Guides Watches

Every Rolex Nickname Explained

Rolex GMT-Master II M126710BLRO

You might be familiar with Submariner or GMT-Master II, but what if someone starts to throw out names like Kermit, Sprite or John Player Special? Would you still be able to tell which watches they are talking about? Check out our quick guide to every Rolex nickname.

GMT-Master & GMT-Master II

The world’s most legendary travel watch, the Rolex GMT-Master, is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. The model was first unveiled in 1954 with the Ref. 6542, a watch that set the design language that has now become an industry staple – often imitated, never beaten. A two-tone 24-hour bezel, a robust case and a dial that would be at home on a professional dive watch. In watch nerd lingo, the GMT-Master (and its successor the GMT-Master II) is almost always followed by a nickname: Pepsi, Batman, Coke and Root Beer among others.

Pepsi

Rolex GMT-Master II M126710BLRO

Rolex GMT-Master II ‘Pepsi’ Ref. M126710BLRO, image credit: Watch Collecting

The Pepsi is the original colourway of the GMT-Master, introduced with the very first edition. It’s known as the Pepsi, or Pepsi Cola, because the red and blue bezel is reminiscent of the Pepsi logo. However, the origins of the colourway have nothing to do with the soft beverage and instead harks back to the original intention behind the watch: aviation.

The GMT-Master was designed to be worn by pilots who often find themselves crossing time zones and can make use of the GMT complication. Even more specific than that, it was designed for pilots working for Pan Am, a famous 20th century airline known for their signature red and blue plane interiors. However, Pepsi is a much more visible brand globally and Pan Am eventually shut down so over the years the Rolex model has become known as the Pepsi – starting a landslide of drinks-based references that we’ll see more of as we continue through this article.

Coke

Rolex GMT-Master II Coke 16710

Rolex GMT-Master II ‘Coke’ Ref. 16710, image credit: Sothebys

It’s perhaps unsurprising that with the GMT-Master Pepsi becoming so famous, Rolex would lean into the idea of the nickname and produce a Coke edition. And duly they did in 1983 with the introduction of the first GMT-Master II, a watch that featured a red and black GMT bezel. It’s amazing how much of a difference a single colour change can make because ostensibly the only difference between the Pepsi and Coke is the swap between blue and black and yet the two watches feel completely different.

To my eye the Pepsi is bright and fun while the Coke is a little more serious and conservative. Which is not necessarily a bad thing because it’s still celebrated and stylish offering people different interpretations of the same design. Although in the war of the soft drink Rolexes the Pepsi wins because it’s still in production while the Coke was discontinued in 2007. However, as this is the GMT-Master’s 70th anniversary, the time is ripe for a hype revival of the Coke colourway.

Root Beer

Rolex GMT-Master II Root Beer 126711CHNR

Rolex GMT-Master II ‘Root Beer’ Ref. 126711CHNR

The Rolex GMT-Master Root Beer was introduced in 1970 and has the distinction of being the first Rolesor GMT-Master. Rolesor, which is its own nickname in some regards, is what Rolex calls bi-metallic watches made from both steel and gold. To match the light silver colour of the steel and the yellow tone of the gold, Rolex gave the Ref. 16753 a champagne and brown day/night bezel. A colourway that immediately resonated as being the same colours as Root Beer to the customers and fan base. In 2018 it was re-released with a new brown and black bezel.

Interestingly, the Root Beer also has the distinction of being one of the few Rolexes with two nicknames. That’s because alongside being called the Root Beer, it’s known as the GMT-Master Clint Eastwood. The origins of that nickname are perhaps predictable as Clint Eastwood was known for wearing the watch in a handful of films. But the predictable origins of the nickname don’t stop it from conjuring images of badass film characters which in turn lends the watch a certain degree of coolness as well.

Sprite

Rolex GMT-Master II Sprite 126720VTNR

Rolex GMT-Master II ‘Sprite’, Ref. 126720VTNR, image credit: The Watch Club

Ok, yes, I just said that the Root Beer was special for having two nicknames and now we’re moving onto a GMT-Master II that has three nicknames but there’s a reason for that. Released in 2022, the Rolex consumer base is yet to homogenise and adopt a singular nickname for the Ref. 126720VTNR with the main contenders being Sprite, Green Lantern and Destro. Sprite follows in the drinks vein of nicknames based on its green and black colouration and it’s this colouration that also leads to Green Lantern following in the footsteps of Batman. Destro is a little different in that it’s Italian for left and is a reference to this being a left-handed model with the crown at 9 o’clock instead for 3.

Ultimately, I think the nickname that will stick is Sprite. It’s the nickname that made headlines when the watch was first launched (that’s what we called it too) and it’s also the one that comes up in the suggested searches of Google if you type in the reference number. Plus it’s a name that first surfaced years ago thanks to a concept designed by an 8-year-old with a green and yellow bezel.

Batman

Rolex GMT-Master II Batman 116710BLNR

Rolex GMT-Master II ‘Batman’ Ref. 116710BLNR, image credit: The Watch Club

Compared with the Rolex Pepsi which dates back to the origins of the GMT-Master, the Batman is a spritely young lad only a decade old, having been introduced in 2013. Officially the first Batman was the GMT-Master II Ref. 116710LNR, which was produced with a ceramic bezel featuring a black and blue day/night indicator. The dark colours of the piece are reminiscent of Batman’s signature costume from the comics, especially the really early 1940s style with bright colours before he got Christopher Nolan-ised and turned into an all-black master of darkness. Worth noting that if you put the Batman on a Jubilee bracelet it becomes the Batgirl.

I think the Batman nickname probably saved this rendition of the GMT-Master II because as it stands, it’s regarded as one of coolest and most suave editions of the watch in no small part because of the superhero connection. I don’t know if that would be the case if it had become stuck with a nickname like Tango Ice Blast Blue Raspberry or some other blue drink. Rolex GMT-Master II WKD doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Submariner

The Rolex Submariner is one of the most influential watches ever produced. In many regards it set the blueprints for and the criteria by which every dive watch is judged. The thick uni-directional rotating bezel, the uncluttered and highly legible display, the over size multi-shaped hour markers – all of these things have become industry staples. Over the many years of its existence since 1953 the Submariner has seen many iterations and colourways, with the most popular ones earning nicknames like Hulk, Smurf and Kermit.

Hulk

Rolex Submariner Date Hulk 116610LN

Rolex Submariner Date ‘Hulk’ Ref. 116610LN, image credit: Analog:Shift

We’ll start with the Hulk because for the most part it’s the nickname and colourway that gets talked about the most by modern collectors. Although recently I’ve noticed a resurgence in the popularity of the Kermit which is the Hulk’s predecessor. To give the brief synopsis of the Hulk, it’s the dark green submariner. There are technically a few versions of the Hulk, some with black dials and some with green dials but all with that characteristic dark green diving bezel.

The origins of the name are simple enough to understand with one look at the piece, the big, green rage monster, The Incredible Hulk. Although that’s not the only reason. The first Hulk was the Ref. 116610LV from 2010 and it was produced with a cerachrom bezel, a much harder and more scratch resistant material than the previous aluminium insert. It makes sense that the Hulk is physically tougher and more resilient than the Kermit.

Kermit

Rolex Submariner Date Kermit 16610LV

Rolex Submariner Date ‘Kermit’ Ref. 16610LV, image credit; Analog:Shift

Taking things back in time from the Hulk we have the Kermit, a 2003 model Ref. 16610LV that was produced in celebration of the Submariner’s 50th anniversary. The lime green bezel reminds people of the felt body of one Mr. Kermit the Frog. It’s actual origination comes from Rolex’s house colours, that ever present green that you can find everywhere from their website, to their boutiques, to their packaging and bags.

However, the execution on the green is perhaps a little bit off with the metallic sheen of the aluminium insert making it look brighter and paler than intended. It was a fairly controversial colour at the time, splitting collectors on whether they like it or not. The Hulk is for sure a better representation of the actual green colour Rolex are known for. (If you want an official Kermit watch you need to look at Oris.)

Smurf

Rolex Submariner Date Smurf 116619LB

Rolex Submariner Date ‘Smurf’ Ref. 116619LB, image credit: Bonhams

You don’t need much of an imagination to figure out why the Rolex Submariner Smurf garnered that particular nickname. It’s the combination of the bright blue dial and the blue cerachrom bezel that are reminiscent of the skin tone of the famous cartoon creatures, The Smurfs. However, the nickname doesn’t apply to just any blue Submariner as you might expect, it specifically refers to the Ref. 116619LB introduced in 2008.

The Ref. 116619LB was significant because it was the first ever white gold Submariner with both the case and the bracelet made from the precious metal. If you want to push the Smurf analogy further you have the combination of the blue skin with the iconic white hats and trousers. And to push it yet further still, the Ref. 116619LB was one of the last 40mm Submariners ever produced prior to Rolex doubling down on the 41mm models, making it just that much smaller, like a Smurf.

Cookie Monster

Rolex Submariner Date Cookie Monster 122619LB

Rolex Submariner Date ‘Cookie Monster’ Ref. 122619LB, image credit: Watch Collecting

At the halfway house between the Kermit and the Smurf we find the Cookie Monster. It’s a black dial model with a coloured bezel like the Kermit but has a blue bezel like the Smurf. It’s also closely related to the Smurf because the reference number is Ref. 126619LB, only a single digit off the Smurf’s. It’s also made from the same case material, white gold, although it’s the modern size of 41mm since it debuted in 2020.

As it’s relatively new, it hasn’t yet earned the cult status of models like the Kermit, despite having a Henson creation as its inspiration as well. Who knows, perhaps in a decade we’ll all be walking through vintage dealerships screaming for cookies.

Red / Double Red

Rolex Submariner Red
Rolex Submariner Double Red

Rolex Submariner ‘Red’ Ref. 1680 / ‘Double Red’ Ref. 1665, image credit: Bonhams

The Rolex Red Sub is one of the more niche Submariner references with the nickname making reference not to the colour of the dial or bezel but very specifically the red text of the Submariner name. It’s a quirk of the Ref. 1680 produced from 1967 to approximately 1975. It was coincidentally the first Submariner reference to feature a date complication. It’s particularly popular due to its exclusivity and high desirability among collectors.

Twinning with the Red is the Double Red, which is the Sea-Dweller version of the same watch. Instead of having one line of red text, it has two, reading Sea-Dweller Submariner 2000. Today the Sea-Dweller is considered a separate collection to the Submariner however, it was originally a sub-category of high spec variants. In fact, the Sea-Dweller’s own high spec subcategory, the Deep Sea, was recently moved on Rolex’s website to be listed as its own model.

MilSub

Rolex Submariner Milsub 5513

Rolex Submariner ‘Milsub’ Ref. 5513, image credit: Fellows

MilSub as a nickname is one of the less imaginative in the Submariner line up despite being the most sought-after reference. The name quite simply refers to Military Submariner, the first reference of which was produced around 1957 for the British Ministry of Defence, an adapted version of the Ref. 6538 called the A/6538. The adaptations include fixed lugs, a nylon strap and a chunkier bezel made from German silver designed to dent under heavy impact as opposed to crack or break. The radium hour markers were also replaced with the safer tritium.

In the 1970s, after a stint with Omega during the 60s, the MOD returned to Rolex for a new run of MilSubs, the Refs. 5513, 5517 and dual signed 5513/5517. It’s estimated that only 1,200 pieces in any of the key references were produced, of which only about 180 are accounted for today. This extreme exclusivity alongside the personal histories of each surviving model make it a highly prized watch among collectors.

Cosmograph Daytona

At the risk of sounding like a broken record when describing Rolex’s signature models, the Cosmograph Daytona is one of the most well-known and celebrated chronographs ever produced. It was first launched in 1963 today is regarded as one of the most legendary and trend-setting watches in Rolex’s range. Although that wasn’t always the case because it actually had a fairly slow uptake at its launch due to low production numbers and was overlooked for Rolex’s more established sports watches like the Submariner. However, with the advent of the Paul Newman Daytona, everything changed.

Paul Newman

Rolex Daytona 6239 Paul Newman

Rolex Daytona Ref. 6239 ‘Paul Newman’, image credit: Phillips

In a similar example to the GMT-Master II Root Beer becoming associated with Clint Eastwood that we discussed earlier, the Daytona became associated with Paul Newman in the mid-1960s because the actor was known for wearing one. Specifically, he had the Ref. 6239, produced from 1963-1969. His fame and signature style brought people’s attention to the Daytona in a new way and the rest as they say is history.

One of the key characteristics of a Paul Newman Daytona is the Exotic dial with panda colourway, a colourway and design that was produced in even more limited numbers in a collection that was already exclusive. Essentially, the nickname helped to identify what the perfect Daytona should be and create a grail watch that collectors could target. You can read all about Paul Newman’s relationship with the Daytona here.

John Player Special

Rolex Daytona John Player Special 6264

Rolex Daytona ‘John Player Special’ Ref. 6264, image credit: Sothebys

The John Player Special nickname is one of the few that isn’t really related to pop culture. It isn’t a popular drinks brand, it isn’t a fictional character and nor is it named after an actor or celebrity. What it is named after is some cigarette packaging. To be clear, this is from a time when cigarettes were cool and the regulations around tobacco products weren’t so severe in the late 1960s. No pictures of cancer or gigantic warnings. So, the nickname is supposed to carry a sense of luxury that comes from the original black and gold colour of the packaging as well as the F1 team John Player sponsored as well.

If you want to get to an even more technical level, the John Player Special – introduced with the Ref. 6241 – is a sub-category of the Paul Newman Daytona. With the primary distinction being the adoption of a gold case and matching gold elements on its dial.

Day-Date

Moving away from Rolex’s professional and sport models, we come to their dress watches, the most famous of which is the Day-Date. The Day-Date is actually one of the watches you don’t see emulated all that often, at least compared to the number of Submariner clones out there. I think because it is so completely tied to Rolex that any attempt to feature that iconic wide days indicator is immediately seen as an attempt to be a knock-off. At least with dive watches brands have the plausible deniability that they’re following the criteria of a dive watch whereas there is no criteria for a dress watch. The main nicknames here are the Presidential and the Emoji.

President

Rolex Day Date 40 President 228238

Rolex Day Date 40 ‘President’ Ref. 228238

Today President is one of the broadest nicknames in the Rolex roster as it’s often used to describe a full gold Day-Date that’s presented on the matching President bracelet – there’s some wiggle room on the references known by this name but that’s generally the case. However, the origin of the name dates back to the mid-1960s when Lyndon B. Johnson was the President of the United States and he wore a Day-Date while in office. He was also known to gift Day-Dates to important colleagues. It was around this time that Rolex first published an advert calling the Day-Date “The President’s Watch”.

Following in Johnson’s wake, Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Trump have all worn President Day-Dates while in office. Fortunately, the watch managed to glide over any controversies of the individual men themselves and became more associated with the splendour and statecraft of the Oval Office and White House. However, the President isn’t the only watch to dine out on its famous White House residents with the other famous “Watch of President” being the Vulcain Cricket.

Emoji

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Day-Date 36 Emoji Gold

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Day-Date 36 Emoji

Released in 2023, the Emoji is the newest nicknamed watch in Rolex’s range. Although arguably that’s not entirely true as it’s an off-catalogue model that you won’t find unless Rolex want to offer one to you. It’s a hyper colourful rendition of the Day-Date with an enamel dial depicting a jigsaw pattern as well as featuring positive affirmations instead of days and emojis instead of the date. It was a major surprise when Rolex unveiled it, sending ripples through the community – ripples for the most part that said, ‘I don’t want one but I’m glad they made it.’

These days Rolex tends to have a reputation for playing it safe with their watches, keeping to the straight and narrow of proven success. But the Emoji proves that they can still have fun and adapt to modern ideas and in fact the Emoji is pretty Avant Garde in terms of watch brands adopting millennial styles.

Oyster Perpetual

The Oyster Perpetual is one of Rolex’s quintessential collections, dating back to the 1930s when they first introduced automatic movements to their collections. Today, it serves as a solid baseline collection in the Rolex stable with a design that bridges the gap between sporty and classy. Plus the colourful dials are captivating.

Bubbleback

Rolex Bubbleback Pink Gold 3131

Rolex Oyster Perpetual ‘Bubbleback’ Ref. 3131, Image credit: Analog:Shift

The Bubbleback is one of the most significant technical advances made by Rolex in the 1930s. That’s because it was around this time that Rolex began to fit their wristwatches with automatic movements rather than manual calibres. Their previous models didn’t have enough space to accommodate for the new rotors of automatics and rather than redesign the entire watches, Rolex simply created casebacks that protruded from the back of the watch to wrap around the movements. And so the name Bubbleback was created.

The first Bubbleback is the 1933 Ref. 1858, a watch that is regarded as the progenitor of the Oyster Perpetual range. Later Bubbleback Oyster Perpetuals like the Ref. 2764 are also credited with being the first example of design elements that would be separated out to create the Explorer collection. It’s such a significant part in Rolex’s history that collectors can’t get enough of them.

Bubble

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Celebration Bubbles

Rolex Oyster Perpetual 41 ‘Bubble’ Ref. 124300

Last year Rolex launched the Rolex Oyster Perpetual with celebration dial in honour of the 90th anniversary of that first Oyster Perpetual Bubbleback that we were just talking about above. It features a dial covered in bubble-like circles in the various colours of the modern OP range and so it doesn’t take a genius to work out why it rapidly became nicknamed the Bubble.

It’s colourful and fun, which feels appropriate for the OP even though one of the greatest selling points of the collection is the understated simplicity of its monocolour dials. There are several sizes available and which movement powers them depends on which size you opt for. The 31 is equipped with the calibre 2322 while the 36 and 41 have the 3230. The former has a 55-hour power reserve with the Syloxi hairspring and the latter has a 70-hour power reserve with the Parachrom hairspring.

More details at Rolex.

Leave a Comment

*

*

About the author

Michael Sonsino

As Digital Editor for Oracle Time, Michael needs an eye for detail, which makes it a good thing that his twin joys in life are miniatures and watches. He's a lifelong fan of fine timepieces, especially those of a more historic nature - if it has a twist of Art Deco, all the better. Recent purchase: Seiko Prospex 1959 Alpinist Modern Re-Interpretation. Grail watch: Vacheron Constantin Historiques American 1921.