This year, for its 2022 collection, Rolex has been focusing on what it calls aviation-related watches. Watches made for air travellers or pilots have taken shape in two specific models: the revamped Air-King and the new left-handed GMT-Master II. I’d personally state that this was a year of boldness and audacity for the brand, a year when Rolex decided to be unconventional and daring, to think out-of-the-box and not to be consensual. However, since such audacity naturally triggers subjective, emotionally driven reactions, I’ve decided to write a personal opinion column explaining why I don’t like the new Rolex GMT-Master II 126720VTNR Destro… And also why, in the end, it doesn’t really matter anyway.
It’s no secret that Rolex is king when it comes to brand value, level of sales (number 1, and by quite a margin), overall quality, consistency of the collection, and the way its watches hold their value over the years. The logo of the brand is a coronet, and it feels justified. Whether you like the brand or not, it’s hard to deny that this success is objective. Not everything is bright and beautiful, of course. The current situation of the market, with demand largely surpassing supply, and all the negative effects it has on the availability and prices, is a major black cloud in an otherwise bright blue sky. Nevertheless, and despite a few less successful models, Rolex is still at the top of its game.
In the past years, we’ve seen almost all the collections revamped, refreshed, and modernised… Classic product life cycle management. A brand new generation of movements was launched in the Day-Date 40 in 2015; the Cosmograph Daytona received a new look in 2016; the Sea-Dweller got a larger case in 2017; the GMT-Master II was refreshed in 2018; the Yacht-Master got bigger in 2019; the Submariner collection was redesigned in 2020; and both the Explorer I and the Explorer II were facelifted in 2021. Which left us with few options for 2022… Most of the collections were already equipped with the new-gen movement, meaning that in terms of life cycle management, there was not much left to do. So, it was either about getting creative and launching a brand new watch collection or taking existing models and having fun with them, transforming them, making them less expected… Rolex chose the last option and revamped its most controversial watch – the Air-King – and created another model that actually ranks second, if not on par, on the discussion board: the “Destro” or left-handed version of the GMT-Master II with a two-tone green/black bezel… I mean, I would never have imagined this watch, even if I had gone totally wild in our yearly predictions.
The facts about the 126720VTNR
Before I switch into subjective mode, a quick reminder about what this new watch is all about. The Rolex GMT-Master II 126720VTNR, or the Destro Rolex, is basically the same watch as before, turned 180 degrees. That’s a bit of a shortcut, but not that far from reality. The reason I say this is that, apart from this new position of the crown, the watch is identical to the previous, classical steel versions, the Pepsi 126710BLRO and the Batgirl 126710BLNR.
As such, the case retains the same shape (just mirrored) and dimensions. Made out of Oystersteel (internal name for 904L stainless steel), it measures 40mm in diameter, about 12mm in height and has a decent 48mm lug-to-lug measurement. The case features an integral crown guard hugging the Triplock screw-down crown and is finished with straight brushed surfaces on top and polished sides. The sapphire crystal has anti-reflective coating and the all-important Cyclops over the date. And water-resistance is rated, as usual, at 100 metres of 330 feet.
Apart from rotating the case 180 degrees and creating a so-called Destro watch, the other new feature of this Rolex GMT-Master II 126720VTNR – and the clue is in the reference number – is the new bezel. Inside the notched Oystersteel bi-directional frame, you’ll find a two-tone Cerachom insert with recessed numerals and graduations coated with platinum PVD (classic) in black and green. This combination of colours is a classic of the modern GMT-Master II, yet it was used differently in the past. It was found on the full-black bezel 116710LN with a green-coloured GMT hand. But since the collection was revamped in 2018, two-tone inserts are the rule for the GMT-Master II. Those who were expecting the comeback of the LN model will have to deal with this new version, the VTNR – Verte-Noire, or Green-Black. The green colour is close to what’s found on a Submariner Date 126610LV, meaning a rather subtle, not too saturated tone of mid-green. The same colour can be found on the GMT hand too.
As for the dial, no surprises. Again, apart from the rotation and the fact that the date is now positioned at 9 o’clock and still next to the crown, there are no changes to report compared to a 126710BLRO or a 126710BLNR. The dial is still glossy black lacquer and features large applied hour markers and hands in 18k white gold filled with blue-emitting Chromalight. And there’s a green arrow-tipped GMT hand to complement the bezel’s colour.
Regarding bracelet options, we had the Oyster version for this photoshoot. Classic, 3-link steel bracelet with polished centre links and brushed outer links. It features an Oysterlock folding safety clasp and Easylink comfort extension link (with approx. 5mm extension, good for hot days). Note that this version, like all steel GMT-Master II, is also available on a 5-link, brushed and polished Jubilee bracelet, closed by the same Oysterlock folding safety clasp with Easylink comfort extension link. Comfort will be great on both, and in this instance, it’s just a matter of looks. On my side, since the 126720VTNR is already quite loud and busy, I’d tend to go for the Oyster bracelet for a more streamlined look.
Inside the case, the calibre 3285 is still beating with minor modifications due to the new position of the crown and date window. Basically, the date disc had to be changed, but this new crown position also required changing the precision testing process for some of the final controls carried out as part of the Superlative Chronometer certification. Other than that, we’re still talking about an in-house, automatic movement from the 32xx generation, with all the possible refinements of the Crown: a bi-directional rotor; the Chronergy escapement with enhanced geometry for better precision and efficiency; anti-magnetic elements with nickel-phosphorus escapement parts and blue Parachrom hairspring and Rolex overcoil; high-performance Paraflex shock absorbers; an extended 70h power reserve; and a traversing balance bridge and balance with variable inertia and gold Microstella nuts. The movement beats at 4Hz, features a stop-seconds mechanism, an instantaneous date, and the GMT function relies on – as you’d expect from a traveller’s watch – a jumping local hour hand that can be adjusted independently when crossing borders.
Overall, the quality of the watch is… typical Rolex. Ultra-precise in manufacturing and adjustments, with a Superlative Chronometer-certified (-2/+2 seconds per day) movement and a solidity that can hardly be beaten. It’s neat, ultra-clean, and almost surgical. In short, it’s a Rolex.
The Rolex GMT-Master II 126720VTNR is priced at EUR 10,400 on an Oyster bracelet and EUR 10,600 on a Jubilee bracelet.
Why I don’t like the 126720VTNR
Let’s now get subjective. I’m going to make it simple; I have nothing against Destro-style watches. I don’t really fancy wearing them because I prefer to wear my watch on my left wrist and I don’t feel comfortable wearing a watch on the right. Nevertheless, nothing obliges you to wear a Destro watch on the right wrist. The whole concept, often associated with Panerai, really works with the Italian brand’s design language. So it’s not so much the fact that it’s a Destro that puts me off this GMT; it’s more the fact that I don’t think, personally, that the implementation of the Destro concept has been nicely integrated into Rolex’s design language.
To give you an example, when the watch was presented to me during Watches & Wonders, I found myself putting the watch on the wrong side (with the crown at 3 o’clock) on at least three occasions within less than 15 minutes. That has never happened to me with a Destro Panerai, simply because the integration of the crown at 9 o’clock is more seamless, more coherent. To me, the 9 o’clock crown does not work in the context of a Rolex with a crown guard, and even more with a date that has been pushed away to the other side too. If Rolex had kept the date at 3 o’clock, I think I would have liked it more.
Another issue I have with this watch is on the wrist. As I mentioned, I like to wear my watch on my left wrist… And, forgive me for this little trick (I know, I’m not really playing fair), but I intentionally hid the crown under my sleeve to make it disappear… Because this is how the watch will be in most situations if you wear it on the left. And the result is, to me at least, a very, very bizarre look. I might be a bit of a monomaniac, but it simply doesn’t work for me. Sorry Rolex, I won’t be your client for this one… But it doesn’t matter anyway!
Why it doesn’t matter…?
I can see at least three reasons why my take on the Rolex GMT-Master II 126720VTNR doesn’t really matter. First, because what I said above is purely subjective and personal. I don’t ask you to agree with me, and I even encourage you to disagree with me in the comment section below and explain why you think this watch could work. Not liking a watch doesn’t mean that it’s not a good product. Actually, in this case, it’s still a very, very impressive product. Just not one made for me.
The second reason is more important. The simple fact that I (and others) don’t like this watch is actually a very positive point. There’s nothing worse than a mildly good product – your typical “yes it’s OK” highly consensual watch that looks good but doesn’t generate a true sparkle. What Rolex has done here is to create something bold, slightly provocative, completely unexpected and thus, something emotional. Love it, hate it; the important thing to note is that Rolex has produced a watch that is controversial, segmenting, that has become a hot topic of discussion. Luxury, mechanical watches are unnecessary objects, and emotions are more important than anything else when buying/wearing one.
The reason Rolex did this is because it can, and it should. Instead of resting on its laurels and making consensual watches that vaguely please the majority, it is now the perfect time for the brand to be creative and audacious. It was the right moment for the new Air-King and for this Destro 126720VTNR. The demand is high, watches are hot topics, and the brand is criticised for its lack of supply… Let’s return our attention back to the product and let the community talk about a watch. And in the end, I’m sure this Destro GMT-Master II will sell like hot cakes, simply because it’s daring and different.
The last reason why it doesn’t really matter that I don’t like this watch is simple: it’ll be so hard to get that even if I hate it or love it, I won’t be able to buy one straight from a boutique.
For more details, please visit rolex.com.