The hunt for my first Rolex began when I was a freshman in college. I held a summer job in a machine shop, making just enough money hourly to present a danger to myself: the young watch obsessive. Having been driven deeper into the hobby by ownership of the greats we all know from Seiko and Hamilton, I was greedy for a taste of the crown.
I knew that better watches existed than Rolex, sure; I fully understood that better value could be had in other brands… but other brands weren’t Rolex. No, the budding watch connoisseur knew (or self-righteously believed) that satisfaction could only come from an oyster case and a cyclops date magnifier, topped off with the world's most iconic coronet. And so, armed with cash that I probably should have dropped in a retirement account, I began to whittle down the options, until I found my perfect Rolex.
Now, when making a choice as monumental as selecting your first luxury watch, you want to have all the boxes ticked. I wanted a complication of some kind, and something that would stand out in a sea of black Submariners and datejusts (there's that blooming ‘watch expert’ ego again). Where else could this mentality lead, but the pre-owned and vintage markets?
Enter the ‘Root-beer’ GMT-Master. The 16753 completely took my breath away in brief early encounters with the watch online. Somehow, relative to the ‘Pepsi’ and ‘Coke’ bezel variants, the ‘Root-beer’ exuded an inexplicable step-up for me. It had the complication, yes, but it also had 18k gold on the bezel and bracelet. 18k Gold! For around the same price, one would expect plain Jane steel from a retail Rolex! Most importantly, Rolex wasn’t making anything like it at the time (more on that later).
I have a small wrist by most standards. To such a degree in fact, that RedBar meetups usually involve a comment or two about my bracelet barely fitting another guy’s wrist when the clasp is open. This makes the smaller case size of the pre-’super case’ perfect for me, and most wrists in my opinion. You've probably got the idea: I pulled the trigger and never looked back.
When Rolex finally unveiled its updated ‘Root-beer’ in 2018, my feelings toward the 16753 only solidified further. The ‘super-case’ is a bit large, and the rose gold looks like polished steel from some angles. This is not to mention the black dial, and half black bezel. A ‘Root-beer’? I’m not so sure.
The advantages are obvious in comparison to the older reference (sapphire crystal, ceramic bezel, better movement, solid bracelet links, etc.), and the watch is by no means unattractive. Sometimes three pedals and a stick shift is simply more enjoyable than a dual clutch with paddles.
My GMT-Master is still beautiful despite the many scratches it now carries on the plastic crystal, and keeps time to a second or two per day, regardless of whatever abuse I’ve put it through. There’s that Rolex quality. Making the decision to buy a watch is deeply enhanced by considering what you really want from ownership, and researching meticulously. Of course I came to realize that other watches could have certainly checked all the boxes, but I am glad that my first, was the ‘Root-beer.’
Written by David Brown