Review: Rolex GMT-Master II Meteorite
Baselworld 2019 was an interesting event for a number of reasons, and not all them good. The big headline was the retraction of the Swatch Group, which left a lot of empty space in the display halls, followed by the disappointment in Rolex’s meagre turnout, with no big, exciting announcements made. Funny thing is that in amongst all the hubbub, Rolex quietly added a watch to its website that is unlike anything anyone ever expected—and that’s the watch we’ve got here today.
I first saw this particular GMT-Master II 126719BLRO on the Rolex website just as Baselworld 2019 kicked off. At first, I thought it was a mistake—there had been no announcement for this watch, and with a sense of disappointment floating around what had been announced, I wondered for a moment if it wasn’t supposed to have been uploaded at all. But it turns out, as this watch here proves, that the new, meteorite dial 126719BLRO was indeed the latest model to grace Rolex’s line-up.
If this all sounds like a load of overinflated hype, let me give you a little bit of context. Rolex is a brand for whom evolution is a just a bit too fast for its liking. When Rolex makes a change, it’s the work of an age; it takes a long time to do anything at Rolex, and Rolex never does anything unless it is worth taking a long time to do.
Take this GMT-Master II here. It is the work of fourteen years of slow, slow progress, from the introduction of the ceramic bezel to the brand for the very first time, through to the development of the single-piece, two-tone ceramic bezel in black and blue, and then red and blue, first in white gold, then in steel—and so when Rolex casually slaps a meteorite dial into the white gold version of its famous traveller’s watch and doesn’t tell anyone about it, it’s kind of a big deal.
This is one of only two Rolex sports watches to receive the meteorite treatment, the Daytona included, but that was given a different look that was a bit more glitzy and dressy with Roman numerals and red accents. This GMT-Master II is exactly as you’d find it in steel, only in white gold, and with the addition of the meteorite.
Meteorite, for those who have puzzled over the terminology, is an asteroid or meteoroid that has made it through the Earth’s atmosphere all the way to the surface. An asteroid is a large rocky body orbiting the sun, a meteoroid a smaller rock or particle. Sometimes a meteoroid can be vaporised when it hits the atmosphere—this is a meteor.
It stands to reason that the slice of space rock you see here behind the sapphire crystal of this GMT-Master II is the type that made it to the surface, namely the Gibeon meteorite that fell to Earth in Namibia in prehistoric times, scattering debris all across an area of around 10,000 square miles surrounding the town of Gibeon. The meteorite and all its fragments are now protected as a National Monument, and so the supply Rolex has is limited, used sparingly in only the most special pieces—such as this GMT-Master II 126719BLRO.
First discovered in the 1830s by Captain J. E. Alexander, the Gibeon meteorite is formulated of an iron-nickel alloy peppered with cobalt and phosphorus. What makes this other-wordly material so appealing are the crystalline patterns, known as Thomson structures, that run through the meteorite. Long cooling times caused the alloys to stretch into millimetre-sized bands called lamellae that form an octahedrite structure which, when acid etched, reveals the shape and texture you see here.
Whilst there’s a lot to be said of the fantastic dials that watchmakers like Grand Seiko have introduced to the world over the decades, there’s something incredibly profound about a beauty that has emerged straight from nature, has travelled lightyears to get here, has taken millions of years to form and is impossible to recreate here on Earth.
By comparison, humanity as we know it is just a spec in the eye of an aging universe so vast and so old that we can never truly appreciate or understand its magnificence and its magnitude. It is both truly wonderful and truly terrifying, and this little slice of it inside this GMT-Master II is a beautiful and haunting reminder of that.
That’s why it was such a surprise to see it so quietly added to the Rolex website without fuss or fanfare. The rarity of meteorite—and this Gibeon meteorite in particular—makes this GMT-Master II particularly special and quite literally unique, seeing as the formation found on the dial here will never be repeated ever again.
Why Rolex chose this particular watch to feature some of its dwindling supply of Gibeon meteorite, I don’t know, as a blue dial version from 2018 already delineates the white gold BLRO from the steel. That’s not a criticism, more of an observation; given how long it has taken to get to the point where we even have a red and blue ceramic GMT-Master II in the first place, the surprise inclusion of a meteorite dial is very un-Rolex.
Perhaps it’s the likes of Grand Seiko and its ever-increasing range of superb dials that’s caused Rolex to take a bit more of a risk with its own? Maybe this is the start of something new and exciting from Rolex, where we see more ornate and interesting materials used in its precious metal sports watches? Whether that’s true or not, we’ve yet to find out, however one thing remains true: the GMT-Master II 126719BLRO meteorite may have been completely unexpected, but as surprises go, it was a very pleasant one.
If you’re looking for a luxurious, rare, beautiful watch from Rolex, you’re going to be hard pushed to find something better than the 126719BLRO. All the utilitarian style of the GMT-Master II with a subtle splash of luxurious white gold, topped off with the magnificence of the Gibeon meteorite, and we’ve got ourselves a winner. Fingers crossed it’s the start of something truly special—it certainly made Baselworld 2019 more interesting.
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