The Rolex GMT-Master II ref. 126710BLRO, a.k.a. the Rolex “Pepsi”, is probably one of the most recognizable watches on the planet. Considering how well known most Rolex models are, that’s really saying something. There’s no mistaking its distinctive blue and red bezel on the wrist. It catches your eye and draws you in, even from across the room.
Of course, if you prefer to fly a bit more under the radar, there’s always the Pepsi’s younger, more sophisticated sibling: the Rolex GMT-Master II ref. 126710BLNR, perhaps better known as the Rolex “Batman”. Both models are in extremely high demand at the moment, and both are now available for iOS users to try on in the Chrono24 Virtual Showroom in the official Chrono24 App. To celebrate, we’re shining the spotlight on these two very cool watches.
The Origins of the GMT-Master
Before the GMT-Master II, there was the GMT-Master. This watch will forever be linked to the rise of intercontinental air travel and a now defunct commercial airline. Back in the 1950s, the general public (i.e., non-military folk) were first starting to travel to different countries by plane. As a result, Pan American World Airways – the largest international air carrier in the United States at the time – needed a new type of watch for their pilots. This new timepiece had to be able to display more than one time zone simultaneously. Naturally, they turned to Rolex for help.
In response to this request, Rolex created a new watch with a fourth hand on the dial. This additional hand pointed to a 24-hour scale on a rotating bezel, allowing the wearer to keep track of two time zones at once. To help pilots easily distinguish between day and night, the bezel used a distinctive blue-and-red color scheme, with blue representing the night and red the day. Pan Am issued the Rolex GMT-Master to their crewmembers on long-haul flights. Several other airlines followed suit, adopting the GMT-Master as their official watch soon thereafter.
In fact, when the Concorde performed its final test flights in the 1960s, both pilots were wearing Rolex GMT-Masters. Even back then, the watch was well on its way to becoming an icon.
The Arrival Of The GMT-Master II
The Rolex GMT-Master II made its debut in 1983, with the ref. 16760. Confusingly, this didn’t mark the end of the original GMT-Master – at least not at first. Instead, Rolex continued producing the GMT-Master into the late 90s. Although the two collections were very similar, there were some subtle differences. For a start, the ref. 16760 had a thicker case, which is why it is known as the “Fat Lady.” It also had a thicker crown protector and saw the introduction of sapphire crystal. More importantly, the GMT-Master II offered some notable technical advantages over its older sibling.
This was largely thanks to a new movement, the caliber 3085, which has an independently adjustable hour hand. This meant wearers could adjust the time in one-hour increments without stopping the second hand or impacting the minute or 24-hour hands. In conjunction with the rotatable bezel, this made it possible to track a third time zone. To differentiate it from the GMT-Master, the ref. 16760 was only available with a red and black bezel (also known as the “Coke” configuration).
The ref. 16760 was followed by the GMT-Master II ref. 16710, which was available with three bezel options: Pepsi, all black, and the original Coke. Rolex continued to manufacture this reference until 2007. The end of production was a dark day for lovers of the steel Rolex GMT-Master II. Fans were equally dismayed at Baselworld 2019 when Rolex announced they would be discontinuing the popular GMT-Master II Lunette Noire 116710LN.
Enter the Batman
In 2005, Rolex released the first GMT-Master II with a ceramic Cerachrom bezel insert: the ref 116718LN. At the time, Rolex said it was impossible to make a two-tone ceramic bezel. This left the GMT-Master II only available with a full black bezel after the discontinuation of the ref. 16710 in 2007.
Eight years later, Rolex dropped another bomb by unveiling the ref. 116710BLNR, better known as the “Batman.” This was the first Rolex watch to feature a two-tone ceramic bezel. Though it wasn’t blue and red as you might expect; instead, it was blue and black – an entirely new color combination for the GMT-Master II collection. It took some time for people to warm up to the new color scheme, but in the absence of a steel “Pepsi” alternative, the “Batman” soon developed its own cult following.
The Pepsi Returns in Steel
Then, in 2014, Rolex did the unthinkable: It brought back the “Pepsi” GMT-Master II, complete with a new Cerachrom bezel. HOWEVER, this new timepiece was only available in 18k white gold. This was a huge blow to watch lovers who were hoping for a steel version. It would be another four years before they got their wish.
Launched in 2018, the Rolex GMT-Master II ref. 126710BLRO Pepsi caused quite a stir. For a start, it was the first Pepsi GMT-Master II in steel with a ceramic bezel. Secondly, it now came on the dressier Jubilee bracelet instead of the more rugged Oyster as people were expecting. It didn’t matter, though. The ref. 126710BLRO has been a runaway success, with demand far outpacing supply.
In 2019, Rolex introduced an updated Batman, the ref. 126710BLNR, and it has followed a similar trajectory. It’s not hard to see why. Both models represent significant milestones in Rolex’s modern history. That’s without mentioning how great they both look on the wrist.
Of course, with the crazy demand for these watches, you can’t just go down to your local Rolex dealer and ask to try one on. They will probably laugh you out of the shop. Fortunately, the Chrono24 Virtual Showroom allows you to try on these grail watches from the comfort of your own home. All you need is a smartphone. If you like what you see, both models are for sale on Chrono24.