Rare Berries: Rolex GMT-Master Blueberry

When you’re doing a deep dive into specific watches you often encounter iterations with small variations compared to their root model. Visually and with financial consequences. This episode is about a watch that stands out in terms of a specific alternative coloured element: the Rolex GMT-Master (ref. 1675) variant with a blue bezel, alias ‘the blueberry GMT-Master’. Such a distinctive color and element. It is one single element that instantly made this watch a true rare berry:

Accent or Not?

I’m truly fascinated by the art of creating accents. How do you let specific elements stand out without taking the spectator as hostage and let him/her forget about all other things? Expose or conceal? What is the right amount to make a perfect “pyramid of importance”? Although it’s personal, every designer tries to build a visual utopia and satisfies the biggest chunk of watch lovers.

The Power of One Element

Let’s zoom in on giving accents a bit more. An example: it is easy to make all the hands the same color. But what if you can only give one hand a vibrant color? Check the following graphic:

See the impact of the left example and how the visual importance gets affected when more elements have this color?

Subtle versus Explicit

Extreme differences aren’t always a good thing. Contrast for example. To prevent too many heavy contrasts and destruct the “pyramid” it can be wise to define levels. Enough talk. Let’s do a breakdown of the blueberry and see if we can demystify the pyramid.

Rolex GMT-Master Blueberry

There are a lot of mysteries around this watch. The most plausible story is that this watch was produced for the Eastern market in the 1970’s and ordered by specific retailers (e.g. Cartier or Tiffany’s) or military groups (e.g. French or UAE Air Force). One thing is for sure: this watch has also been made for the French or UAE (United Arab Emirates) Air Force, since there are examples with the UAE Air Force logo on the dial. Exact production numbers are unknown, but there aren’t many true authentic examples out there.  The GMT-hand on the blueberry comes in two variations : an all red hand, or a combination where only the middle section of the hand is red. Now and then an example is for sale:

Rolex GMT-Master Blueberry

An example which is for sale on eBay, with a full red GMT-hand

Bezel Matters

The funny thing about this reference 1675 “Blueberry” is that the color alteration is a true paradox: it does give the watch its own character within the GMT-Master collection. But on the other hand, the clear separation between the day- and nighttime, or 12 hour partition is gone. So from a practical point of view you could consider this as less optimal in some situations. But again, here comes another interesting contra argument kicking in: the absence of red in the bezel does put the GMT-hand with red accent more into the spotlight. Thus, putting this higher up in the imaginary pyramid.

Rolex GMT-Master

Regular 1675 bezel: iconic blue-red or pepsi setup

Poisonous Berry or Not?

There are a lot of poisonous berries out in the wild. The bezel is often a aftermarket replacement. An authentic bezel is on its own starts around a couple thousands of Dollars. It is a true mine field to find a true original ‘Blueberry’  GMT-Master and prices have gone through the roof. Expect to pay at least 4 times the price of ‘regular’ 1675. Buy the seller and try to gather all the information before you invest at least 20,000 USD.

Rolex GMT-Master Blueberry

Another example from 1979 which is sold (photo credit: https://www.hqmilton.com/)

Conclusion

There are pros and cons when you compare the Blueberry with the regular Rolex GMT-Master (ref. 1675) from a design and utilitarian point of view. But, let’s admit. In the end, all that matters is your personal taste and wallet. I do think the Blueberry is a true beauty. But is it worth all that extra money for just another bezel insert? Let us know what you think of this. Want more information about the history of the Rolex GMT-Master in general? Robert-Jan did a nice write-up about the many references a while ago. Link to the historical overview. If you want to know more about the reference 1675 I would recommend this article.

Enough talk, I’m hungry. Blueberry pie?

Teun van Heerebeek

Teun van Heerebeek

Contributor at Fratello Watches
Teun van Heerebeek is contributor and visual artist to Fratello Watches. With his Watches & Pencils illustrations and other articles he likes to explore the vast watch-lands in all its diversity. His love for watches mainly originates from his eye for design, but also adores the more technical side of watches. If you want to know more about Teun you can also visit his personal website: http://www.teunvanheerebeek.com
Teun van Heerebeek