The GMT-Master is, put simply, the granddaddy of all traveller’s watches. Designed as a jet-setter’s necessity back in 1954, it combined a second, 24-hour hand with a rotating bezel used to mark a second timezone. It was arguably that bezel that made the watch; not only did the red and blue sections work as a day and night indicator, the cool mix of colours gave it the now legendary moniker of ‘Pepsi Cola.’
It’s had a fair few updates since then. First the easily-cracked Bakelite bezels were replaced with aluminium inserts. Then in 1982 the GMT-Master was replaced by the slightly more advanced GMT-Master II, which allowed the 24-hour hand to be separated independently from the rest of the movement, and thus kept track of three different time zones. Through it all, that Pepsi Cola bezel remained legendary.
So legendary in fact that when Rolex revamped and re-introduced it back in 2018, waiting lists sprang up immediately. They’re still very much in place and getting hold of a genuine Rolex GMT-Master II takes patience, cash and luck. That goes double for the actual ‘Pepsi Cola’ version.
Fortunately, like any icon the Rolex original is often imitated by other watchmakers, taking the bones of what makes it great and re-interpreting them. Or in some cases, ‘paying homage’ to them. They’re cheaper, readily available and in many cases, solid watches in their own rights.
Here then are our top accessible alternatives to the Rolex GMT-Master II ‘Pepsi Cola’.
Tudor Black Bay GMT
If you’re looking for a watch that skirts very closely to the aesthetics of the original – and has almost the kudos among collectors – look no further than Rolex stablemate Tudor and their (some might argue more authentic) take on the GMT-Master II. The crown and signature snowflake hour hands give the watch a unique Tudor twist, but otherwise its lovely retro timepiece that hits precisely the right notes. The only downside is that it’s almost as hard to get hold of as the Rolex.
Ref: M79830RB-0001 | Case/dial: 41mm diameter, polished and satin finished stainless steel | Movement: Calibre MT5652 (COSC), automatic, 26 jewels | Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz) | Power reserve: 70h | Functions: Hours, minutes, central seconds, second time zone GMT hand, date | Strap: Stainless steel with polished and satin finish | Price: £3,040, more details at Tudor.
Marc & Sons Series GMT Steel
This is what we tend to call an homage piece, a watch that really doesn’t deviate much from the design of the model it’s based on. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially when you get a solid automatic timepiece with the same look for a fraction of the cost. You can even decide if you want the classic cyclops magnifier on the date or not, all for well under a grand. That’s hard to sniff at.
Ref: MSG-007-7SJ | Case/dial: 41mm diameter, stainless steel | Movement: Calibre ETA 2893, automatic, 21 jewels | Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz) | Power reserve: 42h | Functions: Hours, minutes, central seconds, second time zone GMT hand, date | Strap: Stainless steel | Price: €830 EUR (approx. £750), more details at Marc and Sons.
Steinhart Ocean 39 vintage GMT premium BLUE-RED Ceramic
From afar, this watch might pass as a vintage original with its faux-aged lume and the right numerals, hands and colours. That’s because Steinhart are masters of the art of homage, and the Ocean 39 Vintage GMT is no different. It’s also very well-made, with a ceramic bezel, 300m water resistance and ETA movement. No points for originality, but performance to cost ratio? Out of the park.
Ref: 103-0986 | Case/dial: 39mm diameter, stainless steel | Movement: Calibre ETA 2893-2/SW330, automatic, 21 jewels | Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz) | Power reserve: 38h | Functions: Hours, minutes, central seconds, adjustable second time zone, date | Strap: Stainless steel | Price: €710 EUR (approx £640), more details at Steinhart Watches.
TAG Heuer Aquaracer GMT
TAG doesn’t have quite the same watchmaking chops as Rolex or Tudor (at least outside of their impressive Heuer 02 calibre) but the Aquaracer takes the GMT in a much sportier direction. With its multi-faceted case and distinctive horizontal stripes across the dial, there’s a lot going on visually and it makes for a high-octane riff on the classic traveller’s timepiece.
Ref: WAY201F.BA0927 | Case/dial: 43mm diameter, fine brushed/polished steel | Movement: TAG Heuer calibre 7, automatic, 21 jewels | Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz) | Power reserve: 46h | Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, GMT | Strap: Fine brushed steel | Price: £2,550, more details at TAG Heuer.
Q Timex Reissue
Yes this is a quartz, but don’t let that put you off. Timex’s faithful re-edition of a 1979 classic is charming as hell, recreating every inch of the original, from the painfully retro woven stainless steel bracelet to the notched bezel with oversized indexes. If you like the look but are saving up for the GMT-Master II, this might well be the best way you could spend just over £150.
Ref: TW2T807007U | Case/dial: 38mm diameter, stainless steel | Movement: Quartz | Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, day & date window | Strap: Fine brushed steel | Price: £159, more details at Timex.
Christopher Ward C65 GMT
British watch brand Christopher Ward have made no secret of seeing what works elsewhere and making it their own, especially among their signature diving collection. Even so, the thin blue and red bezel makes for a solid 1960s-style piece. It has lower specs than many of Christopher Ward’s other divers, but stylistically it’s one of their coolest – and it’s hard to argue with that price.
Ref: C65-41AGM1-S0BK0-B0 | Case/dial: 41mm diameter, stainless steel | Movement: Calibre Sellita SW330, automatic, 25 jewels | Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz) | Power reserve: 42h | Functions: Hours, minutes, central hacking seconds, date, dual-time GMT function | Strap: Fine brushed steel | Price: £2,550, more details at Christopher Ward.
Oceaneva Deep Marine Explorer GMT
The performance specs of a Rolex just not good enough for you? Oceaneva’s Deep Marine Explorer lives up to its name, combining a classic GMT bezel with a mind-boggling 1,250m water resistance. It looks chunkier than its 42mm case size suggests and it even has nice, pointed crown guards. The only mark against it is the quartz movement, which also makes it incredibly affordable.
Ref: RD.RH.BL.GMT.ST | Case/dial: 42mm diameter, 316L Surgical Stainless Steel | Movement: Quartz, Swiss Made Ronda 515.24H Movement | Functions: Hours, minutes, central seconds, date, GMT hand (second time zone) | Strap: 316L Surgical Stainless Steel | Price: $499 USD (approx. £380), more details at Oceaneva.