It’s become a force of habit for us watch nerds to visit our favorite dealers’ websites, check forum classified ads, and thumb through Instagram to keep tabs on what’s selling – and for how much. It doesn’t matter if you’re window shopping or Grail hunting, you want to be in the know when watches surface, whether they’re an auction highlight, a barn find, or anything in between. And the only thing more exciting than discovering new inventory, is finding out that it’s fresh to market from the original owner.
Last week my phone buzzed with a text from Justin Vrakas, Founder & CEO of Watchsteez, and one of Watch Patina’s favorite sellers. His message simply said, “I may be getting a crazy nice GMT today…” One reason Justin is so good at what he does is that he knows his customers’ tastes in watches, which is to say he knows the kind of watches that get me all worked up. I managed to restrain myself from text messaging him back immediately; I just held my breath waiting for his follow-up message. I had a feeling this watch was gonna be good… Justin fired back: “It’s an ’84 16750 black bezel insert with the full set of original boxes and paperwork from the original owner. Says he’s worn it only 5-10 times ever.” Ah… Vrakas did it again; he managed to source another unbelievable watch, virtually untouched, that myself and every other Rolex-aholic would kill to have.
Before we tell you the story of how this GMT-Master found its way to Justin, we want to give you a brief history lesson on the ref. 16750 GMT-Master. It debuted in 1979 as the new and improved version of the legendary ref. 1675. The case size and insert options remained the same: 40mm and “Pepsi” or black, respectively. The most notable change was the movement being upgraded to the caliber 3075, which ticked away at 28,800 bph and had the incredibly convenient quickset date feature. With the aid of a loupe, you’d also notice the new hand stack formation on the ref. 16750. From top to bottom: second, minute, 24-hour, and hour hand.
The ref. 16750 is considered a transitional model within the GMT-Master line. That’s because during the production of the ref. 16750 Rolex switched from a matte to a gloss finish on their dials. This change occurred around 1984, making Justin’s example possibly one of the earliest to be installed with the new glossy dial with white gold surrounded tritium hours markers.
Now that you know what we’re dealing with, here are the circumstances surrounding the acquisition: According to Justin, the original owner, who is now in his seventies, “walked into the same jewelry store where he bought it in the 1980s and sold it back to the same jewelry store.” Amazingly he had the presence of mind to save the box and papers – and bring them along. It’s unknown why the gentleman decided to sell his watch outright… Or why he hardly ever wore it for that matter… But what we do know for certain is the provenance – although the owner did cut his name out of the guarantee with an X-ACTO knife for anonymity.
Justin has sourced a number of incredibly rare watches from his network. Without giving all his trade secrets away, his pipeline for watches does include a jeweler or two… When one of Justin’s contacts come across a watch that meets his exacting standards, they know to give him a call. Justin described to me a common scenario that plays out at a jewelry store: Someone approaches the counter with a vintage Rolex that needs repair. After hearing the quote to get it serviced, sometimes the person either can’t afford the fee or doesn’t see paying more to get their watch fixed than it cost in the first place. At this point, the store’s owner may have the opportunity to acquire the watch.
When Justin first saw this GMT in person, he knew he had to have it. Based on it’s certified time capsule condition and his love affair with the GMT-Master, Justin is seriously struggling with his next move: list it or keep it… In his opinion, this example combines the best of both worlds: The look of vintage, yet the feel of a modern Rolex, owed to it being practically new, with “lugs [that] are insane” and a super-tight “Submariner bracelet.”
You can certainly try contacting Justin about this watch. At the time of writing we honestly have no idea if Justin is selling this GMT or not… If interested, we suggest you send him a DM through Instagram @justinvrakas or @watchsteez. You can also write him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org