Witnesses to history

Exceptional timepieces

The GMT-Master and GMT-Master II owe their iconic status as much to their technical and design qualities as to the feats of the adventurers who have played a part in their story. Certain GMT-Master watches worn by remarkable individuals have witnessed history in the making. Over the years, Rolex has safeguarded this heritage by conserving some of these exceptional timepieces.



New-York – Moscow flight

New-York Moscow ad

From the White House to Red Square

Four years after its launch, the GMT-Master took part in an event that reinforced its image as a watch to connect people: the first non-stop flight by Pan Am between New York and Moscow. Not only was this historic occasion a technical exploit, it was also hugely symbolic. At the height of the Cold War, in July 1959, the plane was carrying journalists to the USSR to report on US Vice President Richard Nixon’s visit to the Soviet Union. At the controls of the Boeing 707 making this pioneering intercontinental journey was Captain C. N. Warren, who used his GMT-Master as a navigation aid. He stated that “the flight itself was navigated by Rolex.”

Pan Am

Pegasus Overland

Pegasus Overland 1959

A voyage of cultural discovery

In 1959, eight men from a British army regiment embarked on a round-the-world expedition named Pegasus Overland, which Rolex supported by equipping each team member with a GMT-Master. Driving two off-road vehicles, they travelled through Europe, Asia, Oceania and Africa, crossing some 34 countries. During the 51-week journey, they captured every moment on film. Their footage gives a unique glimpse of life around the globe in the late 1950s, showing the fashions, cultures, architectures and landscapes of the time.


The X-15 rocket plane

X-15 rocket plane

All-time record

From 1959 to 1968, NASA and the US Air Force developed the X-15 hypersonic flight research programme. The rocket-powered experimental aircraft were designed to test pilots’ ability to withstand the effects of extreme velocity and suborbital flight. The extensive data collected from measuring accelerations, pressures, shocks, vibrations, temperatures and other aspects of aerodynamic friction and atmospheric re-entry techniques led to major advances in aerospace research. Among the dozen or so pilots involved, William J. Knight was particularly outstanding. On 3 October 1967, over the Mojave Desert in California, wearing a GMT-Master, he attained a speed of 7,274 km/h (4,520 mph, or Mach 6.7), setting a record that stands to this day.

William J. Knight


Apollo XIII

Apollo XIII watch

The heart of the space conquest

On 11 April 1970, the Apollo 13 mission left Earth on a voyage that was to be the third American moon landing attempt. Command module pilot Jack Swigert took with him a watch dear to his heart: a GMT-Master, which he wore throughout the mission, like a good-luck charm. Three days after lift-off, a technical fault caused an explosion in the spacecraft’s second oxygen tank. Launched on their lunar trajectory, the three astronauts had no choice but to continue on that course and loop around the Moon in their attempt to return to Earth. Swigert had to correct the trajectory four times. He saved the mission from tragedy by preventing the craft from ricocheting off the Earth’s atmosphere on re-entry. On 17 April, the capsule splashed down in the Pacific Ocean between New Zealand and Fiji, its crew safe and sound.


Apollo XVII

Apollo XVII GMT-Master II

The final mission

On 7 December 1972, the Saturn V rocket launched from Cape Canaveral for the final Apollo lunar mission. Its destination: the highlands bordering the Sea of Serenity. One of the crew, Captain Ronald Evans, was wearing his GMT-Master. As the pilot of the command module, he remained in orbit while his fellow crew members landed on the Moon’s surface. On 14 December, the lunar module redocked with the Apollo 17 spacecraft to begin its long journey home. On 17 December, Evans conducted a spacewalk of over an hour. Two days later, the three astronauts were recovered following splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, closing the final chapter in the Apollo mission story.

The realms of the GMT-Master

  • Conquering the skies


    Conquering the skies

  • Rockets and time zones


    Rockets and time zones

  • From sky to screen


    From sky to screen

  • On the wrists of extreme travellers


    On the wrists of extreme travellers