Do you know your Hulks from your Kermits? Would you rather buy a Batman or a Root Beer? Negotiating the world of Rolex fandom can be complicated for newcomers who are unfamiliar with the terminology. But it's easy when you get the hang of it - here's a simple guide to get started.
It often feels like Rolex does not really occupy the same space as other large Swiss manufacturers of luxury watches - it exists in a level above, unique and alone. Its followers are both more numerous and more passionate than those of comparable companies. And this has led to its own special culture emerging among those dedicated to all things Rolex, complete with its own lingo. One immediate consequence is the creation of beloved epithets for many of the brand's most iconic timepieces. These Rolex nicknames are technically unofficial and will never appear on any authorised catalogue. And yet, they are so widely known that you will see them used pretty much everywhere - by retailers, journalists, fans and more.
But where did these strangely endearing names - so at odds with the brand's austere self-image - come from? We take a look at a few of the best known:
The original and still perhaps the best known Rolex nickname is that given to the legendary GMT-Master and GMT-Master II watches featuring red and blue bezels: the Pepsi. The colours were those of Pan Am, the 1950s airline in collaboration with which the two-timezone Rolex GMT Pepsi was first made. But fans swiftly decided the red and blue were more reminiscent of the soft drink brand's logo. Many Pepsi GMTs have been released over the years, most recently the long awaited steel model with ceramic bezel at Baselworld 2018.
After the success of the Pepsi, Rolex branched out to use other colours for the bezel, and the nicknames followed suit. Naturally, in 1983 when the first GMT-Master II was released with a red and black bezel, it was immediately known as the Coke, to stick with the cola-brand theme. The colours reminded Rolex fans of bottles of black soda with bright red labels. The first Coke enjoyed two other nicknames, the Fat Lady and the Sophia Loren, owing to the wider case shape of ref 16760. Coke models have featured in several other references since then.
Rolex Root Beer
The Root Beer probably predates the Coke by a few years, arriving with the ref 16753 in the late 70s or early 80s. Its bezel is a warm brown and cream colour, much like the eponymous American non-alcoholic beverage that never became popular in Europe. Root Beer models often come with two-tone (gold/steel) cases and bracelets, as well as brown dials and circular gold indexes. The watch has also been called the Clint Eastwood, as it was a favourite for the actor.
The first Rolex watch to feature a ceramic bezel with two different colours was the ref 116710BLNR in 2013. Unfortunately, the black and blue colours were not easily matched with any fizzy drinks, so a new nickname was acquired: the Batman. The steel-cased Rolex GMT Batman was a technological breakthrough and sold very well. The monobloc ceramic bezel insert was made possible by an ingenious chemical process exclusive to Rolex.
It's not just GMT watches that get nicknames at Rolex. The Submariner is also a favourite target, as we will see. Alongside the likes of "Red Line" and "No Date", we also see standout versions such as the Kermit. Officially known as ref 16610LV, this special Sub was released in 2003 for the fiftieth anniversary of the legendary series. The initials stand for Lunette Vert, French for "green bezel", which is exactly what it has. The colour was quickly linked with the famous puppet frog.
The Kermit was updated in 2010 with the ref 116610LV, featuring an even more vibrant shade of green matched with a full green dial. But it was the larger case size of this new model that inspired the second superhero-themed nickname on our list: the Hulk. The Hulk has a steel case, but unlike its predecessor, its green bezel is high-tech cerachrom.
The Hulk was not the first time that Rolex made a Submariner with a single non-black colour for both dial and bezel. That honour was given to 2008's ref 116619, made in dazzling blue. Called the Smurf after the all-blue Belgian cartoon characters, it boasted the very first cerachrom bezel on a Submariner. With a white-gold case and incredible elegance, it achieved major prestige, becoming popular with many celebrities. Released simultaneously in yellow gold, ref 116618 is also sometimes known as a Smurf.
There are many other great Rolex nicknames that we do not have space here to explore, from the "President" Day-Date to the "Thunderbird" Datejust. For fans and collectors, these names add a real sense of ownership and community, and they are a great draw for newcomers. We look forward to seeing new nicknames emerge in years to come.
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