Any Rolex sports watch release at Baselworld is accompanied by some frenzied online discourse among the brand’s faithful, but this year’s release of the classic “Pepsi” GMT-Master II in “Oystersteel” with a Jubilee bracelet saw some collective gushing on social media on the first day of the fair.
The big upgrade, as far Rolex fans go, is the return of the historical five-link “Jubilee” style bracelet rather than the more common three-link “Oyster” one. Created specifically for the first Rolex Datejust in 1945, the Jubilee bracelet was designed to be supple and comfortable, though it remains a subject of debate among serious connoisseurs of vintage and modern Rolex. It is worth mentioning here that sister brand Tudor also unveiled a Black Bay GMT model, another big newsmaker at the fair this year.
Here it has engineered to integrate seamlessly into the case with a concealed attachment system. The bracelet is equipped with both the Oysterlock safety clasp to prevent accidental opening and the Easylink quick-extension system — another Rolex patent, way back in 1966 —which allows the wearer to increase the bracelet’s length by 5 mm.
The new GMT uses a 40-mm case made of Oystersteel — Rolex jargon for 904L stainless steel — is guaranteed waterproof to a depth of 300 meters, a robustness aided by a solid steel, fluted-edge caseback that is hermetically screwed down (with a special tool that is exclusive to Rolex) and the integrated crown guards emblematic of the GMT-Master II’s Oyster case flanking the screw-down crown.
That recognizable Pepsi bezel frames a nearly scratchproof sapphire crystal, with the now-iconic Cyclops lens over the date window at 3 o’clock. For those not in the know, the bicolor bezel’s 24-hour scale can be synchronized with the red GMT hand on the dial to quickly and easily read the time in a time zone other than your own, while the hour and minute hands and date all continue to display the local time.
The famous red-and-blue rotating GMT bezel, which appeared on the very first GMT-Master watch in 1955 and which inspired the model’s nickname, “Pepsi,” is here executed with a Cerachrom bezel insert, with red and blue ceramics that are exceptionally resistant to scratches, corrosion, and the effects of ultraviolet rays, which could otherwise dull the vibrant colors over time. The original uses a plexiglass bezel.
Rolex makes its ceramics in-house, and the red segment of the 24-hour, bidirectionally rotating bezel proved to be exceptionally challenging: red ceramic cannot be created using the standard pigments, so Rolex needed to develop its own internal process, one for which it has filed several patent applications.
A brand new manufacture movement debuts in the new GMT models (Rolex has also introduced two other GMT models, a Everose gold version and one in gold and steel “Rolesor”). Rolex has 10 patents pending for technologies used in the Caliber 3285. It uses Rolex’s patented, energy efficient, magnetic-resistant Chronergy escapement, the movement is self-winding by means of a bidirectional rotor, equipped with the brand’s exclusive blue Parachrom hairspring, which is 10 times more precise than the traditional type, and stores a power reserve of approximately 70 hours.
And like all Rolex watches since 2015, this one has aced the series of in-house tests necessary to achieve the “Superlative Chronometer” designation, which it touts on its black lacquered dial, orbited by white gold hands and studded at the hour markers with highly luminescent Chromalight appliqués. The watch is priced at $9,295 (Approx. AED34,134).