Nicknamed “Pepsi” by Rolex aficionados, the enthusiasm for the GMT-Master is undeniable. The reference, with its legendary red and blue insert, has become a symbol of investment and universal “object of desire.” How did this happen? Its flame has been rekindled ever since Rolex released a new version in 2014 with the same famous bezel…and so has our passion for it. Return to the fantastic saga of the GMT-Master Pepsi…
In the beginning there was the 6542. Produced in 1954, the watch adapted to the need of travelers and pilots for a 24-hour setting and a second time zone. Hence the creation of an extra red hand that goes around the dial in 24 hours. To put the second time zone in place, one only needs to turn the bezel. As usual the main hands will indicate local time in the 12-hour context.
The first GMT-Master was equipped with a red and blue Bakelite bezel who would be later replaced with one in anodized aluminum. This first model made a Hollywood appearance in the iconic 1964 James Bond movie, Goldfinger. No other wrist could’ve made the watch appear more sexy than the seductive Pussy Galore. Now you remember seeing the watch don’t you? Its production would end in 1959.
The Holy Grail of the 6542 references would be the Pan American Airlines version with a white dial. Now when I say Holy Grail, I mean that in the “rarest of the rare” sense. Some even doubt its existence! Rolex has no comment on the topic.
Rolex 1675: More than just ensuring continuity
1959. A very important year in this story. Rolex releases the most emblematic of all GMT-Masters, the 1675. This time with an anodized aluminum insert. Don’t worry, a great number of other inserts and dials would be made available to accommodate different tastes: Black Gilt in black and gold, Matt Brown, and “Root-beer” with a brown and gold insert.
At the end of the 1960’s the GMT hand becomes thicker and shoulders protecting the crown appears. The word “Superlative” is also added to the line of text after “GMT-Master.”
Its twin sister, the 16750, is launched in 1981. Why? The new “Quickset” model allows date adjustment at a blink of an eye with a special crown. This particular model would enjoy 7 years of production.
Between 1988 and 1999, the Rolex 16700 would take the leading role, with a number of important changes: a new case, sapphire glass, hour markers circled in white gold. Meanwhile, the reference 16760 nicknamed “Sophia Loren” and the first GMT-Master II is launched in 1983. A thicker case, and only available with a “Coke” insert in black and red. Perhaps a way for Rolex to differentiate the GMT-Master I with the II…
The Sophia Loren is then replaced by a slimmer 16710 in 1989. The new reference presents the same features as the 16760 but has a new movement, is flatter, and you have a choice of inserts: Coke, Pepsi, or Black.
In 2007, Rolex presents the Steel/Gold version with a number of important changes.
A ceramic bezel with platinum or gold numerals, a larger case, an advanced Triplock crown system (Twinlock was on the older GMTs) to ensure greater water-resistance for the diver adventurers among you.
The second time zone’s red hand bid us goodbye as a green one, or sometimes blue one, took its place. As for movement, the Parachrom spiral experiences a marvelous innovation allowing higher resistance against temperature changes and accidental bumps.
It was at Baselworld 2014 that Rolex introduced a white gold version of the GMT-Master II, complete with a Pepsi bezel. In order to get the legend going again? Perhaps…
It’s no surprise. Sales and prices of the iconic watch have been skyrocketing for a while now, and both new and vintage versions are selling like hot cakes (the 6542 goes for around 50,000€ now). Why wouldn’t they with all the fame and glory under their belt? Get ’em while they’re hot as the saying goes…
Between you and me, no matter the GMT-Master reference, no matter the bezel, as long as a GMT-Master, the fruit of years of labour and evolution, sits on our wrist, the sparkle in our eyes will shine just as bright.
And the saga continues…