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5 Nicknames for Vintage Rolex Models That You Should Know

Paul Altieri

What’s in a name?

Rolex watches are known for their good looks, supreme precision, and luxurious appeal. Within the Rolex collector community, they’re also known for their quirky nicknames, especially vintage models. In fact, these alternate labels are so universally accepted that, in addition to being used among collectors, they are also commonly used by auction houses, media outlets, and well-respected Rolex reference book authors to talk about certain Rolex watches.

Freccione, DRSD & Paul Newman Rolex Nicknames
Freccione, DRSD & Paul Newman

Rolex Nicknames To Remember

Some Rolex watches gained their nicknames because of famous people associated with them, such as the “Paul Newman”, “James Bond” or the “Jean-Claude Killy”, while others got them due to their distinct color, particular shape or design detail. Whether you’re a seasoned collector, or a newbie just joining the community, here are five nicknames for vintage Rolex watches that you will certainly come across.

The Double Red Sea-Dweller
The Double Red Sea-Dweller

Double Red Sea-Dweller

Rolex launched the Sea-Dweller 1665 in 1967 after a collaboration with COMEX to produce a diving watch that could withstand extreme depths. On the dial of the newly released ref. 1665, “Sea-Dweller” and “Submariner 2000” were written on two lines in red text, thereby, giving the piece its nickname, the Double Red Sea-Dweller, or DRSD for short.

The Sea-Dweller Great White
The Sea-Dweller Great White

Great White

A decade after the initial introduction of the Sea-Dweller 1665 in 1967, Rolex unveiled a new Sea-Dweller model in 1977, yet it kept the same reference number, ref. 1665. On the new 1977 Sea-Dweller, the characteristic red text on the dial had now been replaced with an all-white font across the four lines of text, explaining why the piece has gained the nickname the “Great White”.

Explorer 1655
Explorer 1655 “Freccione”

Freccione

In 1971, Rolex released the Explorer II 1655 and it is now commonly called the “Freccione”, which is Italian for “big arrow” in reference to the extra hour-hand with the large arrow tip. Interestingly, the Explorer II 1655 is also often named the “Steve McQueen” due to a rumor that the King of Cool himself wore one, however, that fact is highly disputed among Rolex collectors.

GMT Master II Pepsi
GMT Master II Pepsi

Pepsi

Originally a watch for Pan Am pilots to keep track of two time zones in the 1950s, the Rolex GMT-Master quickly became an extremely popular sports watch to a much wider audience. Much of the appeal of the GMT-Master is the two-toned bezel found on many of the models within the collection. The red and blue bezels are almost always referred to as the “Pepsi” bezel for its similarity to the logo of the popular soda drink. This name spun off others, such as the “Coke” for the red and black bezels, and the “Root Beer” for the brown and gold bezels. One of the many nicknames in a collection of GMT-Master watches.

Paul Newman

Cosmograph Daytona Paul Newman
Cosmograph Daytona Paul Newman – as if you didn’t already know what it was…

Without a doubt, the most popular vintage sports watches among Rolex collectors are the Cosmograph Daytonas “Paul Newman” watches. When Rolex first unveiled the Daytonas with exotic dials, they were not well received at all, and it was only after Paul Newman was spotted wearing them in high profile images, as well as in his every day life, that their demand surged. And although Paul Newman was never an official Rolex ambassador, the Daytona “Paul Newman” nickname is now accepted as the official name.

Paul Altieri

Eric Wind is a vintage watch expert and owner of Wind Vintage. Eric has been featured and quoted in a number of publications including HODINKEE, The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, The Chicago Tribune, Men's Health Magazine, and Robb Report. Previously serving as Vice President, Senior Specialist for Christie's where he helped lead the sale of a number of important watches at auction around the world, Eric is a frequent contributor to Bob's Watches.