When Pepsi is first brought into a conversation, typically it's the infamous carbonated soft drink by PepsiCo. that comes to mind. Normally, a Rolex watch doesn't come to mind unless one happens to be an enthusiast of the brand's lineup of timepieces. Starting in 1955, the Rolex GMT-Master introduced a blue and red bezel design that shared the exact same color characteristics as the highly recognizable Pepsi Cola pop bottles. As a result, the nickname "Pepsi" has been consistently associated with the Rolex GMT-Master series of watches throughout the course of time. Even today, as the 2021 release of Rolex's GMT-Master II 126710BLRO with Oyster bracelet comes out, it still maintains the color characteristics and nickname of Pepsi.
GMT-Master's Pepsi personality began in 1955 when Rolex brought forth a bezel where the top half featured blue and the bottom half featured red. From 1955 until 1959, the first generation of the Rolex GMT-Master watches is technically indexed as GMT-Master 6942. This lineup had a 38-millimeter stainless steel case and had caliber ratings of 1036, 1065, and 1066. They were originally designed specifically for pilots of the Pan American airline by offering two different time zone readings at once. In addition to the standard 12-hour hand on the dial, the GMT-Master featured a 24-hour hand in conjunction with the rotating 24-hour bezel of another time zone. This method of time tracking is called Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Rolex used the acronym of GMT to bring forth the GMT-Master, capitalizing on a marketing strategy that made this breed of timepieces so popular. Add the Pepsi colors into the design, and this adds even more appeal, despite the fact it wasn't the soda-making company that originally came to mind. The intent behind the color scheme was to make it easier for the pilots to glance at the watch and differentiate the difference between the two different time zones set in the dial. However, the original lineup of these watches used a material known as Bakelite, which cracked too easily and proved to be a potentially radioactive hazard. Rolex was quick to replace the material with the same aluminum used by PepsiCo, which now made the resemblance of the GMT-Master 6942 watch resemble the label of the cola product even more so than using the Bakelite material. Nowadays, finding the original lineup of these vintage watches is extremely difficult to do as it's one of the most collected Rolex watches on the market.
The second generation of the Rolex's GMT-Master series of watches began in 1959 with aluminum replacing Bakelite as the material of choice for this lineup of watches. The stainless steel case also increased in size from its previous 38-millimeters to 40-millimeters. It also came with new crown guards. The Aluminum Pepsi bezel continued, which was later followed by an all-black version. Until 1966, Rolex continued using gilt-gloss dials, which were then replaced with matte black dials, and as of 1964, the radium lume was replaced with tritium. The caliber for this lineup of watches was either 1565 or 1575. This breed of watches was classified by Rolex as the GMT-Master 1675. Unfortunately for this era of Rolex Pepsi watches, bezel discoloration wasn't uncommon as both the blue and the red would fade too much lighter pigments that no longer had any resemblance to the popular soda label.
From 1980 until 1988, the Rolex GMT-Master 16750 would become the third generation of Pepsi-nicknamed watches to hit the market. The case size remained unchanged at 40-millimeters, as well as the aluminum material that featured the blue top half and red bottom half colors that matched the popular cola product. There was an option between matte dials and glossy dials, and it maintained the tritium lume. The caliber is now 3075 with this new lineup from the Rolex GMT-Master series. The quickset date function with this model has the allowance for the date to be set independent of the hour hand, which is a highly practical feature for any watch. This hacking feature was standard among all 16750 models, as well as the 1675 models. The earliest versions of the Rolex GMT-Master 16750 retained the all-black matte that began with the GMT-Master 1675 series, but quickly switched back to glossy dials with white gold surrounds for the hour markers. During this time frame, Rolex offered the option to go with the Pepsi-color scheme for the bezel, or all-black.
This generation of Rolex Pepsi watches is the GMT-Master 16700. Its key features include the 40-millimeter stainless steel case, the aluminum Pepsi-colored bezel or all-black, sapphire crystal, glossy dial, tritium or Luminova lume, and a 3175 caliber. The lineup of GMT-Master 16700 watches featuring the tritium lume continued until 1997, which was then replaced with Luminova. While Rolex had already introduced the GMT-Master II in 1982, the less expensive alternative, GMT-Master 16700 was still offered until 1989. It came exclusively in stainless steel and came with the bezel color options between Pepsi's infamous red and blue, or all-black. The replacement of sapphire crystal over the acrylic is what makes the 16700 series stand out from the previous generations of the GMT-Master series, as well as the caliber 3175 movements. This would be the final production line of Rolex's GMT-Master line as they dropped it entirely in favor of the GMT-Master II.
The second generation of Rolex's GMT-Master II "Pepsi" series is the 16710 model. The stainless steel case remained at 40 millimeters in size, as well as the glossy dials, sapphire crystal, and bezel coloring choices between the aluminum Pepsi or the all-black. A new bezel color option was also introduced into this lineup that matched the coloring scheme of Pepsi's top competitor, Coca-Cola. There were also a total of three different lumes involved in the production of this breed of watches, namely tritium, Luminova, and Super-Luminova. The caliber movement was either 3185 or 3186. Throughout the GMT-Master II's extensive run with the 16710 model, there were numerous modifications made, including the lume upgrading process that went from tritium to Luminova, and finally to Super-Luminova. As of the year 2000, the inclusion of bracelets with solid end-links would ultimately lead to the end of visible lug holes on the case as of 2003. The final year of the GMT-Master II 16710 series also witnessed the switch of the caliber movement from 3185 to 3186. 2007 also marked the final year Rolex would have the GMT-Master II feature the Pepsi-aluminum bezel in its lineup.
Rolex GMT-Master II introduces 116719BLRO with a white gold 40-millimeter case, plus a now Cechachrom Pepsi bezel. The lume is now Chromalight and the bracelet is Oyster. The caliber movement is still 3186, though. After a seven-year absence, the Pepsi-colored bezel returns to the Rolex lineup, via the 116719 series. Unlike all the previous Pepsi-style Rolex watches that were made with stainless steel, the 18-karat white gold caused a significant increase in the price tag to own this distinctive style of watch. While the 40-millimeter case is still the same size, the fatter lugs, wider bezel, and thicker profile wear larger on the wrist. All this, plus a number of other improvements technology allowed, adds justification to the price tag for this new breed of Rolex Pepsi watches.
2018 - Present
Nowadays, Rolex offers the GMT-Master II 126710BLRO "Pepsi" watch with the following features;
- Oystersteel 40-millimeter case
- Cherachom Pepsi bezel
- Chromalight lume
- Jubilee or Oyster bracelet
- Caliber 3285
2018 marks the return of a steel Pepsi GMT-Master watch in the form of reference number 126710BLRO, but now with an increased power reserve of seventy hours. The steel Jubilee bracelet also makes its introduction as the more stylish stainless steel option as opposed to the sportier Oyster bracelet.
2018 - Present
Another watch Rolex GMT-Master II series has out as a Pepsi watch is the 126719BLRO, which still features the 18-karat white gold 40-millimeter case, the Cecharom Pepsi bezel, Chromalight lume, Oyster bracelet, and caliber movement 3285. However, this lineup has a blue or meteorite dial, as well as a sporty Oyster bracelet. Although the caliber is 3285, it's actually a new generation of it, which is thinner and more refined than its predecessor. In 2019, Rolex offered the meteorite dial, which adds a hint of mythical elegance to an already highly sought-after lineup of Rolex watches.
Rolex and Pepsi
Both companies are world-famous for their respective brands. While Rolex serves as a status symbol among the most discerning watch enthusiasts, Pepsi lives up to one of their most memorable commercial campaigns that reflected upon the advancement of generations. Whether separately or together, collectors who seem to appreciate what Pepsi and Rolex have brought forth as cultural influencers, continue to pay attention to what is about to appear next on the consumer market.
Written by Lily Wordsmith
Read more posts by Lily Wordsmith