For 2023, Rolex has released a few new versions of their GMT-Master II with brand new bezels. The watch is available in both two-tone and full 18kt yellow gold offerings. This is the first time we’ve really had catalogue GMT-Master IIs in yellow gold since the discontinuation of the black dial (with green GMT hand) models and the full yellow gold anniversary model with a felt green dial in 2019.
This new version diverts from previous GMT-Master IIs in that it has a completely new bezel colour combination. Instead of being full black, we now have a half black and half grey bezel. The Rolex colour code for the new bicolour bezel will be GRNR (gris noir). I was hoping for a full black bezel, but this could actually be neat. I’d need to see more of it, especially in person, to get a better feel for how I like the new colour combination, but it could work. Rolex first pioneered the bicolour ceramic bezel with their release in 2013 of the 116710BLNR, a release that excited the watch world with the announcement of Rolex’s development of a bezel made of ceramic, with its scratch- and fade-resistant properties, to finally have the ability to retain two colours at once. I’m still not thrilled we’re completely missing a steel GMT-Master II with a non-colourful bezel, so let’s hope we get the return of something like that in 2024. The BLNR is the closest thing, but still, the fact that there is not a fully neutral GMT-Master II is very odd.
One nice thing to see is a return to neutral GMT hand colours. The previous generation of black bezel GMTs all had green GMT hands, these new models have yellow gold hands to match the rest of the handstack. Additionally, the “GMT-Master II” text on the dial is now in a matching gold rather than green as well. Being a “12” reference number, the new watches are fitted with COSC-certified Cal. 3285 movements which possess a 70-hour power reserve and an accuracy rating of +2/-2 seconds per day.
These new models are currently only available on jubilee bracelets, on which they look fine, but I would have hoped that Rolex would have put an end to the the whole “release GMT-Master IIs only on jubilee bracelets” idea by now, especially since the BLNR and BLRO were both given Oyster bracelet options a few years ago. I expect we will see these new watches be available on Oyster bracelets as well within a year or so, but it’s anybody’s guess at this point with Rolex. Some may try to make the argument that a future alternate bracelet offering is unlikely as the CHNR is only available on an Oyster bracelet and has been around now for years, but it seems that Rolex is much more likely to want to offer sports watches on Oyster than they are jubilee… that said, there should be a lot of incentive, sales-wise, to want to offer the new GRNR on a sportier bracelet.
Overall, I’m glad to see a return to yellow gold GMTs. Rose (Everose) gold is nice, and more in style now, but yellow gold is iconic and synonymous with classic Rolex watches. This is probably my favorite release of the year from Rolex, but that’s only because I’m not impressed with the majority of the releases. With how disappointed I am in the overhaul of the Daytona (not a fan of the reversion to older dial proportions and the use of metal bezels with ceramic inserts instead of full ceramic bezels), the GMT-Master II is towards the front of the pack to be my new favorite Rolex line to replace the Daytona. I’ll need to see this new model in person though, as how it looks in the metal could make me like this watch significantly more or leave me feeling let down by the new bezel combination. Before being able to give an in-person judgment, I think this is a nice watch from Rolex, but nothing that blows me away. I used to hold new Rolex releases to a very high standard, as that’s what I expected of Rolex, but now all I’m sitting here thinking is that at least this watch isn’t an emoji Rolex.
The new Rolex GMT-Master II is available in steel and yellow gold (126713GRNR) for 16,450 USD or in solid yellow gold (126718GRNR) for 38,900 USD.
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