The Rolex GMT Master II “Pepsi” 126710 BLRO watch hands-on
The new Rolex GMT Master 2 has been called "the waiting list" - a title that indicates the months that you will have to wait to get your hands on one of these timepieces, unless you are willing to pay a speculative price that, today, has almost reached double the retail price. A phenomenon bigger than what happened two years ago when the steel-made Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona Steel and Cerachrom was launched and, more recently, with the release of the Rolex Sky-Dweller 2017 Steel and Gold. Something we expect to happen with the 2019 Rolex GMT Master 2 126710BLNR or Rolex Batman, just launched at Baselworld 2019. The long waiting list phenomenon has involved, for the very first time, also Tudor and the Tudor Black Bay GMT.
Is this an isolated case or sheer coincidence? It is never a coincidence, when the strategies come from Geneva and from Rolex (as a group) and Patek Philippe - the only difference lies in that the range and in the long waiting lists that see Rolex as the big winner, whereas Patek Philippe could only focus on the Nautilus, whose reference 5711 in steel retails at a price that is comparable to that of a gold Daytona, not to talk about the Patek Philippe Nautilus 5712/1A-001 or the Patek Philippe Nautilus 5726/1A-014. The logic behind this is always the same - the creation of a strong expectation that is slowly fueled drop by drop, a policy that inexorably leads to an unbalance between the supply and the demand and to market price increases.
The perfect Rolex strategy.
Before letting the new Rolex GMT Master II “Pepsi” 126710 BLRO speak for itself, let's take a look at the strategy of teasing this GMT Master 2 and to the launch presentation of a timepiece that Rolex's fans have been waiting for a while. As mentioned before, the strategy follows the one that was successfully implemented with the launch of the Rolex Sky-Dweller - the substantial difference lies in the fact that the GMT Master II can boast an incredible history if compared to the Sky-Dweller.
A few days ago I watched a video that you can access by also clicking here, where a former American soldier asked for an evaluation of his 1960 Rolex GMT Master and showcased it a fair in the US organized by Antiques Roadshow.
The man was moved when he found out the market value of his watch (he had bought two identical ones - one for his dad and one for himself), this story testifies, once again, the historical importance that a Rolex GMT Master has in its original version and how much the blue and red color could be linked to this timepiece. If you think that the wide-spreading of the Sky-Dweller was a successful operation (keep in mind that it is not the most sober and balanced Rolex timepiece, despite me liking it a lot), could you imagine what the launch of the steel version of one of the most loved and recognized sports watches, could lead to?
The Rolex GMT Master 2 Pepsi - Either you like it or not.
If you listen to the comments of the owners of the original version of the GMT Master 2 or of one of the historical references (i.e. those that existed before the arrival of the first modern version of the Pepsi timepiece with a Cerachrom bezel and gold case that was presented in 2014), it is clear that the new Rolex GMT Master II “Pepsi” 126710 BLRO caught the attention of quite a few millennials. On the other hand, those people who are 40 or older are much more into the pre-Cerachorm versions and into all references that go back in time to the original 1955 Rolex GMT Master 6542. In this evaluation, however, there is also a price issue as well as a heritage one.
Rolex conveyed the interest of the younger generations towards their new Rolex GMT Master II “Pepsi” 126710 BLRO or GMT Master 2 Pepsi rather than focus on the historical lovers of this brand. The impression is that the older generations are currently struggling to recognize the iconic status of this new reference, as they rather identify it as a brilliant operation and not a new product. In my opinion this reaction is also rooted in the Oystersteel Rolex watches' booming retail price, because the over forties can boast a yardstick that the younger generations do not have.
The second part of this strategy, considering that Rolex keeps positioning themselves higher and higher, was the simultaneous launch of the Tudor Black Bay GMT with its proportions and colors faithful to the first Rolex GMT Master, including the steel bracelet with rivets. In March, at Baselworld there was talk of nothing but the big cousin and the small cousin, some people were quite enthusiastic about that, some others slight less so, others were still very critical, but the evidence is that the Rolex Group once again caught the general public's attention and multiplied its audience by two. Today there are two in-house built GMT “Pepsi” timepieces on the market, both in the access range and in the most exclusive range within the market (the GMT Master 2).
The Jubilee bracelet and the evolution of the Rolex GMT Master II.
The Rolex GMT Master II “Pepsi” 126710 BLRO is the heir to the reference 1675 and not of the 6542 as claimed by Rolex (the Black Bay GMT is the heir of the 6542). The Rolex GMT Master II, for those of you, who did not know what historically marked the transition from the first version to the second version, introduced the separate adjustment of the reference time zone.
The Rolex GMT Master 6542 was also equipped with a Plexiglas disk with a scale and colors impressed on the back side and this is one of the features that make the first Rolex GMT Master so sought-after.
From 1959 to 2014 - the year, when the Cerachrom bezel appeared on the Pepsi - the two-color insert was made of aluminum and dyed using a classic anodizing process - the same used by all the competitors too. Following a process common to the Sky-Dweller and to other collections also (ditto for the Rolex Daytona and the Rolex Submariner), the gold version paved the way for the steel version.
With the launch of the Rolex GMT Master II “Pepsi” 126710 BLRO there was an almost silent change on the Rolex GMT Master II 116719 in white gold too that earned itself a dull blue dial with a deep tone to replace the black dial - a move expected by the finest connoisseurs of Rolex, whose policy is to never sport the same dial on the steel and gold version.
Curiously, the Jubilee bracelet on the GMT Master 2 can not be replaced by the Oyster bracelet and this is a huge limitation that is understandable from the point of view of Rolex for what I have just written above, but less so for those who would buy a Rolex GMT Master II “Pepsi” 126710 BLRO, because they want to replace the bracelet (this is an option that, at that retail price, you should be able to offer to your customers). Second curiosity - the white gold version is equipped with the 3186 caliber, while the new Rolex GMT Master II “Pepsi” 126710 BLRO is equipped with the most advanced Rolex 3285 caliber. Phase-in and phase-out logic and also stock of calibers to deplete could be behind this move? Probably so, or perhaps Rolex wanted to give a fresh content to their new Rolex GMT Master II “Pepsi” 126710 BLRO.
The case and the bracelet on the new Rolex GMT Master 2 Pepsi.
The real gem is the coupling of the Cerachrom bezel with its wide, square font and the Jubilee bracelet. It is a mix that accentuates even more the presence of the case and the dial.
The case still measures 40mm in diameter, but it seems more prominent, because the Jubilee bracelet is visually lighter than the Oyster bracelet and it gives the Rolex GMT Master II “Pepsi” 126710 BLRO a very light vintage touch. The bracelet sits perfectly on the wrist, but this is not news when it comes to Rolex - it is one of their strengths and an undeniable advantage over all their competitors (Patek and Nautilus excluded, and possibly Audemars Piguet).
The Cerachrom Pepsi insert was a challenge in itself for Rolex that took years to make perfect. The process involves a first layer of blue and a second layer of red (night and day, respectively) and the result is of great impact with a clear dividing line between the two colors and a pleasant and light mix of colors at the intersection (you can spot some very light blue shades on the red when you look at it in the back-light). I still have to get used to the Jubilee bracelet - I'm not convinced it's superior to the Oyster bracelet. I think it is a first step that Rolex are taking towards a further segmentation between models in Oystersteel and gold models. It is a sensation and we will discover in the future if it could be confirmed.
The real deal is the Rolex 3285 caliber.
The real big news on which no-one has focused yet, is the introduction of the 3285 caliber within the new Rolex GMT Master II, the Rolex GMT Master II “Pepsi” 126710 BLRO and two additional references - the Rolex GMT Master II 126715CHNR in Everose and the Rolex GMT Master II 126711CHNR in Rolesor. All the other Rolex GMT Master II watches present within the catalog maintain their 3186 movement, including the white gold version.
It is not a negligible difference, although I expect that Rolex will gradually replace the "old" 3186 caliber with the new 3285 caliber. Horological excellence has always been part of the DNA of Rolex since its foundation. Not only does the new caliber feature superior finishes, but it is more efficient also and it sports a higher power reserve level that has increased by 46% (from 48 hours to 70 hours) - a huge improvement in absolute and relative terms, considering that this watch is a GMT Master 2. Other changes, among those claimed by Rolex that applied for 10 new patents on this caliber, are the Chronergy escapement and the efficiency refinement of the mechanics geared towards an improvement in precision and reliability.
Price and availability of the Rolex GMT Master II "Pepsi" 126710 BLRO.
The price of the Rolex GMT Master II "Pepsi" 126710 BLRO is 8.900 euro, but never as in this case it is correct to talk about "suggested price". You have two options: apply for a long waiting list or pay twice as much from an online retailer. In general the Rolex GMT Master II "Pepsi" 126710 BLRO is a beautiful watch and is destined to become an object of desire for at least the next two years and much will depend on how many timepieces will Rolex decide to produce.
A price that today exceeds that of the Rolesor version, the Rolex GMT Master II 126711CHNR Rolesor "Root beer" which is in my opinion even more beautiful and destined to become the new Pepsi with its black and brown bezel.
(Photo credit: Horbiter®'s proprietary photo-shooting by Peter Tung)
Gaetano C @Horbiter®