“Pepsi” has been on the lips of Rolex enthusiasts – and watch lovers in general – since last month’s Swiss trade fair Baselworld 2018.
For “Pepsi” is the nickname of the latest US$14,000 Rolex GMT-Master II unveiled at the show – a timepiece known by this moniker by many people since its arrival in 1954 because of its bright red-and-blue bezel’s resemblance to the logo of the American soft drinks company.
The last time a new Rolex “Pepsi” timepiece appeared at Baselworld – with an 18ct white-gold case and a price tag of US$38,250 – was in 2014.
The timepiece’s Jubilee five-piece links bracelet design – which made its first appearance on Rolex watches in 1945 – is considered to look a bit outdated by many younger people.
However, it is expected that the new Pepsi will still be one of the most sought-after watches when it does eventually go on sale – if it is ever made available to the public through retail stores at all.
However, whether or not you are one of the eventual lucky owners or not, here are few things you should know about the iconic watch.
The first red-and-blue Rolex GMT Master was launched in 1954 with a bakelite bezel.
The timepiece, with the reference number 6542, later became known by the nickname “Pussy Galore”, after actress Honor Blackman’s character, who wears the watch throughout the 1964 James Bond film, Goldfinger, starring Sean Connery.
However, because of fears that the bakelite bezel was quite brittle, Rolex replaced it with a metal bezel in 1956 until 1959, when the second-generation GMT Master (reference 1675), was released.
One of the most sought-after vintage Rolex “Pepsi” models – and longest running reference number in the Swiss watchmaker’s catalogue, from 1959 to 1980 – the 1675 is renowned for its highly reliable calibre 1565 and 1575 movements.
It is also coveted because ageing has made the colouring of the bezel turn to light blue and pink, which gives the watch a truly vintage look.
The creamy colour of its hour markers, caused by ageing too, are considered the cream of the crop for many vintage timepiece enthusiasts.
It is no surprise that this is the watch that jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie, artist Pablo Picasso, the late revolutionaries Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, and many American astronauts chose to wear.
The third generation of the timepiece, with the reference number 16750, was introduced in 1981 and continued to be produced until 1988.
The look of the watch did not have much of a facelift, though; the changes were inside and involved its functionality and practicality.
The 3075 calibre allowed wearers to adjust the date independently of the hour hand for the first time. Also, the watch was made waterproof to a depth of 330 feet (100 metres) – double the depth of its predecessors.
The next Rolex “Pepsi” (reference 16700) came to life in 1988.
This followed the appearance of the first GMT-Master II “Fat Lady” aka “Sophia Loren” (reference 16760) in 1983.
The watch acquired the nickname “Sophia Loren”, after the voluptuous Italian actress, because of its thicker case and sweeping curves, and was made available only with a black and red bezel, which also earned it the nickname “Coke”, in contrast to “Pepsi”.
In 1989, Rolex introduced another “Pepsi” model, reference 16710, which had a thinner case and higher price tag.
Both the 16700 and 16710 versions continued being produced in parallel until 1999, when the 16700 ceased production.
The 16710 was succeeded by the most luxurious “Pepsi” version, reference 116719 BLRO, in 2007.
The 116719 BLRO “Pepsi” in 18ct white gold and a durable Cerachrom ceramic bezel is the most expensive Pepsi model.
Equipped with the 3186 calibre, one of the features that distinguishes it from its predecessors is its triplock crown.
It is claimed that this watch is able to withstand greater temperature variations and higher magnetic fields.