The Drink You Can’t Have: Rolex GMT-Master Pepsi
Today I’m going to launch one of the most requested watches since the launch of Watches and Pencils. It will be all about this famous thirst quencher:
The nickname ‘Pepsi’ for the Rolex GMT-Master seems to be quite old. I found several sources that go back multiple decades. It is an old and at least one of the most famous nicknames. Almost every watchnerd knows what you’re talking about when you speak about the Rolex ‘Pepsi’. Intentionally, Rolex created the famous blue/red bezel by request of Pan-Am. This airliner asked Rolex to develop the watch because the flights were becoming longer and pilots needed something to read multiple timezones. One of the requested features in this project was that the bezel colors needed to match to the Pan-Am Airlines’ company colors.
Advertisements do not always promote “Pepsi”
So which model was the first nicknamed Pepsi? The first Rolex GMT dates from 1954 (reference 6542). It has a bakelite bezel and was a great hit. Not much later the model was upgraded with an aluminium bezel (bi-directional). Until today, this model (reference 1675) is still one of the most sought after vintage watches. Both of the watches are widely named ‘Pepsi’. But was it called ‘Pepsi’ right from the beginning? Nowadays, crisp (digital) advertisements now let the colors stand out and emphasize the blue and red colors. A link to ‘Pepsi’ is made easier. But, back in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s a lot of Rolex advertisements were in black and white. Back in the days, you really had to go to the shop to see the watch and all of its colors in full glory. This brings me back to the question: when was the term ‘Pepsi’ introduced?
Coke or Fat Lady?
Fast forward. Back in the 80’s a new Rolex GMT-Master model was introduced (reference 16760). With other bezel colors to differentiate between the GMT Master and GMT Master II. The GMT Master was recognizable by its alternative bezel colors: black and red. It was therefore nicknamed ‘Coke’ and Fat Lady (because of the thicker case). While ‘Coke’ is also a popular term in the world of watchnerds, it never became as popular as ‘Pepsi’. The reason for this might be that the watch has multiple nicknames and not only one true nickname which everybody uses.
16700: Turning point?
The 16700 might be the first model which was nicknamed ‘Pepsi’ back in the 80’s. Why? Well, as said, from that point there were 2 color variations of the GMT. The ‘Pepsi’ and ‘Coke’ variant. As you might, know, there were other color variations before this point, but they not widely sold in public. Was the 16700 the first GMT which was nicknamed ‘Pepsi’?
Extended expiration date of the soft drink
Vintage Rolex GMT-Master bezels tend to fade. Depending on the environment there are many, many known color variants. To name some: brown, pink, purple, light-blue, etcetera. This “problem” was fixed with the introduction of the Cerachrome bezels on the last two Rolex GMT ‘Pepsi’ models (reference 116719BLRO and 126710). They preserve their ‘Pepsi’ colors and do not fade.
Pepsi or not?
Of course, through time other brands also released watches with the primary colors blue and red included in the bezel. It seems like there are multiple views on the word ‘Pepsi’:
- Pepsi stands for a Rolex GMT-Master with a blue and red bezel. Rolex was the first company who released this ‘design element’.
- Pepsi stands for a bezel with blue and red accents. The bezel doesn’t have to be divided exactly into halves by these two colors. Also, it may also be a dive watch instead of a pilot’s watch.
Personally, I like the first one the most. It was the first one. But, as with all nicknames, it’s a bit confusing and fuzzy. It is one of the aspects which forms the soil of this interesting hobby and multiple discussions.
The Rolex GMT-Master II ‘Pepsi’ has a long and famous history. Unlike nicknames like ‘Hulk’ and ‘Batman’ it’s not clear when the watch was first nicknamed ‘Pepsi’. It’s a true icon and a grail watch for many. If you want to dive deeper into other details of this watch you’re in the right place. Balazs wrote an in-depth article about reference 1675 (link here) and we also published a GMT-Master history overview.
I hope your thirst is over now. See you in the next episode!
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