Named for its distinctive colour scheme, the Rolex Root Beer has not enjoyed as much popularity as other Rolex models despite being a favourite of legendary actor Clint Eastwood, and even being visible in several of his movies.
A Root Beer is nevertheless a valuable find for the right investor, and there are several models to look for if the earthy colours are the main appeal of such a purchase.
What is the Rolex Root Beer?
The Root Beer nickname is used to refer to several Rolex models, particularly falling within the GMT-Master series. The nickname isn’t an official designation by Rolex themselves, and came about from fans who use it to identify watches with the colour schemes featuring the gold, brown, and tan colour combinations. It is also sometimes called the Clint Eastwood, due to the aforementioned favouritism by the actor himself, and Tiger Eye for the hue of the dial and its similarity to that of the gemstone.
Some claim that the only Root Beer is the original, others are happy to spread the name across the group of watches with similar colour schemes. Root Beers tend to feature a brown dial and a bezel using brown, beige, and gold colouring. The colours draw a comparison to the hues of the popular American soft drink of the same name, giving it a warm yet classic look.
The first Rolex watch to receive the Root Beer name was a variation of the GMT-Master that featured a brown dial and gold and brown bezel. For those being strict with the Root Beer name, this is ‘the’ Rolex Root Beer. There was also a model with a black dial, and though this can be seen as discordant with the Root Beer colour scheme, most people allow this black-dialled model to keep the name alongside its brown-dialled sibling.
It featured an automatic movement, 48-hour power reserve, and a 1570 calibre. The gold and steel bracelet and plexiglass crystal gives it a simple appearance enhanced by its unique colouring.
The original Root Beer pairs very well with a leather wrist strap due to its colours, and it coordinates with outfits that the Rolex Batman or Pepsi may not due to their use of brighter primary colours. Alongside the fact that Rolex have introduced very few watches with brown bezels, the watch is a niche choice for those who like to match their luxury watches with their fashion choices.
This first Root Beer under reference 1675/3 also marked the first two-tone GMT-Master, using steel and gold as the basis of its aesthetic appeal. This broke the trend of pure yellow gold or stainless steel for the first time within the GMT-Master series.
For a long time, this watch was the only Rolex Root Beer, and its discontinuation spelled the end of production for watches in this colour scheme until 2018. This is in part why some collectors and enthusiasts feel that this is the only model deserving of the moniker.
Until the 2018 revival, the Root Beer existed under several reference numbers with slight variations:
- 1675/3: The first and original Root Beet, featuring the iconic colours that earned it the nickname. It features a 40mm Oyster case made from stainless steel, and a crown and bezel made from 18-karat gold. It is also distinguished by its so-called ‘nipple’ dial, named for the small circle indices.
- 16753: This model was produced from the late 70s through to the late 80s, and appearance-wise it’s identical to its predecessor. The main changes are internal, as it’s powered by a calibre 3075 as opposed to the 1570 that powers the 1675/3. Aesthetically, one small change was that of moving from an embossed Rolex crown logo to a printed one.
- 16713: Produced from the late 80s until 2007, this GMT-Master II model is powered by a calibre 3186 and sports a sapphire crystal instead of the plexiglass of the previous models. This was also the last Root Beer model to feature the ‘nipple dial’, opting for markers with yellow gold surrounds instead.
2018 saw the release of two new models that would have carried particular appeal for fans of the Root Beer and its distinctive colour scheme. Both of these watches used the 18ct rose gold that Rolex dubs ‘Everose Gold’, with its pure gold, copper, and platinum mixture that gives it its long-lasting lustre.
This also marked the first time Everose Gold was used in the GMT-Master II range, making the return of the Root Beer even more of a momentous occasion for Rolex collectors. However, this use of rose gold replaces the use of yellow gold seen in the original. Additionally, the dial is black with no available brown option, and the bezel uses a two-colour black and brown combination that is far more muted than the brown of the original Root Beer.
The 2018 models inspired by the Root Beer – the 126711CHNR and 126715CHNR – are far enough from the original aesthetics that some may be disappointed in them as alternative options, but the lack of Rolex watches with brown bezels close that gap somewhat for collectors.
When was the first Rolex Root Beer released?
The original Root Beer released in the early 70s, roughly two decades after the release of the first GMT-Master in 1954. The first GMT watch sported red and blue colours on its bezel, inspired by its collaboration with PanAm Airways who made the request for a watch that could tell the time from two different time zones.
In the pre-internet age, such a timepiece was invaluable to people like pilots and air crew who were constantly moving between countries.
The release window of the Root Beer is significant as the 1970s to early 1980s was a turbulent time for watchmakers due to the quartz crisis, which saw new electronic technology seemingly threatening the position of Swiss watchmakers who, like Rolex, were holdouts of mechanical movements.
Brands like Seiko and Casio began to reap huge chunks of global watch production, and other traditional manufacturers were going under despite years of established business. Despite the threats to mechanical watchmaking, Rolex were able to weather the storm and the Root Beer remains a beloved collector’s item to this day.
The watch was discontinued in 1983, the same year that Rolex revealed the GMT-Master II and the changes that came with the evolution of their watch design. This marked the end of the original Root Beer watches and, for some, the end of the Root Beer models full stop.
How much does a Rolex Root Beer cost?
That depends on the model you’re looking to purchase.
The original Root Beer 1675/3 can vary in price from around £15,000 up to around £25,000. Prices vary dependent on condition, additional accessories or warranty cards, and the pricing practices of the vendor themselves.
Due to the minimal differences between the 1675/3 and the 16753 – or perhaps because the differences aren’t picked up or valued by independent vendors – the prices for these models are very similar and just as variable.
Prices for the 16713 typically range from around £10,000 to around £18,000.
It should be noted that these models feature aluminium bezels, which are subject to scratching that can affect the value and price of the watches as they exchange hands over the years.
The GMT-Master II 126711CHNR features the ceramic material bezels, dubbed Cerachrom by Rolex, which is much tougher and preserves the appearance of the watches much more effectively. Prices for this model range quite consistently between £22,000 and £28,000.
It’s best to research average prices when looking to purchase a Rolex Root Beer to ensure you have a realistic range in mind when shopping around. Although Root Beers are considered good investments that hold their value, private sellers always have the opportunity to try their luck at higher profits, particularly when supply does not meet demand (as if often the case with popular Rolex models).
How long is the waiting list for a GTM-Master II Root Beer?
If you’re hunting for an original Rolex Root Beer, then good news: you don’t have to wait.
Existing second hand markets and specialists who can help source a luxury watch mean than an original Root Beer model can be in your hands without an extended wait.
Unfortunately, the 2018-onwards Rolex Root Beer is a GMT-Master II, which can feature a substantial waitlist for hopeful buyers. GMT-Master II watches are notorious for longer waitlists, and though some buyers may not face as long a wait as others, brand-new purchases will inevitably take some patience.
For brand-new purchases, a good relationship with your seller may help your overall wait, but this cannot always be relied upon. Waitlists for a GMT-Master II Root Beer can range from several months to two years, depending on competing demand.
More recently, pandemic-induced frustrations to supply chains around the world saw Rolex watches put into the same boat as many other brands and industries. For a product wherein sales are already subject to long wait times, recovery may take a while depending on the country you’re based in and how much suppliers are able to catch up with their demands.
The pandemic cannot entirely be blamed, as a rising demand for Rolex watches which predated the pandemic itself saw buyers competing over stock updates and selling the watches on, if they don’t aim to keep for themselves.
Is the Rolex Root Beer discontinued?
The original Root Beer models are long discontinued. The condition of the watches themselves can vary quite significantly, as a Root Beer could have belonged to a pilot who bought it in the 1970s, or it could have been sat unused in a collector’s cabinet for the past few decades.
The current GMT-Master II Root Beer models are still in production at Rolex’s manufacturing facilities, and so they can be bought in brand-new condition (albeit after waiting out the waitlist). Independent sellers are also an option for buyers who don’t want to play the waiting list game, as many people using online selling platforms look to buy Rolex watches with the intention to flip them.
The original model being discontinued might disappoint some, but for collectors this just makes the idea of adding one to their portfolio all the sweeter.
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