The Rolex GMT-Master II with the “Pepsi” bezel is one of the most renowned watches in Rolex’s entire collection. I’ve taken a look at how the price trends for this model have changed before and beyond 2022, and answer one of the burning questions in the community today: Is now a good time to buy the Rolex Pepsi?
Rolex GMT-Master Pepsi: The Ultimate Pilot’s Watch
We should first revisit the history of the Rolex Pepsi. Although the jury is out as to whether the popularity of the blue and red bezel is intrinsically linked to the timepiece’s background, it’s an interesting story nonetheless. When Pan Am began operating transatlantic flights, pilots and cabin crew were in need of a watch that could show two time zones simultaneously. And so, the Rolex GMT-Master was born. The blue and red halves of the bezel do more than catch the eye, they also indicate whether it is day or night in the second time zone.
The watch quickly gained relevance beyond commercial cockpits and galleys, and was even picked up by NASA and Air Force pilots. The Pepsi eventually seeped into pop culture, too. It’s been spotted in the James Bond franchise, Magnum, P.I., and bezel-less on the arm of Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now. Fun fact: Tom Selleck, the lead actor in Magnum, P.I. back in the 80s, still wears his Rolex Pepsi to this day.
The Rolex GMT-Master, which has been ensconced in the Rolex catalog since 1983 as the GMT-Master II, has become a staple in the brand’s lineup. Curiously enough, Rolex left the Pepsi bezel behind in 2007 with the transition to the six-digit references. Sure, we got the all black “Lunette Noire” and later the black and blue “Batman” bezel, but the Pepsi design was dropped like a hot potato. It wasn’t until Baselworld 2018 that we got the steel Pepsi, which caused absolute pandemonium on the market. I’ll go out on a limb here and say that pretty much everyone loves this watch, so it’s no wonder that the Pepsi has seen some incredible price trends in recent years.
Which is better, the old Rolex Pepsi, or the new one?
Earlier models have also reaped the rewards from the buzz around the Rolex GMT-Master II Pepsi released in 2018. As such, we should touch on the vintage references before we get to the Rolex Pepsi price trends. The vintage Pepsi models are quite different from the latest version. Obviously, you’re not going to get the same finesse of a modern six-figure Rolex from the vintage pieces, so there are a few key distinctions to be aware of. For instance, instead of the robust GMT bezel made of scratch-resistant ceramic seen on the later models, you’ll have to make do with an aluminum bezel if you go vintage. Nor will you find the subtle upgrades like the Easylink system, and the movement is pretty antiquated at this stage. I’ve also noticed that the bracelet on the vintage edition tends to rattle a bit.
But there is one thing about the vintage GMT that the modern Rolex Pepsi simply can’t match: its charm. Not only are the watches of that era a tad smaller and more inconspicuous, they also have more of a tool-watch character than the six-digit references. Now, usually, that’s not enough to sway my penchant for modern Rolexes, but for the Rolex Pepsi, it is. Because of the nature of aluminum, the vibrancy of the red and blue bezel fades over time, and the yellowed indices on the references with tritium dials like the 16750 and 16700 awards the watch with an old-timer vibe that’s hard to beat. I mean, there’s a good reason why many timepieces have an artificial patina. Unlike in the past, however, you don’t have to worry about slightly radioactive tritium.
The ref. 16710 offers the best of both worlds: As the “last” vintage model, it boasts the tool-watch look, aluminum bezel, and the overall essence of the older GMTs, but thanks to a sapphire crystal and LumiNova indices (which rules out any patinas), it also offers enough of a modern edge for fans of the current 126710BRLO. That said, anyone who wants state-of-the-art in all respects should stick to the six-digit reference.
Is now a good time to buy the Rolex Pepsi?
Let’s examine the price trends for the latest Rolex Pepsi model. The intense hype for this model peaked in 2022 and prices have since come down, so it seems like it’s again a good time to buy. In March 2022, the average price for a new Rolex Pepsi on a Jubilee bracelet was approximately $33,000. However, the average price has steadily declined, bringing us back to a level slightly above that of 2020. Bear in mind that the Rolex Pepsi 126710BLRO has seen some price adjustments and price hikes by the manufacturer itself in the last two years. The official retail price for this popular Rolex on a Jubilee bracelet is $10,750, significantly more than in 2020.
Overall, I think the Rolex Pepsi is back within a normal range after the recent market correction, and will steadily increase in value again over the next few years. Despite a new copy of the Rolex Pepsi costing an average of $22,500, which is double the current list price, it’s unlikely that a more favorable opportunity will arise in the open market anytime soon. Buying a luxury watch is a personal thing anyway, so if you really want the watch and have the budget, this might just be the moment you’ve been waiting for. If the latest reference is somewhat beyond your means, the vintage references will probably better suit your budget. While some of these can easily reach those higher price points, you’ll also find specimens for considerably less. Either way, you’ll have one of the most iconic Rolex watches in history in your collection.
What does your Rolex GMT-Master say about you? Find out here!