For many people, Root Beer is a kind of soft drink – usually enjoyed with a delightful scope of ice-cream in the form of Root Beer Float. For watch aficionados – or specifically, Rolex collectors – the term “Root Beer” connotes an entirely different interpretation altogether.
Rolex collectors, admittedly, are a bunch of playful and creative lot. Over the years, they have coined many nicknames for different Rolex models. For instance, the Rolex Submariner (Reference 116610LV) is known as the “Hulk” due to its green dial and bezel insert, while the Yachtmaster 40 (Reference 116655) with the multi-colour gem-set bezel is known as the “Haribo” due to the similarities in colour scheme to the gummy sweet.
When it comes to the GMT-Master collection, that is where the creative juices really start to flow. The GMT-Master (and subsequently the GMT-Master II) with the red and blue bezel insert is known as “Pepsi”, and the other with the red and black bezel insert was termed as “Coke”. Of course, not forgetting the star of today’s article – the “Root Beer’, which is identified by its black and gold bezel insert. It is also interesting to note that the running theme for these nicknames were based on soft drinks.
In this year’s Baselworld, Rolex had decided to relaunch both the “Pepsi” and “Root Beer”, with the new Cerachrom bezel insert. Ever since Rolex had managed to make a Cerachrom bezel insert with two different colours (i.e. the “Batman”, Reference 116710BLNR), we were expecting Rolex to relaunch the classics in time to come. We have previously covered the new “Pepsi” in stainless steel, and in this article, we will be focusing on the other two highlights of this year’s Baselworld: the Rolex GMT-Master II “Root Beer” (Reference 126711CHNR and 126715CHNR).
The History of Rolex GMT-Master
In the previous article, we have written extensively about the Rolex GMT-Master collection and its history. We highly recommend you to read it, if you have yet to do so.
Moving back to the “Root Beer”, the first iteration was launched in the early 1970s. The “Root Beer”, Reference 16753, is the first timepiece in the GMT-Master collection that features the use of both stainless steel and gold for its case and bracelet construction. Prior to this, the GMT-Master was only available in either stainless steel of full yellow gold. Also, because the watch was fitted with a brown bezel with golden numerals (there was also another variant with black bezel), the watch was subsequently and affectionately known as the “Root Beer”.
When Rolex started to produce the new generation of GMT-Master II with the Cerachrom bezel, the “Root Beer” was subsequently phased out. The only two-tone model that was available, prior to this year’s Baselworld, was the Reference 116713. The watch is available with a black bezel, with golden numerals. It was only until this year, when Rolex had decided to include a few new additions to the GMT-Master II line-up. We shall now take a closer look at the two new “Root Beers” that were launched this year.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
For those who are well-versed in Rolex, the two new GMT-Master IIs are pretty much similar to the other pieces in the collection. The 40mm watch is fitted with the typical mono bloc Oyster case, which is known for its water-resistant properties. It is also paired with the signature Oyster bracelet. The difference between the two models are in the materials used: a combination of 904L steel and 18ct Everose Gold for the two-tone model, and 18ct Everose Gold for the other.
Similarly, the layout of the dial and hands are identical to its peers, sans a few subtle nuances. The both watches are fitted with a black dial, featuring 11 luminescence plots and a date indicator at the 3 o’clock position. The difference here is perhaps only lies in the material used for the luminescence plot surrounds and the hands, in which it is appropriately made with Everose Gold.
The biggest differentiating factor lies in the bezel insert of the “Root Beer”. Staying true to its roots, the bezel insert is finished in two different colours – black and brown, and paired with golden numerals. Notably, due to the colour contrast, the bezel insert is more pronounced in the two-tone model, as compared to the full Everose Gold variant.
The bezel functions similarly to the other GMT-Master II watches in the collection. It is bi-directional, allowing the user to rotate the bezel to select the timezone that he or she desires. It has 24 clicks, allowing the user to adjust the timezone by intervals of one hour. It is easy and intuitive to use, and that is certainly a very useful and simple device to keep track of home time whenever one is away abroad. It is also noteworthy to point out that it is rather easy to turn the bezel, unlike some other watches that seems to have put too much resistance in the clicking mechanism. In short, the GMT function is simply a breeze to operate.
The Movement: Calibre 3285
The GMT-Master II is powered by Rolex’s in-house Calibre 3285. The self-winding movement is a newly-developed calibre, and it boasts 10 patents in total.
The new movement is a notch above the current Calibre 3186 that is used for the older GMT-Master IIs. One of the main highlights is the power reserve, which is improved by 40% to approximately 70 hours. In addition, the movement is also equipped with the new Chronergy escapement. The Chronergy escapement is a modified Swiss lever escapement, and it is said to be 15% more efficient as compared to the traditional Swiss lever. This is done by reducing the weight of the escapement, through the use of a thinner pallet fork, smaller pallet stone, and a skeletonised escape wheel. Think of it as the lightweight version of a sports car, like the Lamborghini Gallardo “Superleggera” or the Porsche GT3 RS.
Besides those new features, the standard Rolex fares still apply. The movement is protected from shocks and magnetism, thanks to the paramagnetic blue Parachrom hairspring and Paraflex shock absorbers. In addition, the movement is both COSC and in-house Rolex certified, and it is regulated to deviate only by 2 seconds a day after casing. Finally, as per all the new Rolex watches, they all have a 5-year warranty period.
The Competitive Landscape
The Rolex GMT-Master-II in two-tone (Reference 126711CHNR) retails at S$18,920, while the full Everose Gold version (Reference 126715CHNR) is priced at S$49,730.
If one is looking for alternatives, we can begin by looking at Rolex’s current offerings from the GMT-Master II collection. For the two-tone option, collectors can look at the classic Reference 116713LN, which features the black bezel insert. This model has been around for quite for around a decade or so, but yet it remains timeless and sophisticated. The recommended retail price for this piece is S$17,510.
Moving on, we take a look at the full gold alternatives. We start off with the Reference 116718LN, with an elegant black bezel. The watch is cased in 18ct yellow gold, with an option of either a black or green dial. These two pieces are slightly “louder”, especially with the copious amount of yellow gold that is present on the watch itself. These two pieces are certainly not for the faint-hearted, and they are priced at S$44,710.
For something less gaudy, Rolex also has a GMT-Master II in white gold (Reference 116719BLRO). This model features the iconic “Pepsi” bezel, and the new model is fitted with an alluring blue dial instead. There is a higher premium for this model, as compared to the yellow gold brethren, probably due to the use of a new movement and the “Pepsi” bezel. It retails at S$49,370.
There are also quite a number of sports watches with dual timezone functions in gold that are available, but we are not too sure if potential owners of the GMT-Master II “Root Beer” might be remotely keen on something that is dramatically different in the design and provenance. The Vacheron Constantin Overseas Dual Time (retailing at S$66,700, in rose gold), for example, is a very well-made piece, but it is a vastly different watch as compared to the Rolex. The same can be said for Patek Philippe’s Aquanaut Travel Time, where the rose gold model is priced at S$67,200. They are, in fact, excellent pieces, but comparing these watches to the Rolex is akin to a comparison between apples and oranges. It is just too different.
Well, the “Root Beer” is certainly a delightful watch. Ever since Rolex had managed to incorporate two different colours into its Cerachrom bezel, we were expecting the Geneva-based watch manufacturer to come up with both the “Pepsi” and “Root Beer” variants of the GMT-Master II. We were certainly not disappointed with their latest novelties from Baselworld 2018.
Between the two pieces, the two-tone variant is our top pick. The full Everose gold version is nice, but we feel that the black and brown bezel insert really stood out when it is paired with the dual metal option. The contrast is simply stunning, and it definitely highlights the star of the timepiece – which is the bezel insert. Its price point is also more accessible for many collectors as well, and we believe that there are not many alternatives at the region of S$18,000 that can better Rolex’s offering. We’ve surely got a good thing going over here.