It’s Sunday morning! Yes, that means it’s time for another Sunday Morning Showdown inspired by the new releases we saw at Watches and Wonders 2024. It’s time for a full-on Rolex showdown after last week’s Tudor vs. Rolex battle. Last year, The Crown introduced the 18K yellow gold and Rolesor versions of the GMT-Master II “Black and Gray.” This year, Rolex introduced the stainless steel version of the watch. It’s a model many watch enthusiasts predicted to see this year. But how does it hold up against its two-tone counterpart? Let’s find out in this GMT-Master II face-off.

Watches and Wonders 2024 is officially in the history books. Expect to see hands-on reviews of our favorite releases and some explosive battles in our Sunday Morning Showdown series. This week, it’s the battle of the Rolex GMT-Master IIs. Specifically, it’s a match-up between two-tone and stainless steel versions of the GMT-Master II with the black and gray bezel. Last year’s full-gold and two-tone versions pleased many fans, and this year’s steel model not only harks back to last year’s in terms of bezel color but looks eerily similar to the GMT-Master II ref. 116710LN, which came out in 2007. Consequently, it is markedly different from its current stainless steel GMT brothers. But is it also more popular? Let’s find out.

Image: The Watch Club

Last week, on Sunday Morning Showdown…

But first, let’s look back at last week’s match-up. Last Sunday, the new black METAS-certified Black Bay took on the current Rolex Submariner ref. 124060. As Jorg explained, the new Tudor is as close as we’ll get to a Submariner in the Black Bay line. However, the results showed that you feel it does not beat the original. The Submariner took 59% of the votes, leaving the Black Bay with 41%. The comments section proved to be a mixed bag of opinions. Some of you stated that the Black Bay is the new Submariner with these new “non-retro” looks. Others were clear that the Submariner is still the original, and nothing beats that. It will be interesting to see how opinions evolve once people get their hands on the new Black Bay. In the meantime, let’s go to Thomas and Jorg for this week’s GMT-Master II battle.

Jorg: Rolex GMT-Master II ref. 126713GRNR

Let me start by saying that I was much more impressed by Rolex’s novelties last year than this year. With 2023’s titanium Yacht-Master, the pair of GMT-Masters IIs, and the 40mm Explorer, the Genevan brand released four watches I greatly enjoyed. Additionally, the updated Daytona collection showed great improvements over the previous generation. This year, The Crown impressed me much less. Besides the new Day-Date 36 with the white dial and the stainless steel GMT-Master II, no other releases intrigued me.

But it’s an easy pick when given the choice between last year’s Rolesor version and this year’s stainless steel version of the GMT-Master II “Black and Gray.” The steel and yellow gold ref. 126713GRNR is the clear winner in my book. This week’s battle is one of aesthetics. But those looks translate to an overall emotion built on more than colors and materials. Last year’s duo of GMT-Master II models perfectly tapped into that vintage sentimentality that makes the pre-Cerachrom sports models so attractive.

what makes a watch brand great Rolex GMT-Master II 126713GRNR

Vintage vibes for a modern Rolex

Whereas most of the brand’s sports models have transformed into shiny, rather flashy versions of their predecessors, last year gave the Rolex nostalgists a glimmer of hope. As Robert-Jan perfectly explained in his article about the two GMT-Master IIs, a vintage vibe defines these two watches that link back to the five-digit era nicely. Rationalizing that vibe is always a tough task; you either feel it, or you don’t. But for the sake of the discussion, let’s have a go at it.

It starts with the mix of stainless steel and yellow gold. This specific combination of materials harks back to the 1970s and ’80s, the heyday of two-tone bliss. Rolex defined the standard in two-tone watches with numerous brilliant steel-and-gold releases. Among my favorites are the Rolex GMT-Master 1675/3 and its successor, the 16753. In particular, the illustrious “Root Beer” is one of my favorite Rolex watches ever produced. I wrote a lengthy love letter praising the “Clint Eastwood” not too long ago, explaining exactly why I love that watch so much. I also hinted at what makes last year’s Rolesor GMT-Master II so good.

Rolex GMT-Master II ref. 126713GRNR

It’s a combination of factors that makes it work

As said, the combination of materials leads to great results. It may be unnecessary to mention, but it’s all about steel and yellow gold for me, not the steel and Everose gold version. The latter does not have those classic connotations, which is why the “modern Root Beer” ref. 126711CHNR is not what some make it out to be. Additionally, gold and steel work best with a Jubilee bracelet. That bracelet style suits the mixed metals much better than an Oyster. A steel and yellow gold Jubilee has a specific vibe that is hard to beat. In all stainless steel, it just doesn’t have the same impact.

And that vibe continues on the bezel insert. As some of you will know, I am a sucker for black and gold. Those colors give the Cerachrom bezel insert a lot more pizzazz than the black and silver color combination of the new stainless steel 126710GRNR. The visual appeal continues with the gold indices and hands. Set against the black dial, they create something undeniably stylish. Pivotal in that mix of elements is the gold GMT hand. In terms of color, it blends in, but it stands out with its style. That’s where my issues start with the new stainless steel model.

Choosing the two-tone GMT-Master II is easy

Looking at the new stainless steel 126710GRNR, we all knew it was coming. I was genuinely interested to see what Rolex would come up with. Rolex made the logical choice to link it to 2007’s ref. 116710LN because the text and GMT hand needed just a hint of color. My main gripe with that watch, though, is the presence of green elements. I’m just not a fan of the green and black color combination. Add the stainless steel exterior, and it becomes a rather boring execution of a great watch. On top of that, it links back to the first Cerachrom GMT-Master IIs, and I just don’t have the right sentiment for those to fall in love with the new version.

Rolex GMT-Master II ref. 126713GRNR

Compared to that, last year’s two-tone version is much more exciting to see and hits the right note regarding Rolex sentiment. As I said, it is hard to rationalize an emotion linked to something you care about. But that emotion would have me gladly pick last year’s €17,350 Rolesor version of the GMT-Master II with the black and gray bezel. Sure, it’s €6K more expensive than the stainless steel model. But it’s also the difference between a watch I love and one I wouldn’t even pick over its current stainless steel “Pepsi” or “Sprite/Starbucks” counterparts. But I’d love to hear your thoughts, Thomas.

Rolex GMT-Master II ref. 126710GRNR

Thomas: Rolex GMT-Master II ref. 126710GRNR

Thanks, Jorg! I get your point about the vintage appeal of the two-tone configuration of your 126713GRNR. I also associate the look with the 1980s in a good way. The current two-tone GMT-Master II has one big issue, however, and you already mentioned it — the GMT-Master ref. 16753.

If you want that vintage vibe, get the real deal. I would always want the lovely jangly feeling of that generation of Jubilee on a two-tone watch. Similarly, I would always want an aluminum bezel insert and the better proportions of the old one.

The thing is, you can get a 16753 with a nipple dial and in great condition for about €5,000 less than a new 126713GRNR. To me, this is the way to get all that vintage Rolex charm you are after. And don’t forget that those watches were already built like tanks, so they won’t be fazed by everyday use.

Watches Rolex GMT-Master II ref. 126710GRNR

The gray issue with the Rolex GMT-Master II

One of many things connecting our two entries today is the black and gray bezel. Admittedly, I am not a fan. For lack of a nicer description, the gray looks like primer paint to me. I strongly prefer all-black bezels, but hey, here we are.

Jorg, you cleverly chose pictures that make it seem as if the bezel on your 126713GRNR is fully black. In real life, though, the gray is quite pronounced. It completely breaks that classical, vintage two-tone vibe. It is an oddly modern element on an otherwise cohesive, traditional watch. I still dislike this bezel on my 126710GRNR, but at least it blends in with the watch. The cool all-steel construction makes the bezel’s gray portion feel grounded. It looks like it belongs here whether you like it or not.

Lukewarm watches Rolex GMT-Master II ref. 126710GRNR

Choosing the right Rolex GMT-Master (II)

In the end, I think the choice is indeed simple, although I come to a different conclusion than you, Jorg. If I were after that vintage charm, I would get a five-digit GMT-Master in two-tone. I would chase a nice tritium/nipple-dial version on the Jubilee bracelet.

If you are after the over-engineered perfection of modern Rolex, I think the all-steel 126710GRNR makes a lot more sense. Both the 126710GRNR and the 16753 are just a little more specialized than the 126713GRNR. The latter seems to try to bridge the gap between vintage and modern. Unfortunately, I find that it’s neither fish nor foul.

Cast your vote

There you have it — two Rolex GMT-Master IIs with black and gray bezels going head to head. Which is your favorite? Cast your vote, and share your motivations in the comments section below.

Rolex GMT-Master II "Black and Gray" Rolesor 126713GRNR vs. Stainless steel 126710GRNR