If you love authentic tool watches, then you were probably pretty happy with Rolex this year. With all the hype surrounding the unveiling of the highly anticipated Rolex GMT Master II “Pepsi” 126710 BLRO in steel, however, you may have missed that the company also introduced two other GMT Master II models at Baselworld. Both feature the brand’s proprietary 18ct Everose gold – the first time it’s ever been used in this range – and both channel the spirit of a rather quirky model from the 1960’s, affectionately referred to as the “Root Beer” GMT. Today we’re going hands-on with the two-tone/Rolesor version – the GMT-Master II 126711 CHNR – to see how it matches up against its legendary ancestor.
A Rose By Any Other Name
Sixty years ago, Rolex was a very different company to the one it is today. Sure, the focus was still on building the best possible, high volume mechanical watches on the market, but back then it seemed there was a bit more scope for trying new things, which is how we ended up with the first two-tone Rolex watches with brown dials. That’s right, brown, arguably the most unremarkable colour there is. Coming to market around 1963, the GMT Master 16753 marked the first time Rolex’s popular pilot’s watch was made available in two-tone (steel and yellow gold). Prior to that, it was only offered in full stainless steel or full yellow gold. These new models featured either a black or brown dial, the latter of which would become known as the “Root Beer” GMT.
The reason for the nickname is pretty obvious – particularly given people’s penchant for nicknaming Rolex GMT models after various sodas (Pepsi, Coke, etc.) The brown and gold bezel insert reminded people of the drink and that was that. Root Beer is not the only nickname this watch goes by, however. It is sometimes referred to as Tiger Eye (or Tiger Augen in German) because the hue of the dial is reminiscent of the chatoyant gemstone, which is usually a golden to red-brown colour and has a silky lustre. Even more descriptive is the “Nipple Dial” moniker, which refers to the distinctive gold nipple hour markers that adorn the dial of the early GMT Master 16753 (just like the one below.)
Finally, this watch is known by yet another nickname, and arguably one that really put this incredibly niche model on the map; “Clint Eastwood”. The reason, again, is quite self-explanatory. The GMT Master 1675/3 was apparently the famous actor’s favourite Rolex model and he was often seen wearing it, including in at least three of his movies: Firefox in 1982, Tightrope in 1984, and In The Line of Fire in 1993. Admittedly, this didn’t bring the same celebrity cache to the model, as say the Paul Newman Daytona, but still, it’s neat bit of trivia that gives vintage examples added appeal to collectors.
Root Beer 2.0
As I mentioned earlier, Rolex has introduced two new GMT’s this year featuring the company’s proprietary 18ct Everose gold. The case of the GMT-Master II Ref 126715 CHNR is crafted entirely from Everose, whilst the GMT-Master II 126711 CHNR – which we’re looking at here – is two-tone (Everose Rolesor). Arguably the latter is more akin to the original “Root Beer” GMT but there are some notable differences, and of course some impressive technical advances.
From a technical standpoint, the GMT-Master II 126711 CHNR offers many of the same updated specifications as the Rolex GMT Master II “Pepsi” 126710 BLRO we told you about here. However, this does not include the slightly redesigned 40mm Oyster case, featuring thinner and more tapered lugs and slightly update casebands (this was only made because the Jubilee bracelet needs different lugs). Instead, the 126711 CHNR has the same case as the previous GMT-Master II, such as the Batman BLNR. Unlike the “Pepsi” version, however, the Everose models are worn on solid-link Oyster bracelets. In the case of the Rolesor version, this means the centre links are made in polished 18ct Everose gold, while the outer links are satin-finished stainless steel with polished edges. The bracelet is closed using an Oysterlock folding safety clasp and features Rolex’s Easylink 5 mm comfort extension link system – which is one of the best bracelet/clasp combination available on the market.
Time is displayed on a black dial – no brown dial option, unfortunately – which features 18k pink gold indices and hands, somewhat reminiscent of the gilt dials of yesteryear. At 3 o’clock is the date display with familiar cyclops. The real drawcard, of course, is the bi-directional black and brown bi-colour Cerachrom bezel with moulded numerals and graduations coated with pink gold via PVD. This is the first time Rolex has ever produced this colour combination with its patented ceramic material and it seems it has been met with mixed reviews. The tones are certainly more muted than the original “Root Beer” GMT’s and the brown seems to almost blend into the black in lower light conditions, which is great if you’re looking for something a little more understated. The flip-side to this, of course, is that it doesn’t have the same ‘pop’ on the wrist as the original versions.
The other big news is what’s inside the case, a new generation movement, calibre 3285, entirely developed and manufactured by Rolex (of course). Boasting 10 patent applications over the course of its development, this self-winding movement is equipped with the brand’s patented Chronergy escapement, which combined with new barrel architecture, extends the power reserve to approximately 70 hours. This superlative chronometer is also fitted with a Parachrom hairspring and offers precision of -2/+2 per day after casing. In addition to displaying the hours, minutes, seconds and date, there is also a central GMT-hand for simultaneously displaying a second time-zone.
On the wrist the GMT-Master II 126711 CHNR looks quite cool but it will certainly have niche appeal due to the colour scheme. Personally, I think I would like to have seen a bit more contrast, like the vintage models. After all, if you want to stand out from the crowd, you might as well go all in. I also think it would have been fun to see it on the Jubilee bracelet instead of the Oyster. In any event, it will be interesting to see how collectors view this model, especially in the years to come. Clearly, it takes some inspiration from the original “Root Beer” models, but it is definitely its own watch with its own little quirks. Pricing is set at EUR 12,900 and I imagine these models will be reasonably hard to come by, although not quite to the same degree as the “Pepsi” version, which is likely to be sold out for years to come.
More details on rolex.com.