Few acronyms in the watch world are as recognisable, or as likely to trigger emotions than the BLNR. Rolex’s steely professional model GMT-Master II Ref.116710BLNR and subsequent Ref.126710BLNR have been unendingly popular ever since the former was unveiled way back in 2013 at Baselworld. What might have seemed like a hype watch has well and truly gone the distance.
The origin story goes that Rolex was keen to release their first Cerachrom bezelled “Pepsi” GMT-Master II to market, following on from the all-black variant Ref.116710LN being released in 2007. But the watchmaker was having considerable trouble manufacturing the two-tone ceramic bezel in the renowned red and blue colour scheme.
So, what did Rolex do? They went from all-black to all-Bat in Gotham City; a nice transition when you think about it. BLNR (for those who don’t know, BL stands for “Bleu”, and “NR” for Noir) was not exactly a slow burn in terms of critical reception. It blew up immediately.
The now iconic colour scheme saw the top half of the Cerachrom bezel coloured in a deep and shimmery black, while the bottom half scored a blue, almost purple tone.
The dial would remain largely the same as its all-black brethren, however the “GMT-Master II” lettering on the dial was not coloured blue like many thought it would be. Instead it was white, most likely because the shade of blue used would have been illegible on the black dial. The other major change on the dial was the stem of the GMT hand being coloured in the same blue found on the lower half of the bezel.
Now, this is where the similarities between Batman and Batgirl end, so let’s take a look at both models, and we’ll see who ultimately wears the batsuit best.
The pros and cons of the Rolex GMT-Master II Ref.116710BLNR “Batman”
No doubt the biggest selling point for the Batman, and the most obvious point of difference, compared to its younger sibling was its fabled Oyster bracelet. When attached to BLNR, the three-piece wonder, hewn from ultra-tough Oystersteel (904L steel), featured both polished centre links and brushed links on either side.
The Oyster bracelet has always been ubiquitous with Rolex Professional (sports) model timepieces … and it just suits this watch so well. It makes the 116710BLNR look tough and robust, and it’s surely a huge part of why it garnered the “Batman” nickname. It also pays homage in all the right ways to every professional model GMT-Master and GMT-Master II that came before it.
However, there are cons to this model, and chief among them is the movement.
OK, maybe ‘con’ is a bit of a stretch, it’s more a case of choosing between two princes. In isolation, Calibre 3186 is actually a brilliant movement. It offered a host of features that included Rolex’s genius blue Parachrom hairspring, 50 hours of power reserve and superlative chronometer certification.
But, compared to the newer movement found in Batgirl, 3186 is left wanting in terms of technology, power reserve and manufacturing techniques. It also used different types of lubricants compared to the newer movement, which meant that the service interval when new came up two years earlier – five, instead of seven.
Wholly unsurprising to say that, on the whole, Batman was a brilliant watch, and although the RRP was just $10,850 AUD back in the day, on the secondhand market, 116710BLNR still commands a price tag closer to 20 grand. The proof is in the price. It’s one of only a handful of contemporary watches that can claim icon status.
The pros and cons of the Rolex GMT-Master II Ref.126710BLNR “Batgirl”
Unveiled at Baselworld 2019, the Rolex GMT-Master II Ref.126710BLNR represents the latest iteration of the storied namesake … and it might be for quite some time, given the state of new watch releases in 2020.
Of course, the most visible change to the newest GMT-Master II was the ditching of the Oyster bracelet in favour of Rolex’s arresting, and indubitably dressy, five-piece Jubilee bracelet.
This is how Ref.126710BLNR scored its “Batgirl” nickname, because while still rocking the black and blue aesthetic, the use of Jubilee in place of Oyster gave the watch a decidedly more delicate look. Is it feminine enough to deserve the title? You decide, the name is a little puerile if you ask us. Jubilee bracelets, in the right setting, can be magisterial and masterful on the wrist – the stuff of true style.
What it lacked in visual machismo though, it more than made up for with technical prowess. And that’s because Batgirl is powered by the newer Calibre 3285, which was first unveiled the previous year in a number of models, including the new “Pepsi” Ref. 126710BLRO.
3285 scored a host of new parts and features that included no less than 10 patents, the all-new Chronergy escapement, a beefed-up 70 hours of power reserve and Paraflex shock absorbers, which improve the movement’s overall durability.
The use of the Jubilee bracelet on the new BLNR also hinted at a precedent that Rolex was setting for all GMT-Master II models moving forward – Oystersteel variants would come equipped with Jubilee bracelets, while Rolesor (two-tone) and solid precious metal models would utilise the Oyster bracelet.
It’s curious logic. Quirky even, to pair the more utilitarian bracelet with precious and two-tone models and the dressier bracelet with tough and tooly 904L steel, but there you go – Rolex doing what Rolex does, keeping everybody on their toes.
Much like its older sibling, Batgirl, which retails in Australia for $13,600, commands a much heftier price tag in the grey and secondhand market. It is one of the hardest watches on the planet to buy new from an authorised dealer.
So, there you have it, Batman and Batgirl. Who wore it better? Which would I prefer? Well, if it were my money, I’d be looking for a mint Batman. I just think the Oyster bracelet suits it better. But, truth be told, I would be honoured to own either.