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The Perfect Red, White, and Blue Rolex for July Fourth

Paul Altieri

With summer officially in full swing, a holiday that we all look forward to here at Bob’s is Fourth of July! In addition to the fireworks, parades, and parties, it’s also a great day to show off some red, white, and blue. While we love a flag shirt as much as the next guy, we’ve got an even better way to wear the patriotic pigments: the Rolex GMT-Master Pepsi.

Celebrate the 4th by showing your colors on your watch!
Celebrate the 4th by showing your colors on your watch!

When the Rolex GMT-Master made its debut in 1955, it sported the iconic red and blue bezel that is now so closely associated with the collection. As with most things Rolex, this particular bezel picked up its own nickname—the Pepsi—since it shared the same red, white, and blue colors of the soda logo. Since its inception, there have been several GMT-Master Pepsi models.

So, whether you opt for vintage or modern, GMT-Master I or II, steel or gold, it’s got to be a “Pepsi” for Independence Day. So let’s take a look at our choices.

GMT-Master I or GMT-Master II?

While the inaugural GMT-Master came equipped with the red and blue “Pepsi” bi-color bezel, future models were also available with other bezel colors. However, since we’re looking for the Pepsi version, the options are as follows.

Firstly, there’s the GMT-Master ref. 6254, which is, of course, the very first reference. On early models, its Pepsi bezel was actually made from Bakelite, but due to its fragility, it was quickly replaced with aluminum. Secondly, another red, white, and blue bezel can be found on the famous GMT-Master ref. 1675. With a production run of over 20 years, there are plenty of GMT-Master ref. 1675 Pepsi models to choose from. Yet another Pepsi GMT-Master is the ref. 16750, which offers the quickset function. And finally, the last GMT-Master is the ref. 16700 with sapphire crystal.

Vintage or Modern GMT-Master
Do you prefer to wear Vintage or Modern GMT-Master watches on this special day?

In addition to the GMT-Master models, there are two GMT-Master II Pepsi models. There’s the steel GMT-Master II ref. 16710 and the white gold GMT-Master ref. 116719.

What’s the difference between the GMT-Master and GMT-Master II you ask? There are several, but the main one is how the pair of hour hands work. On the GMT-Master II, the main hour hand and the 24-hour hand can be set independently from each other. This means that while the GMT-Master can only indicate two time zones (by using the bezel), the GMT-Master II can indicate three time zones (home time, local time, and a third zone using the bezel).

It’s worth noting that aside from the digits portion of the reference numbers, there are sometimes letters too. If the reference number includes “BLRO” (for example ref. 116719BLRO) it means it comes with blue and red bezel since “BL” is for “Bleu” (French for blue) and “RO” is for “Rouge” (French for red).

Vintage or Modern GMT-Master?

Right off the bat, you probably already know that there’s no current steel version of the Pepsi GMT-Master II. There’s only a white gold version, which we’ll go into detail below. Therefore, for a stainless steel GMT-Master with a red and blue bezel, it has to be from a discontinued reference number. There are the vintage models—which have to be more than 30 years old to qualify as vintage—in addition to more modern ones.

So if we take a look at production dates, here a quick cheat sheet on vintage vs. discontinued vs. current GMT-Master Pepsi models.

Model Production Dates Classification
GMT-Master ref. 6542 1954-1959 Vintage
GMT-Master ref. 1675 1959-1980 Vintage
GMT-Master ref. 16750 1981-1988 Vintage
GMT-Master ref. 16700 1988-1999 Discontinued
GMT-Master II ref. 16710 1989-2007 Discontinued
GMT-Master II ref. 116719 2014 – present Current

Finally, Rolex gave us the watch we were waiting for…

Speak to a Rolex GMT-Master fan, and they’ll probably tell you that the new Rolex GMT-Master II with a blue and red Cerachrom bezel in stainless steel was one of the most welcomed watches revealed at Baselworld 2018. That’s because until now, the only option for a ceramic blue and red bezel was on the 18k white gold GMT-Master II ref. 116719. And with a retail price of close to $40,000, it was certainly out of reach for most. With the release of the new GMT-Master II 126710 BLRO, the price dropped considerably, making it a more affordable alternative (if you can get through the waiting list). Add that to the current stainless steel GMT-Master II ref. 116710 with a ceramic bezel, including the options to have your bezel in all black, blue and black, brown and black, or red and blue, and you have a plethora of amazing GMTs to choose from.

The GMT Master II in stailess steel was revealed at Baselworld 2018
The GMT Master II in stailess steel was revealed at Baselworld 2018

And there you have it. For a red, white, and blue Rolex, the choice of GMT-Master Pepsi models is a varied one. From everyone here at Bob’s Watches, we’d like to wish you and your family a happy and safe Fourth of July!

Which Rolex Pepsi is your favorite? Let us know in the comment section below.

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Paul Altieri