Sunday Morning Showdown: Rolex GMT Master II Pepsi Or Root Beer This week, it's Pepsi Vs Root Beer — what's your flavor? by Rob Nudds May 03, 2020 MIN READSunday Morning Showdown: Rolex GMT Master II Pepsi Or Root Beer
In this Sunday morning column, two of our writers go head-to-head in an epic showdown for the ages. Strong opinions and hysterical hyperbole are welcome (so feel free to join in with the fun in the comments section below). And don’t forget to let us know which watches you’d like to see torn to shreds/effusively exalted next week. We’ll try and feature as many of our readers’ choices as we can. This week we ask you to choose your flavor: Pepsi or root beer?
Last week’s double-header was brutal. I need a nice sit down a long, cold soda. But which beverage would I choose? Don’t worry. We’ll get to that. But before we do, let’s address the results of our Lange extravaganza…
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Odysseus won over the Fratelli. I would be lying if I said I felt confident that it would, however. Rarely has there been such a controversial watch in recent memory. I guess it has the anticipation surrounding its release to thank for that…
Unfortunately, “my” beloved honey gold Decimal Strike was outpaced the brand new Minute Repeater. It’s hard to say how close this race was (as there’s nothing to say that the two watches chosen don’t occupy your one and two all-time slots) but in a straight-up head-to-head the warm honey hue and marginally more “accessible” (haha) failed to inspire the Fratelli.
This week we’re adding another wrinkle to everyone’s favorite Sunday morning column. Mike and I are both in love with the Rolex GMT Master II. But one of us wants the cool black and brown of Root Beer, while the other hankers for the refreshing red and blue of Pepsi. Who’s coming out on top? You decide…
Look, if you’re going to buy only one GMT Master II, Pepsi is the only choice. The seemingly simple decision in 1954 to bring together the colors of red and blue created a legendary look. In fact, we’ve only been without a steel Pepsi in the lineup for a few short years while Rolex decided to offer us the embarrassing circus clown of an alternative in the so-called Batman. Thankfully, 2018 saw the return of a steel variant (ref 126710BLRO) and Rolex did the surprisingly correct thing by putting the watch on a Jubilee.
That’s the Rolex way.
When you think about Rolex, the brand uses the same damn case design on everything they sell aside from the Cellini line. Add a bezel, subtract a bezel. Change the metal or choose between one of two bracelets. That’s the Rolex way. It’s so efficient and perfectly boring that it works. Oh, and it works better than anyone else’s plan this side of Apple. The GMT Master II with Pepsi bezel brings in the bare minimum of pop to what looks an awful lot like a Submariner and, WHAM, you have a brand new watch. More than that, though, you have an icon that almost begs to be added to a collection that already houses something like a Sub. Madness!
I’ve been tough on Rolex due to its committed use of the blocky Maxi case and my criticism remains on the Pepsi. However, there’s just something about that color combo, when combined with the silky smooth Jubilee that greatly improves the looks. Some decry the lack of a sporty Oyster option, especially when that’s the only choice on the dressier Root Beer. Still, it adds a necessary touch of class to this piece and differentiates it from the former white gold Pepsi model with black dial.
I happen to own a few different Pepsi GMT’s including a 1675, 16750, and 16710. I like them all, but what I like best is that they feature an aluminum insert that ages over time. It’s one of the most endearing features of the GMT and the fading drives collectors crazy. Oddly, it didn’t drive them crazy until about 4 years ago when increasing Sub prices caused buyers to look at something different. But since that time, the Rolex with the colorful bezel has been a market leader. And even though the current watch has a ceramic bezel that should never age, I think that the popularity of the vintage pieces has only added fuel to the fire of the 126710. That brings me to the rub.
I’ve said it before, but I get a lot of requests from friends and colleagues to help them find watches. The newest GMT Pepsi outpaces all other requests combined. My sad response every time is that I cannot help in finding one at retail. To be frank, that sucks. I wish nothing but success for all after this virus exits stage left. However, I do hope that some humble pie is served alongside a nice glass of Pepsi to all involved with running the prices up on these to ludicrous levels. These are great watches that are wonderfully made and they deserve to get back onto the wrists of those who will wear them daily.
…they also show us what can occur when Rolex management leaves for a skiing holiday.
Now, before I turn things over to Birch Beer Bobby, I’ll comment on the sarsaparilla side of things. I happen to love the Root Beer GMT and am on record for owning the vintage model shown below along with a brown-hued all gold model. They’re amazing watches. I think they also show us what can occur when Rolex management leaves for a skiing holiday. I say this because these are fairly daring. Perhaps the inmates were running the asylum?
All that being said, the Root Beer is, at best, an eccentric watch. Therefore, it’s a great second piece, but I just don’t see it as a daily wearer — especially if we are heading towards more restrained times. And lastly, I’d be unable to forgive myself without mentioning the dial on the Root Beer. The choice of black over brown is borderline sacrilegious. A Root Beer needs to emulate the typical 1970s-80s sofa we all owned.
I actually love root beer in real life. It’s a weird coincidence that my favorite Rolex ever should bear the nickname of my favorite soda. And don’t get me wrong; I love the GMT Master II Pepsi also. This isn’t your traditional Sunday Morning Showdown where I take a niche position in an attempt to sway the masses. This is an appeal for hope. For the hope that not all is lost in your pursuit to get the best Rolex GMT Master II from 2018 on your wrist, right now, in 2020. Because the best release from that, now fabled year, is not what everyone else seems to think it is.
Sure, you can’t just walk into any AD and pick up a Rolex 126711CHNR root beer any time you’re thirsty. It just isn’t going to happen. The days of seeing professional bracelets in the wild are now being taught to kids in elementary school alongside Jurassic history. But, and this is the truth, you’ve got a much better chance of landing one of these babies after a short stint on a waiting list than you have of snaring the blue and red counterpart.
Lusting over the Pepsi and settling for the root beer will not make you happy.
Now I would never, ever, ever advocate buying any watch unless it was top of your list in that watch’s category. For a roundabout explanation of that position, check out the SMS column from two weeks ago. I got my backside handed to me on a silver platter that time out, but my advice remains. If it isn’t first on your list, it’s last. Lusting over the Pepsi and settling for the root beer (which although 4.5k more expensive at retail is often cheaper on the gray market) will not make you happy. But if you’re genuinely on the fence (or already on my side) here are a couple of reasons to go for this model.
Firstly, it’s gorgeous. The root beer models of the past are “cool” in the same way your dad’s corduroy flares are cool. As in, they’re not. But if you wear them (or it) with enough confidence, you look like a boss. Why? Because you clearly don’t care what anyone thinks. The new model, however, couldn’t be more different. The bezel has dropped that sickly yellow in favor of black. The brown dial has been replaced by a slick black alternative (great choice) and the shade used on the bezel is pretty special. It is neither inviting nor safe. It is a reddish, deep hue that works exceptionally well with the rose gold bezel and hands. Crucially, when it comes to the watch head, subtlety wins out. This is not a garish piece. But, in my opinion, at least, it is not perfect.
There is nothing about the watch head I would change. But the bracelet is a letdown. If this were on a Rolesor jubilee it would be, to me, the perfect Rolex. Perhaps even the perfect watch. The professional bracelet is “fine”, but it works a damn sight better in all steel for my money. Those polished center links are just too big and exposed. Give me the forgiving micro-links of the jubilee any day. They look better on day one and miles better on day one hundred than the alternative.
But hey, maybe Rolex knew that and left the Jube off for a reason. Maybe they’re planning an update that will separate schmucks like me form our cash in a heartbeat. Whatever. What I know is this: The second reason this is the watch to buy is because it isn’t perfect. And you know what that means? It’s flying under the radar.
That’s why this watch, more than the Pepsi, is going to go on to be regarded as the classic drop of 2018.
Sounds crazy, right? 126711CHNR was in demand the day it was launched. But the furor surrounding the Pepsi has definitely dampened the desire for the root beer. And besides, we know that Rolesor Rolexes are never as desirable off the production line as their all-steel counterparts. That’s why this watch, more than the Pepsi, is going to go on to be regarded as the classic drop of 2018. Simply because it will be rarer. And, I reckon, there’s a much bigger chance these babies will be worn and develop a nice, aged character that so, so many Pepsis will never achieve. Pepsis are safe queens, box huggers, sunlight-shirkers… You get the drift.
So my call to arms is this: Buy the rootenest-tootenest Rolex that ever was. Wear it, batter it to high heaven, and watch as admiration for this chromatic tour de force grows over time.
What say you, Fratelli? WHAT SAY YOU?
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About the author
Rob’s first exposure to the watch industry was a part-time retail role for the Signet Group at the age of 17. An obsession with watches soon developed. Following an ill-advised BSc in Archaeological Science, he applied for sponsorship to undertake… read more
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