most rubber or non-bracelet straps on a Rolex) is that because the material is wedged so close to the watch case (and the bezel), it makes turning the bezel more difficult. You can actually see how tight it is in this picture. Now, Everest makes some straps that include their own solid end links that would probably mitigate this issue, but I just don’t like how they look. And my hope is that once the strap gets more “broken in,” this will become less of an issue.
And that brings up an interesting point – I don’t have a lot of vintage watches. Most of my collection are from the “modern” era of the 2000s, so this circa 1998 watch was an interesting step in expanding my collection in different ways. So it’s another reason I really like this watch.
While there are a lot of people who clamor for a birthdate Rolex Submariner (or one of the early-generation of that watch), I’m more of a GMT guy. So, this is (for now) my one and only “vintage” Rolex, even though it’s only 20 years old. It’s my hope however that it can stay in my collection for at least that long, and remind me every time I look down at the bezel of my great time in Atlanta. Now for some reason I am hankering for a Coke Zero…
WHAT I LIKE:
- A great vintage Rolex on a super comfortable strap.
- Thinner and lighter and smaller than the current GMT IIc
- Slightly faded aluminum bezel
NOT SO MUCH:
- I don’t like this generation of Rolex bracelet (but I took care of that with the Everest Rubber strap).
- The Everest Leather strap is nice (like the red stitching), but I question its longer-term durability
MODEL NAME: Rolex GMT II
REFERENCE NUMBER: 16710
MOVEMENT: Rolex 3185 (50-hour power reserve)
CASE SIZE: 40mm
WATER RESISTANCE: 100m/330ft