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Some Breitling or Omega fans just smile at the number of nicknames you have to know as a Rolex aficionado. With some series like the Daytona or GMT-Master II, they have already ritualized themselves to a point where every new model gets an unofficial name when it is launched. This allows watch fans to actively communicate with a brand and influence its profile. In an industry that can often seem very isolated from the outside, nicknames are a way for fans to make their voices heard. Rolex has never given nicknames, but has developed them organically over the years.



What's behind the name of a watch?

But nicknames of Rolex watches have more important functions than just to amuse fans: They show that the watch series are not handled as templates, but rather change over time. They experiment with form and colour combinations or try out technical improvements that lead to innovations. As a result, many of the models listed below are not only supposed dead ends, which fans love anyway, but also masterpieces of engineering which are still undisputed today.


Rolex Daytona on black and red backgroundROLEX DAYTONA 6265


With the GMT Master, the bezel makes the difference


Serial name Reference Time period Nickname Characteristic
GMT-Master II 116710BLNR since 2013 Batman Blue-black bezel
GMT-Master II 16710 1988 – 2007 Coke Black-red bezel
GMT-Master
GMT-Master II
1675
126710BLRO
1960 – 1979
since 2018
Pepsi Blue-red bezel
GMT-Master II 126711CHNR since 2018 Root Beer
Dirty Harry
Black-brown bezel
GMT-Master II 16713 1989 – 2007 Eye of the Tiger Brown bezel + dial,
light green hands and indices
Submariner 16610LV 2003 – 2010 Kermit Green bezel, black dial
Submariner 116610LV since 2010 Hulk Green bezel and dial
Submariner 1680 1966 – 1981 Single Red First Submariner with date,
series name sporadically in red
Submariner Date 116619LB since 2008 Smurf blue bezel and dial
Sea-Dweller 1655 1967 – 1977 Double Red
Sea-Dweller
“Submariner 200” and “Sea Dweller” are in red
Sea-Dweller 1655 1967 – 1977 Great White All fonts in white and „Submariner 200“ missing
Daytona 6241 1960’s John Player Special Golden dial with black totalizers
Daytona 116598RBOW 2012 Rainbow Bezel equipped with diamonds that form a rainbow
Daytona 116598SACO 2004 Leopard Dial with leopard pattern
bezel with 36 yellow sapphires
Daytona 116506 ab 2013 Platona Daytona from Platinum
Explorer II 216570 ab 2011 Polar white dial, orange 24-hour hand



By far the most nicknames refer to a colourful aspect of the watch. In some series, such as the GMT-Master and the GMT-Master II, this only applies to the bezel. Whether "Batman", "Coke“ or "Pepsi“ – the names and colour combinations are mostly self-explanatory. Important is the different material of the bezel, which also got an update from aluminium to Cerachrom with the change from GMT-Master to GMT-Master II. The new Cerachrom bezels are more durable and scratch-resistant than aluminium, but the often-fading inserts of the GMT-Masterare of particular interest to collectors.



Green giants and cheeky frogs: Hulk and Kermit

In the case of the Submariner, it is often the combination of bezel and dial. The "Kermit“ was above all a historical caesura. To celebrate its 50th anniversary, Rolex launched a new edition of the Submariner … and gave it a green bezel. But every frog is known to hide a prince and fans rapidly began to love the eye-catching combination and christened it after the most famous Muppet. After the „Kermit“ was so well accepted, Rolex followed up with the "Hulk", which combines a green bezel with a green dial, but also reminded of Stan Lee’s green giants with its Maxicase.


A Rolex placed on a metallic grey background.ROLEX SUBMARINER 16610LV


After Rolex had been successful with green, the "Smurf“ was launched as a submariner with a blue bezel and blue dial. The standard colour for a Rolex dial, however, remained black – so all models that differ from it immediately stand out. The "Polar", for example, is the first Rolex Explorer II to be offered with a white dial that harmonises beautifully with the orange 24-hour hand.


Altitude records: It Ain’t Over Til The Fat Lady Sings


Serial name Reference Time period Nickname Characteristic
GMT-Master II 16760 1983 – 1988 Fat Lady
Sophia Loren
with a height of 6.3 mm larger than the previous models
Datejust 116264 2000 – 2011 Thunderbird
Turn-O-Graph
Datejust with rotating bezel,
Thunderbird logo in the middle
Padellone 8171 1950’s Padellone Triple calendar with moon phase
Stelline 6062 1950’s Stelline Triple calendar with moon phase, star-shaped indices
Bubbleback Among others: 3372 1930’s Bubbleback convex bottom
Oyster Among others: 5018 1940’s Bombay rounded approaches;
french bombè became Bombay

The form is less likely the reason for the nickname. The first GMT-Master II is known by the name "Fat Lady“ since it is bigger than its predecessors with a height of 6.3 mm. The new edition of the "Turn-O-Graph“ or "Thunderbird“ at the beginning of the 2000s reminds of Rolex‘ first functional watch. Even before the Submariner and GMT-Master, Rolex launched a Datejust with a rotating bezel in 1953. This was also the first watch to be offered in Rolesor – a patented mixture by Rolex of steel and gold. It was also worn by the U.S. Air Force’s Thunderbird aerobatic squadron, which earned it its second nickname.



Italian exotics: Padellone and Stelline

When nicknames refer to the history of a brand, it makes sense that most form experiments take place in the first, formative years of the brand itself. Back then, Rolex was still experimenting with the general design, trying out models that were perceived as dead ends but are now extremely valuable collectors‘ items. With the „Padellone“ and the „Stelline“, for example, there are two models with a triple calendar and moon phase, a combination that Rolex would never repeat in its style again. „Padellone“ is Italian for „large pan“ and refers to the case diameter of 38 mm, which appeared gigantic at that time. „Stelline“ means „small star“ and refers to the star-shaped indices with which the watch was decorated.



Whether agent or president: Rolex has them all


Serial name Reference Time period Nickname Characteristic
Submariner 6538 1954 – 1959 James Bond worn by Sean Connery in his Bond movies.
GMT-Master 6542 1954 – 1959 Pussy Galore worn by Honor Blackman in „Goldfinger“
Daytona 6239 1963 – 1969 Paul Newman by Paul Newman,
white dial with black totalizers
Day-Date Among others: 1803 since 1956 President worn by John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, among others
Sea-Dweller 116600 2014 – 2017 James Cameron supported James Cameron in the Deepsea Challenge
Explorer II 1655 1971 – 1985 Steve McQueen
Freccione
Rolex promoted this watch with Steve McQueen
Dato-Compax Among others: 4768 1947 – 1951 Jean-Claude Killy Rolex advertised this watch with the ski racer Jean-Claude Killy

 

With so much success, Rolex can of course look back on numerous sponsorships and endorsements that demonstrate the pop cultural influence of the brand. No franchise does this more explicitly than James Bond. The model dedicated to Agent 007 is the Submariner 6536, often worn by Sean Connery in particular. The GMT-Master with the Ref. 6542 and Pepsi bezel is mainly known as "Pussy Galore“ because it was worn by the same named Bond-Girl in Goldfinger.


A Rolex with a Pepsi bezel on a black background.ROLEX GMT-MASTER II 16710

 

In the case of the Day-Date even a whole series is known as "President“, as it was worn by John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. Several models are also directly associated with well-known personalities such as James Cameron, Steve McQueen or Paul Newman. A special feature is the Dato-Compax, for which Jean-Claude Killy had been won. It was the only series that combined a calendar with a chronograph.