Rolex GMT Master 126710BLRO & 16710 & 16760
Steel Rolex GMT Comparison - Fat Lady 16760, Pepsi 16710, Pepsi 126710BLRO, Sprite 126720VTNR.
The Rolex GMT Master is arguably one of the best-known models within the brand, occupying territory along with the Submariner and Daytona as one of the three kings in the “professional” line. Its history from conception to the present day is a fascinating insight into the development of watches with purpose.
In 1954 Pan American Airways, known as Pan Am, approached Rolex and asked them to design a watch which would display multiple timezones at a glance. They planned to issue this watch to their pilots as they had started to operate trans-Atlantic flights. Research had shown that the ability to read home time and local time had positive effects on the reduction of jet lag. Something which was definitely useful when navigating approximately 670 tonnes of Boeing through the skies.
This was the birth of the Rolex GMT Master. The first model was reference 6542 which sported a bakelite blue and red bezel, radium indices, and a plexiglass acrylic crystal.
This reference is known as the “Pussy Galore” due to being worn by Honor Blackman who reprised the role in the James Bond film “Goldfinger” (while Bond himself wore the Rolex Submariner 6538)
An interesting bit of trivia - The Goldfinger 6542 on Pussy Galore was the first time in history that a woman was ever filmed or photographed wearing a “mans” wristwatch.
Unfortunately, I haven’t got my mitts on one of those today as it deserves a solo video as part of our vintage series, but I do have a handful of modern and neo-vintage GMTs that we’re going to have a proper nose through.
We’ll go through in order of release so you can get a feel for some of the subtle “evolution not revolutions” from Rolex as time goes on.
First up, the first GMT to hold the “Master II” moniker, the “Fat Lady” reference 16760.
The 40mm “Fat Lady” also known as “Sophia Loren” got its nicknames due to its case, which had grown to the same proportions as the Submariner rather than the slimmer GMT case that led up to its release. This is most noticeable when looking at the visibly chunkier crown guards and thicker case.
It was known as the “Fat Lady” because it was visually larger than previous references. It was also nicknamed the “Sophia Loren” which was far more complimentary as it was said to have “curves in all the right places.”
Either way, if you hear talk of these two nicknames, they reference the same watch, and what a watch it is.
One immediate thing to note here is that this one has a blue/red bezel as its owner, my illustrious colleague George is a Pepsi man so fitted the bezel of his choice, this model in its standard configuration is a Coke bezel variant.
This became the first GMT Master “2” thanks to its new movement, the calibre 3085 which could advance the hour hand independently, thus enabling time to be tracked over 3 separate timezones rather than the 2 zones afforded by the previous GMT Master models.
It was also the first GMT to come equipped with a sapphire crystal.
The Fat Lady production years ran from 1983 to 1988 making a short run by Rolex standards. Combine this with the bigger case and you get a significant increase in desirability for collectors of the brand. Boom.
The 16710 was produced from 1989 until 2007. It is the last of the “five digit” GMTs.
40mm, with 100m water resistance, sapphire crystal, and from 2000 onwards – solid end links which negated some of the infamous bracelet rattles of vintage models.
With three bezel options (Pepsi, Coke, all black) and two bracelet choices (oyster and jubilee), it is the most versatile of the GMT-Master range and has the ability to offer 6 different looks using a combination of different bezel and bracelet options.
Think Lego but way better ;-)
Due to its versatility, the 16710 is considered to be the masterpiece of GMT-Master II production and for over a decade (2007-2018) was the last “Pepsi” that Rolex produced.
Fortunately, due to its relatively long production run, superb examples are still found and if it's superb you want, this one is in stock as we speak and is a total peach with a sharp case and bracelet, box and papers.
Rolex 126710BLRO Pepsi
Following the discontinuation of the 16710, Pepsi’s were in the wasteland with none in the current lineup.
This was due to the move from aluminium bezels to ceramics with the all-black ceramic 116710LN introduced in 2007.
LN stood for lunette noir, black bezel - Boooo no Pepsi.
For a few years, there was a drought of coloured ceramic GMTs. Collectors were wandering about a little like Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome in an apocalyptic wasteland of black ceramic but with better-coordinated belts and shoes, such is the nature of watch beasts.
Bezel gripes soon settled when it became clear that ceramic technology hadn’t advanced enough for Rolex to produce a bi-colour bezel as it was impossible to create a fixed line of ceramic that was both stable and didn’t bleed between the two colours.
It looked like with the introduction of new technologies, we would be mourning the loss of the brightly coloured bezels that had become synonymous with the GMT-Master
Not permanently though as bi-colour ceramic was introduced in 2013, clearly after 6 years of fiddling about by the crown, with the arrival of the BLNR or “Batman” as it became fairly instantly known. This GMT showcased a blue and black bezel, so it became close, but still no cigar.
5 years after that, in the year AD 2018, thank heavens! Rolex reintroduced the Pepsi with a ceramic bezel having sorted (and patented) their colour mixing process. Naturally, the crowd went wild and the Pepsi 5 years on is still a hugely contested piece.
Being a six-digit ceramic reference, there are a few immediate differences.
“Maxi” case design and markers - beefier all round
Solid link bracelet with polished centre links and a properly milled clasp as opposed to the tuna tin type found on the four and five-digit references. Infinitely more robust and significantly diminishes the odds of bracelet “stretch” suffered by the previous hollow link designs.
Ceramic blue and red bezel, and triplock crown.
Released first on the Jubilee bracelet, the 126710BLRO now comes with an Oyster bracelet option too so you can pick your poison. Jubilee is dressier and slightly more traditional, whereas oyster is definitely the sportier choice. Either way, personal preference and very hard to get wrong.
Movement-wise the modern GMTs run the calibre 3285 which is a superlative chronometer with an accuracy of -2 to +2 seconds per day and has a power reserve of 70 hours. Can't ask for better than that.
Now for the GMT that nobody actually asked for, the 126720VTNR, also known as the “Sprite” which ties into the drink bezel theme that appears to have grown around the line-up.
It's the GMT for right-handers and is amusingly often found in display windows upside down because we just haven’t quite got the hang of it yet.
This one is I suppose the “Marmite” one.
No doubt buyers would have preferred it in the original crown right combination but when Rolex wanders off to the left field, it does so in rather spectacular style. The green and black bezel is particularly striking and a combination specific to this piece.
As a wrong right-hand wearer, I absolutely love it.