Like many of Rolex’s famous nicknamed timepieces, the Rolex Pepsi has become a highly sought-after watch for fans of the luxury brand’s repertoire. Though several Rolex watches enjoy places of prestige amongst the various colour and design combinations that have gone into the GMT-Master lines, the “Pepsi” colour scheme is especially noteworthy.
Read on to find out more about the history behind the red-and-blue bezel that came to define the gold standard in luxury watches.
What is a Rolex Pepsi?
In the world of Rolex watches, the Pepsi name can be attributed to several entries to the GMT-Master series that sport a two-tone red and blue bezel.
The Pepsi is part of Rolex’s GMT-Master line, which debuted in the mid-1950s as the result of a direct request from Pan American Airlines. They approached Rolex with the idea of a watch that could help their pilots by displaying two different time zones at once, something that would have been trickier to keep track of before the dawn of commercial internet. This would also help pilots manage the effects of jet lag.
Of all GMT-Master watches, the Pepsi subgroup has perhaps the most significant history tied to the very invention of the series itself. The very first GMT-Master watch bore the model number 6542, and featured a red and blue bakelite bezel. This means that not only was it the first Pepsi GMT-Master, but also that the first Rolex GMT-Master was in fact a Pepsi.
Due to this early start for the red and blue bezel, there have been numerous references that fall under the Pepsi name:
The very first GMT-Master, this watch debuted the dual-colour approach to a bezel that could help differentiate between two time zones in one watch. This, in fact, is the basis of the GMT-Master name, GMT referring to Greenwich Mean Time. As well as being a Pepsi, this watch also earned the nickname ‘Pussy Galore’, in reference to the James Bond cinematic character of the same name, who wore the watch in the 1964 film Goldfinger.
For the first two years of this watch’s existence, it used a Bakelite bezel insert that proved itself troublesome due to a tendency to crack. For this reason, the model’s inserts were swapped to aluminium in 1956, gaining greater durability but losing their glowing radium numerals. This makes the true original Pepsi all the rarer and more sought-after.
Starting in 1959, the second generation of the GMT-Master launched with the reference 1675, another Rolex Pepsi featuring a red and blue bezel. This time, the inserts were aluminium from the get-go rather than Bakelite, meaning reference 1675 watches enjoy more uniform durability. This iteration of the GMT-Master featured crown guards for an extra protective element, and came in a choice of either stainless steel or 18ct yellow gold for an extra touch of extravagance. However, the yellow gold version sported a brown bezel insert rather than red and blue, making this version (strictly speaking) not a Pepsi.
The 1675 was produced right up until 1980 before it was discontinued, making it one of the longest-running models ever created by Rolex. This long production time meant that several variations occurred whilst the watch was in active manufacture, such as changing from radium to tritium for choice of lume and a change of movement from caliber 1565 to caliber 1575.
Picking up where the 1675 left off in 1980, reference 16750 ran for eight years and presented the next step for Pepsi GMT-Masters. This reference possessed a caliber 3075 movement with a quickset date, meaning the date displayed on the watch no longer relied on the progression of the hour hand. It also featured greatly enhanced water resistance and the ‘hacking’ feature as standard, meaning the second hand stops when the crown is pulled out.
Stainless steel was the only material offering for this reference, with a choice of Pepsi bezel or an all-black option.
Following on from its predecessor, the 16700 ran for roughly eleven years from 1988 to 1999. Signifying another momentous occasion for the Rolex Pepsi tribe, this was the very last GMT-Master watch created by Rolex before the entire line was shelved to make way for the GMT-Master II series. The first series of Rolex’s iconic pilot-friendly timepiece began and ended with Pepsi watches, a fact that has likely bolstered the popularity of the red-and-blue watches ever since.
Reference 16700 was again offered in a choice of Pepsi or all-black bezel and was made exclusively in stainless steel. It utilised a caliber 3175 movement and a sapphire crystal over acrylic, making it a fitting final bridge between the GMT-Master and its replacement series for those looking for a more affordable option.
This was the Pepsi colour scheme’s first entry in the GMT-Master II series, and was in production from 1989 to 2007. This made it an option for a Rolex Pepsi that ran partially concurrent to the 16700, thus the latter’s existence as a more affordable option for a similar watch.
The 16710 experienced numerous updates during its production run, including a change of lume from tritium to Luminova and Super-Luminova material, as well as removal of visible lug holes and a change of movement from caliber 3185 to caliber 3186 in the last two years of production. Finally, this would be the last watch to have an aluminium Pepsi bezel.
This return of the Pepsi bezel in 2014 came with significant changes from its predecessor. It featured a white gold case as standard and its bezel was created from Rolex’s special Cerachrom ceramic material. This version of the Pepsi was the second Rolex watch to possess a two-tone Cerachrom bezel after the breakthrough debuted on a 2013 ‘Batman’ model.
The white gold body means this entry is pricier than previous, stainless steel iterations, and it’s slightly larger profile may not wear so comfortably when compared to previous models. However, with Rolex’s Chromalight lume, caliber 3186 movement, and Parachrom Bleu hairspring – which his highly resistant to magnetic fields, temperature changes, and shock – this model is one highly specialised timepiece.
The latest entries to the Rolex Pepsi references both entered production in 2018. Both feature a new-gen caliber 3285 automatic movement. While the 126710 sports an Oystersteel body, the 126719 is constructed from white gold.
Though these new versions of the Pepsi were generally welcomed, the 126710BLRO highlighted a debate amongst Rolex fans concerning the use of Jubilee bracelets versus Oyster bracelets. The white gold model was released on the Oyster bracelet to help differentiate it from the Oystersteel version, but this meant that some collectors couldn’t get their desired choice on the bracelet they would have preferred. However, in 2021, Rolex introduced the option for Oyster bracelets on the 126710.
While both mechanically identical, the white gold version also released with a deep blue dial and later a meteorite dial, making it arguably the better choice as a fashion accessory.
Why is it called a Rolex Pepsi?
The name comes from the contrasting red and blue colours of the watch’s bezel and their likeness to the same hues of the classic Pepsi logo. Like other bezel colour-based nicknames for Rolex watches, this helps to quickly distinguish between certain GMT-Master models without remembering (sometimes long and complex) model numbers.
Like with all nicknamed Rolex watches – like the Batman and the Root Beet – Pepsi is a moniker that is purely a fan creation, and has never been officially embraced by Rolex itself. The nicknames help to create a kind of common language between collectors and enthusiasts. For individuals seeking a watch based on its colour scheme, they need not have any specialist knowledge – just remember ‘Pepsi’, for instance.
However, as the Pepsi nickname can cover any one of several different model numbers, it helps to research a little more closely to ensure the specific design and colour combination is one you can home in on.
Who wears a Rolex Pepsi?
Rolex watches are frequently spotted on the wrists of the rich and famous, and it should come as no surprise that the Pepsi references are no exception to this popularity. Famous names associated with an appreciation for a Rolex GMT Pepsi include:
The legendary actor notably wore a Rolex GMT-Master Pepsi reference 1675 during his role as private investigator Thomas Magnum, on the show Magnum P.I. Even after the show had finished, Selleck could still be spotted wearing the watch from time to time – likely a lasting impression from enjoying the classic timepiece.
Most commonly known for his tenure as sophisticated secret agent James Bond, Daniel Craig sports a later iteration of the Pepsi. His GMT-Master II reference 16710 is notable for being the last GMT-Master II model to use an aluminium insert, before Rolex replaced them with their proprietary Cerachrom material.
Famous for his collection of luxury watches, John Mayer would be remiss not to include Rolex timepieces in his portfolio. The musician wears a Rolex reference 116719, a standout choice amongst Pepsi watches for a number of reasons.
The 116719 is crafted from 18k white gold rather than stainless steel, and features a Cerachrom bezel in lieu of aluminium. Along with the inclusion of the Triplock system for triple waterproofness, the 116719 is far more aligned with Rolex’s modern standards for watch design.
Other big names in Hollywood have been spotted sporting GMT-Master Pepsis including TV personality Ellen Degeneres and silver screen actor Sylvester Stallone, making the Rolex GMT Pepsi an overall popular choice amongst influential individuals.
Why is the Rolex Pepsi so popular?
Fans of the Pepsi will each have their own reasons for favouring the watch. Having said that, there are some common truths for Rolex GMT-Master watches that typically spell out their popularity as the watch of choice for so many.
One factor in the Pepsi’s popularity is likely the length of time that the red and blue bezel has been gracing GMT-Master watches, and the amount of significant models there have been with this distinct colour scheme.
The Pepsi has symbolised several firsts and near-firsts, as well as being the swan song of the original GMT-Master watch line. The significance of owning a Rolex Pepsi coupled with its versatile, inoffensive colour scheme makes it quite the trophy for Rolex collectors.
Is a Rolex Pepsi waterproof?
The Rolex Pepsi has always been waterproof to various degrees, which have of course improved over time as Rolex developed its technology and design practices.
The original GMT-Master, and by extension the original Pepsi, was waterproof to a maximum of 50 metres. This depth has at least doubled thanks to advancements such as the Triplock system, which contains three sealed zones to protect the watch from high water pressure.
How much does a Rolex Pepsi cost?
The price range of a Pepsi can be incredibly wide, and the cost depends on which specific reference you’re looking at.
Depending on overall condition, a GMT-Master ref. 1675 can cost around the £12,000–£13,000 mark, a relatively low price point for a Rolex GMT-Master watch. On the other end of the scale, a GMT-Master II ref. 126719BLRO with the meteorite dial hovers around the £75,000–£80,000 mark.
If you’re hunting for a Rolex Pepsi, it’s vital to understand your ideal model reference and gain a solid idea of competitive watch prices.
Is a Rolex Pepsi a good investment?
Undoubtedly. Pepsi watches generally bear good value and the aesthetic consistency between various models means that most Pepsi watches will look similar enough at a glance. Settling for one model over another shouldn’t feel like too much of a compromise if the colour scheme is what draws you to the Rolex Pepsi.
Is the Rolex Pepsi discontinued?
All except for the latest models – refs. 126710BLRO and 126719BLRO – have been discontinued. Having released in 2018, it’s hard to say how much longer they’ll be in production for.
Find a Rolex Pepsi with Cheshire Chrono Solutions
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