Ruminations on my Rolex GMT journey that took me from Batman to Root Beer with a few diversions along the way Ruminations on my Rolex GMT journey that took me from Batman to Root Beer with a few diversions along the way

Ruminations on my Rolex GMT journey that took me from Batman to Root Beer with a few diversions along the way

Bruce Duguay

Back in 2014, I wrote my first article for Time & Tide. It was a review of the Rolex GMT Master II, reference 116710BLNR which unfortunately came to be well known as the “Batman GMT”. This nickname is all well and good, except I don’t like Batman. You’d be forgiven for wondering why anyone named Bruce wouldn’t like Batman, however it is true. I find his taste in cars quite garish. Needless to say, I didn’t eventually part with the watch because of that reason. More so because one of my kids needed orthodontic work, which apparently was more of a priority than having a great travel watch. Everyone give me a pat on the back for parenting skills.

A few years later, I was excited to acquire and review the new Rolex GMT Master II, reference 126710BLRO, which fortunately came to be known as the “Pepsi GMT”. This nickname was favourable because I grew up seeing the Pepsi Challenge on TV and Pepsi won objectively every time! Also, it was a pretty terrific watch, dazzling me with the jubilee bracelet (exclusive to the steel Pepsi at launch) and its modern interpretation of the classic GMT red and blue bezel colourway. I didn’t eventually part with this watch because I wanted to, but rather because, after a year, someone offered me twice retail for it and at the time it seemed to make sense to capitalise on this good fortune. A poor decision on my part, as I’ve been longing for the Pepsi to come back ever since

I also had a brief dalliance with the Tudor Black Bay GMT (reviewed for T&T as well), which I loved for its value and hated for its bulk. Charming as the matte dial and retro bezel numbers were, I just couldn’t get over the thickness of the thing.

A few years have passed since those early GMT experiences, and while some other amazing watches have come through the collection, I have strongly felt the absence of a good GMT each and every day. It doesn’t help that in the last 10 years, the Rolex GMT Master has well eclipsed the equal-tenure Submariner in watch popularity contests. You can’t scroll Instagram or any watch blog / magazine without some kind of GMT Master popping up. At times, I thought this hype might actually have a reverse effect on the desire to replenish one in my collection. Alas, the heart wants what it wants and I’ve now managed to wrangle from my authorised dealer a new Rolex GMT Master II, reference 126711CHNR.

This watch has come to be known as the “Root Beer” GMT. I say this neither fortunately or unfortunately because I don’t find the nickname particularly endearing or annoying. It applies to both the solid rose gold and the two-tone rose gold and steel variants. As you’ll eventually find out, I’m of the rare ilk that gets really excited about two-tone. Not to mention, a solid gold Rolex is not quite at my tax bracket.

Rolex GMT

The first time I saw a two-tone GMT in the wild was probably about 10 years ago on a flight out of Denver, Colorado. Not sure how I remember that location, however, we were all bunched up at the gate waiting for a delayed flight to arrive. The aeroplane crew was also waiting with us en masse and I spotted a yellow gold and steel GMT Master II (would have been ref 116713LN, for those keeping score) on one of the pilot’s wrists. I was wearing my BLNR (don’t say Batman!) at the time and I managed to strike up a quick watch conversation with him. He told me the GMT was the watch he got to celebrate beginning his career as a commercial pilot. Since then, I’ve been a quiet fan of the two-tone GMT models. After my initial encounter in Denver, I went down a research rabbit-hole and discovered the magical two-tone 1675 and subsequent 16713. These are downright bizarre looking watches, explosions of brown and silver even when placed in their 1970s and ’80s contexts. There is a Clint Eastwood movie, In The Line of Fire (1993), where he plays a US Secret Service agent. Throughout the film he wears what looks like a 16713 on a jubilee bracelet which is absolutely magnificent and completely out of place for what you would think a Secret Service agent would wear.

Rolex GMT

The newest two-tone GMT definitely downplays the craziness of its vintage and neo-vintage descendants by switching to the softer tone of rose gold and continuing the use of the popular ceramic bezel. This time, we have a muted black and chocolate brown colour scheme with numbers inlaid in the rose-gold tone. It isn’t completely subtle, but it definitely doesn’t smack you in the face like the root beers of yore. That said, the new colour scheme still comes off very rich and indulgent with a distinctly different vibe than the highly sought-after steel models. It kind of imbues a vibe of first-class air travel, while the Pepsi and Batman are doing the work up front flying the bird.

The intense black dial features a handset rendered in rose gold which is a very beautiful team until you realize that the keynote GMT hand kind of gets lost without the colour pop of the steel variants. Still, it remains a magnificent sight to behold all together and you’ll have to exercise considerable self-restraint to not constantly turn the damned bezel all day long.

Rolex GMT

Interestingly, when the current Pepsi debuted four years ago, it boasted a slightly slimmer lug set compared to the original maxi-case that accompanied the Rolex ceramic revolution. The CHNR continues to sport this improvement, however it is important to note that the Submariner 41 models do the slim-down job even better, with less drama from lug tip to bracelet. The difference is noticeable and gives the GMT the slight distinction of being the chunkier to wear of the two. I always loved that the GMT feels every bit as robust as the Submariner, matching the triplock crown and vault-like impression.

Appropriately, I’m writing this column while flying between two time zones. There is only a one-hour difference, however it is still satisfying to unscrew the GMT Master’s crown, pull it out a notch and jump the hour hand ahead. Of course my actions are completely redundant in this age where my iPhone and Outlook calendar will auto adjust on landing, however it is this redundance that has the effect of making the GMT experience that much more satisfying and purposeful.

Perhaps this rose-gold GMT Master will have some added staying power in the collection over my previous attempts. I feel the Root Beer variant aligns with a slight maturity in my watch-collecting habits, but ultimately only time will tell in this crazy and irrational hobby. My pie-in-the-sky hope is that one day I’ll be waiting for a flight in Denver, catch a glimpse of that original two-tone GMT again, and reignite that casual watch conversation from years ago. What a cool story (and double wrist shot) that would be.