One of the longest lived and most popular watches from Rolex is the GMT Master 2 Pepsi edition with its bezel in bright red and blue. In this review from Everest Horology, we’ll be exploring the history, design, and functionality of this world-traveling watch. Grab a can of bubbly cola, buckle up tight, and set your tray table to the upright and locked position. This is the Rolex GMT Master 2 Pepsi.
The GMT Master Pepsi was born from a marriage between Rolex and Pan Am Airlines back in the 1950s. Pan Am needed a watch for their pilots that was not only highly accurate, but one that could change time zones on the fly, so to speak. To accomplish this, Rolex devised an astonishingly simple method of rotating the bezel, so its hour marker corresponded to the newly added 24 hour GMT hand. The wearer would simply add or subtract hours on the bezel to hit the desired time zone.
To make it even easier for pilots to keep accurate time while flying around the world, Rolex split the bezel into two separate colors: red for daytime hours and blue for nighttime hours. Not only did this increase the watch’s practicality, but it added a level of visual excitement not yet seen in the watch world. Pilots raved about the useful and handsome Reference 6542 so much that in 1959, Rolex released Reference 1675 to the public.
The GMT Master Reference 1675 offered improvements over the somewhat experimental Reference 6542, which was made exclusively for Pan Am pilots. The 1675 GMT Master’s case increased in size to 40mm. It added guards around the crown, and included a new movement, the Caliber 1565, which “jumps” to the next day at midnight, rather than gradually switching over. This Reference 1675 remained largely unchanged until 1980 when the Reference 16750 was introduced.
It’s clear how the GMT Master Reference got its nickname of the Pepsi with its contrasting red and blue bezel, but opinions differ on exactly WHEN it earned the nickname. Some say it was in 1989 after Rolex offered the GMT Master II in a red and black variant nicknamed the Coke. Others say it was 20 years earlier after Rolex introduced the Reference 16753 with the Root Beer coloring. We think the mystery in its history only adds to the GMT Pepsi’s allure.
The 21st century descendent of the Reference 1675 has evolved in almost every way. Nowadays, the Pepsi sports the Reference number126710 BLRO and belongs to the GMT Master 2 family along with five other variants.
Our modern day GMT Master 2 Reference 126710 BLRO Pepsi has a 40mm case made of Rolex’s signature Oystersteel while other variants use gold. This type of alloy is most commonly used in advanced technology industries, like aerospace and chemicals, due to its extreme durability and resistance to corrosion.
The sapphire crystal is highly scratch-resistant and is comprised of lab-grown synthetic sapphire crystal. It’s just as strong as naturally-occuring sapphire crystals but is made to be transparent, instead of the deep blue color of mined sapphires. The crystal features a cyclops over the date.
Surrounding the Triplock crown and its three waterproof gaskets are Oystersteel guards which rise elegantly from the case and protect the crown from accidental loosening.
The GMT Master 2’s calling card is of course its two-tone bezel with red and blue as the original combination. Other color duos have come and gone, but the Pepsi’s red and blue have remained popular for over 60 years.
For decades, the colors were simply painted onto the originally aluminum bezel. But over time, those colors faded. Some watch collectors valued the patina, but Rolex wasn’t satisfied. Their super hard ceramic Cerachrom bezels had been around since 2007 and held their color much better than aluminum bezels. The problem was that the color combination of red and blue, in particular, was proving difficult to incorporate into the proprietary ceramic material.
After much experimentation, Rolex cracked the Pepsi code. The Cerachrom insert actually starts out a pale green color, then by adding certain chemicals and baking it at 1600 degrees fahrenheit, the entire ceramic turns red. Before it’s fully hardened, a second set of chemicals is added to half of the insert then further baked at 1600 degrees. After cooling and polishing, voila, a red and blue Cerachrom bezel.
Functionally, the bezel rotates bidirectionally and features precisely engraved numbers and graduations.
The Pepsi’s dial comes in black, with blue luminescent Chromalight accents replacing the numbers and lining the hands. The GMT hand has a red shaft to distinguish it from the others.
Inside the Reference 126710 BLRO is a Rolex-made Caliber 3285 perpetual movement chronometer that is accurate within 2 seconds a day. The hour hand can be quickly and independently set, and the power reserve lasts for 70 hours. The movement is highly efficient and greatly resists shock and magnetism, thanks in large part to Rolex’s Chronergy escapement and Parachrom hairspring, made in part of nickel-phosphorus and aniobium and zirconium alloy, respectively.
In 1945, Rolex introduced its Jubilee bracelet on their Oyster Perpetual Datejust. The modern GMT Master 2 uses a near-identical heir to the Jubilee throne. Made of Oystersteel, this bracelet comes with five links and anOysterlock safety clasp paired with a 5mm Easylink comfort extension link.
Sixty-plus years on, the Rolex GMT Pepsi has matured from an innovative, functional, and yet stylish niche time-keeper to a state-of-the-art and sought-after cosmopolitan watch.
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