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Stuff we like: The Rolex 'Pepsi' GMT Master-II

Stuff we like: The Rolex 'Pepsi' GMT Master-II

Following the recent announcement at Baselworld 2018 of a fresh edition of this popular and distinctive watch model, we take a closer look at its storied sixty-year history.

The original 1954 release of the GMT Master-II was developed in partnership with Pan American Airlines, and geared towards the newly-emerging 'jet-set' of society; people who were regular fliers and thus desired a timepiece that allowed them to keep track of two timezones at once. It bore the now-iconic two-tone bezel in red and blue, each half of the 24-hour scale respectively representing the 12 hours of day and night.

The signature coloured elements of these bezels were initially crafted in what was then a new, state of the art material: Bakelite. Unfortunately, it soon became apparent that this plastic was prone to swelling and developing cracks when exposed to moisture; it was subsequently replaced with a more durable aluminium variant when the watch was revised in 1959.

In time, as with many of the other visually-distinctive Rolex models, an affectionate nickname took hold within the enthusiast community, and the watch came to be known as the 'Pepsi' after the similarity to the popular cola's blue & red branding.

An extremely rare variant was presented to Pan Am executives in the late 1950s (pictured) and is fitted with a white dial rather than the conventional black; only 200 examples are said to have been manufactured, making it an exceedingly desirable collector's piece, particularly with an intact Bakelite bezel..

While a white-gold model bearing the coveted two-tone bezel has been available since 2014, this new watch marks the first time a more affordable stainless steel Pepsi has been in production since the discontinuation of the 16710 model in 2007.

The manufacture of two-tone ceramic insets presented technical challenges at the time that commanded a premium price-point, hence it being limited for a number of years to the white-gold model. In addition to this, the designers of the 116710 variant opted to forego the ceramic method entirely and recreate the Pepsi look with inset blue and red sapphires.

The new 126710BLRO Pepsi announced at Baselworld 2018 comes equipped with the next-generation 3285-calibre automatic movement, which contains the signature Chronergy escapement that provides both exceptional environmental resilience and power efficiency, offering up around 70 hours of reserve power. The watch also comes fitted with a Jubilee stainless steel bracelet.
As has been the case with the black-and-blue 'Batman' and even the solid-green 'Hulk' variants, demand is expected to outstrip supply on this highly-anticipated and desirable new GMT Master-II.

Nevertheless, the enthusiasm for this classic design's revival among watch enthusiasts has been palpable, and we at WatchObsession are very much looking forward to seeing an example for ourselves soon! In the meantime, to whet your appetite we recommend watching the detailed hands-on from aBlogtoWatch, which we've embedded below. Enjoy!