As soon as you delve a little deeper into the world of watches, you can't help but run across a very notable company: Rolex. The Swiss brand with the crown has achieved a great deal in its rich past and has always been a trendsetter for style. This was also the case with its distinctive two-tone bezels, which took the watchmaking world by storm. Let's take a moment to focus on a very specific one of these: the blue and red Pepsi bezels.
The history of the Pepsi bezel
After Rolex made the blue and red bezel on its GMT-Uhren popular in 1954 with the GMT-Master (Ref. 6542), it did not take long for a loyal fan base to develop. Bakelite, the material initially used, which was completely new at the time, soon proved to be impractical due to its susceptibility to breakage and was replaced by aluminium as early as 1956. It was not until 1972 that the completely black bezel inlay for the GMT Master was introduced.
The second Rolex with a snappy nickname was the GMT-Master II 16710 "Coke" with a black and red bezel insert, which interestingly enough wasn't introduced until 1984 – probably to emphasize the visual differences between the two models. But this is only speculation from Rolex' enthusiasts. It is unclear why the colours blue and red of all things found their way onto the bezel of the GMT watch. After Rolex introduced the GMT-Master II, the manufacturer surprised its fans, because the GMT-Master remained in production. The reference 16700 continued to be produced for a comparatively long period from 1988 to 1999. This model allowed Rolex to offer a more affordable alternative to the GMT Master II (Ref. 16710), which was introduced at about the same time and retained the series' quality and prestige.
TAG Heuer, Rolex and Tudor watches with Pepsi bezels
The advance of the blue-red bezelIt wasn't until 1989 that the request of Rolex' fans was granted and a remake of the Ref. 16710 was directly offered featuring a Pepsi bezel. Until this model was discontinued in 2007, the Pepsi enjoyed uninterrupted popularity.
With the change to ceramic bezel inlays, the material on the GMT-Master II (Ref. 116710LN) was found to be unsuitable for two-tone bezels. In 2014, Rolex offered the 116719BLRO , a white gold oyster strap model. Alongside the Pepsi bezel and the Oyster strap, the special feature of this version was a dark blue dial. Although the bezel is also ceramic, its colouring was not fully developed at the time of production. With the 126710BLRO, Rolex finally mastered the process of producing and colouring its two-tone ceramic bezels, which the company patented as "Cerachrom" bezels. The 24-hour graduation is engraved and plated with a thin layer of platinum to prevent it from losing its legibility.
ROLEX GMT-MASTER II 126710BLRO
It is a design that has become widely adopted. The Pepsi bezel can now be found in virtually every price segment of the watch market. Competition is particularly fierce for models under €500. On the one hand, there are the established Japanese brands such as Seiko, Citizen or Orient, who have borrowed the Pepsi bezel for their diving watch collections, for example. On the other hand, traditional American brands such as Invicta or Swiss entry-level brands such as Davosa have also discovered the magic of the blue and red bezel. However, none of these models approaches the quality of Rolex' ceramic bezels.
Alternatives for the 126710BLRO with a Pepsi bezel
If you like this colour scheme, but want to find another watch with a blue and red bezel, we'd be happy to offer you a few recommendations. Here are some high-quality alternatives to the 126710BLRO, which come from the extended family and its contemporaries of the legendary GMT-Master II "Pepsi".
It stays in the family: The Tudor Black Bay GMTAs a subsidiary of Rolex, Tudor has been considered the most obvious alternative for the unfulfilled wishes of a Rolex for years. Tudor's Black Bay GMT is an affordable entry-level watch that also retains the GMT function of the GMT Master II. Its bezel is fluted and has 48 notches. The dial is graduated into 24 hours and is made of anodized aluminium in a matte colour combination of Bordeaux and blue. Anodizing is an electrochemical process in which a protective layer of oxide is formed from the aluminium, which ensures increased corrosion resistance and longer durability. This oxide layer is not applied to the material, but is completely integrated into it. While you would have to budget around €17,000 for a pre-owned 126710BLRO, the alternative Ref. 79830RB from Tudor is available used starting from €3,370 (with a leather watch strap) and from €3,720 (with a stainless steel bracelet).
TUDOR BLACK BAY GMT 79830RB
The sought-after predecessor: The Rolex GMT-Master 1675Slightly more affordable than a new version, yet still very stable in value thanks to its high demand, is the first generation GMT Master with a Pepsi bezel. The GMT-Master (Ref. 1675) was in production from 1959 to 1980 and established the popular Pepsi colour scheme as the standard bezel for its successors. As the bezels were still manufactured with an aluminium inlay at that time, they faded over time and developed a distinct patina. Models with these faded bezels are considered particularly valuable among collectors and are in high demand. In turn, you must expect a pre-owned price of about €15,500 for a Rolex with the reference 1675.
A diving watch in blue and red: The TAG Heuer Aquaracer Calibre 7 GMTThe Aquaracer Calibre 7 GMT (Ref. WAY201F.BA0927) was not the first time that TAG Heuer took inspiration from Rolex. In the 1960s, Heuer launched the Autavia GMT as a response to the GMT Master – also following the design of the Pepsi bezel. Consequently, the new TAG Heuer Aquaracer Calibre 7 GMT is above all a reference to its own past and again features a blue and red aluminium bezel. Sitting on a classic Aquaracer case and dial, the bezel is equipped with TAG Heuer's Calibre 7. On the pre-owned market, models of this watch can be found starting from as low as €2,600.
TAG HEUER AQUARACER WAY201F.BA0927