If there is one thing that fascinates people about the watchmaking industry, it is its intriguing anecdotes. Like for example, the unofficial names given to different timepieces or specific versions. Just to say one, the Rolex Daytona would officially be called Cosmograph: but is there anyone who calls it that? We bet not.
However, in this article, we’ll talk about another famous variant of an iconic watch, again belonging to the House of the Crown: the GMT Master, whose first edition was launched, precisely, with a red and blue bezel that was immediately called Pepsi – and we’ll find out that instead, it should have been named about something else. Are you ready?
What is a Pepsi watch?
We believe that there is really no one in the world who is unaware of this very famous carbonated beverage – the traditional rival of Coca-Cola. Whatever you think about it, you probably know it by its use of distinctive bright blue and red company colors. Red and blue are very visible hues and widely used in the past: they chromatically match each other very well. Once they are put side by side, they play a perfect contrast.
It is this contrast the main reason why several watch manufacturers have used them as accent colors to distinguish areas of their timepieces, and specifically, the bezel. At a glance, these two colors are very noticeable. So much that the first watch of its kind ever made had this very color combination.
Who made the first Pepsi watch?
The first Pepsi watch was made by Rolex, and it was its Rolex GMT Master reference.
However, the GMT Master was not the first GMT watch, as GMT watches – that is, watches which could track two timezones at the same time – were invented one year before, in 1953, when Glycine launched t he innovative Airman.
The first version of the GMT Master was called ref. 6542, and created by Rolex in collaboration with Pan Am in 1954. This watch had an additional hour hand that measured time in another time zone on a 24-hour scale. To do so, this indication was shown on the outer bezel. In addition, the two periods, day and night, were highlighted with two different colors to distinguish between them easily, red for the day and blue for the night.
This solution, practical, elegant, and highly visible, was later adapted to other types of timepieces, even non-GMTs, with the result that this style became quite popular in watchmaking. Rolex itself created different color combinations for the bezels of this timepiece, which watch fans baptized with fancy names, including Coke (black and red), Root Beer (gold and burgundy), and Batman (black and blue).
As a curiosity, this first red and blue version of the Rolex GMT Master is also known between fans as ‘Pussy Galore’ after the James Bond character who wore this timepiece in the 1964 film ‘Goldfinger.’
What is the purpose of a Pepsi bezel?
As we have said, this arrangement of colors had a practical purpose: to quickly and clearly differentiate the day from the night in order to establish the time of the reference timezone of the GMT hand.
We should not forget that the time when the Rolex GMT Pepsi was launched. It was the heroic era of the first intercontinental flights, where being a pilot or a passenger still had the innovative appeal of modernity – and the need to consult the time in two different timezones was particularly important for what would later be called the “jet set.” So in a way, the first GMT and world timer watches, all strictly mechanical, were a bit like the equivalent of our smartphones of today: a convenience, an innovation, and, let’s face it, an aesthetic fancy that characterized the wearer at first glance. And this design in time has become quite hip.
So much that even today, many manufacturers produce timepieces for the watch collectors that bear this color combination, divided between GMT and diver, from the cheapest to the most exclusive – and we’ll look at some of them later.
Which Rolex is called Pepsi?
As we mentioned, Rolex made the original Pepsi, and several references (all automatic watches) from the House of the Crown have received this much-appreciated livery over the years. The original model was the GMT Master ref. 6542 from 1954, with a black dial and Pepsi bezel. Initially, the bezel insert was made of Bakelite, a very nice synthetic resin, shiny and smooth, but unfortunately, brittle and therefore prone to cracking, so that in 1956 it was replaced by an insert made of sturdy, anodized aluminum (which, unlike Bakelite, did not break but faded over time).
There is evidence of another model, the extremely rare GMT Master with white dial: 200 pieces created by Rolex for Pan Am executives in the late 1950s, and the presence of such a model borders on legendary status. Instead, the reference that really decreed the success of this timepiece was the ref. 1675, launched 1959 and produced until 1980. This model was then “interpreted” by Rolex with other bezels, including the black one of 1972. Still, the model with Pepsi bezel remained one of the most popular and continued to be so for a long time even in the versions that followed it, namely the references 16750 and 16700.
In 1983, Rolex launched a revised version of this timepiece, the GMT Master II, which differed from the first version because the movement had an adjustable GMT hand independently of the hour hand. This watch, a bit thicker than the previous model, was called “Fat Lady” because of this, something that confirms the passion of watch fans for nicknames.
The advent of ceramic inserts marked the retirement of the Pepsi model in 2007 as Rolex could not produce a satisfactory color for it. Still, in 2014 the problems were resolved, and the Maison launched a white gold collector’s model with a Cerachrom bezel that marked the return of the Pepsi GMT Master to the Rolex lineup. As a curiosity, Rolex also produced a luxury model in white gold where the colors of the insert were created through the insertion of sapphires and rubies!
To this day, there are both steel and white gold models with the Pepsi bezel in Cerachrom in the house’s lineup, and they continue to be among the most popular references of this iconic timepiece.
20 Best Pepsi Watches for 2022
If you, like us, like the effect of this color combination on a sports watch, we’ve put together a small selection of timepieces that are sure to pique your interest, spanning from homage watches to timepieces that only bear the red and blue reference on the bezel.
There are models for all tastes and all budgets: so, if you like the effect of this beautiful timepiece and would like to try it on your wrist, there is really no need to wait for the delivery of a Rolex GMT Master Pepsi – which, as everyone knows can take years.
Q Timex Reissue Quartz
Timex is a house that has always ridden the waves of public taste to release nice, practical, and affordable timepieces over the years. Although this model offers little in the way of innovation, it faithfully takes one of the diver’s models created in 1979 and presents it again today with its unchanged appeal. The timepiece measures 38 mm in diameter, mounts a robust and precise quartz movement in its stainless steel case and offers a water resistance of 50 meters. Moreover, its bracelet has a retro design that can satisfy the taste of those looking for a dip in the past.
Davosa Vintage Diver Quartz Pepsi Pentalink
This homage to the iconic Rolex model combines high-quality materials and movement, manufactured by Ronda, with precision assembly Made in Switzerland. The Davosa Vintage Diver is a 39mm timepiece that offers a proper GMT mechanism for the price of a quality quartz watch: it has a stainless steel case with 100-meter water resistance and a mineral crystal, as well as an aluminum bezel, and is mounted on a perfectly fitting steel bracelet with a Jubilee design.
Seiko SKX009K2 Diver Automatic
This diver watch from Seiko represents a perfect diver that echoes the Pepsi aesthetic – in this case, with the red sector adapted to fill a third of the bezel – with Seiko’s typical crown placement at four o’clock, giving this watch a distinctive and unusual look. Despite its affordable cost, the SKX009K2 is a true diver’s watch, with 200 meters of water resistance and a nice, very comfortable stainless steel bracelet. The watch mounts a reliable 7S26 automatic mechanism with 21 jewels, offering 44 hours of power reserve.
Mathey-Tissot Vintage Automatic
Another watch that echoes the Pepsi aesthetic is this Mathey-Tissot, a Swiss Maison that, despite the name, has nothing to do with its more famous counterpart belonging to the Swatch group. However, for an absolutely affordable amount of money, you can get hold of a Swiss Made timepiece, with high quality features and finishing, mounting an automatic STP1-11 time-only movement with date, and offering a water-resistance of 100 meters and a design that takes in full the style of the dive watches of the time.
Citizen Promaster Aqualand Eco-Drive
Another watch that comes from Japan, in this case from Citizen. Apart from the generous size of 46 mm, this timepiece differsfrom the others in this list for its Eco-Drive solar charging movement. This caliber offers an array of important functions for a sport diving activity, such as a maximum depth memory indicator, a rapid ascent alarm, and an auto-start dive mode. Again, we are talking about 200 meters of water resistance, qualifying it for extensive underwater use. The Promaster comes with a practical and sturdy strap made of indestructible blue silicone.
Davosa Ternos Professional GMT Automatic
This excellent GMT watch manufactured by Davosa offers everything a Pepsi watch enthusiast could want at a particularly attractive price. It offers to its wearer a balanced size of 42mm, a bezel with a brightly colored ceramic insert, a stainless steel case with a matching three-link bracelet, a highly visible dial with indices coated with plenty of Superluminova, a robust and reliable Swiss Made GMT automatic movement with 42 hours of power reserve, and water resistance of an impressive 200 meters.
TAG Heuer Aquaracer GMT Automatic
The Tag Heuer Aquaracer is a diver’s watch with a great personality, produced by a Swiss company with an excellent tradition. Its 43mm makes it noticeable but not immense and has a handy GMT function easily monitored on its distinctive Pepsi dodecagonal dial. The case and bracelet are made in stainless steel, and the watch offers noteworthy diver features, with 300 meters of water resistance. It mounts a Caliber 7 automatic movement with a 46-hour power reserve.
Christopher Ward C65 GMT Automatic
This manufacturer has built a well-deserved success by offering enjoyable watches with an excellent price/quality ratio and with that special touch that comes from a legacy of tradition as old and important as that of English watchmaking. This timepiece – a genuine GMT watch – expresses these qualities well. The C65 GMT looks like it came straight out of the 1960s, and in its 41 mm, it offers a stainless steel case, with water resistance to 150 meters, a brushed steel finished bracelet, and a Sellita SW330 movement with 42 hours of power reserve.
Tudor Black Bay GMT Automatic
This 41mm timepiece has always been considered Rolex’s little brother and shares its tradition of quality and materials. The Black Bay is a very successful model, as it cleverly blends vintage inspirations, such as the anodized aluminum bezel in a combination of burgundy and deep blue, with modern features. This Tudor timepiece has a water resistance of 200 meters and mounts a Tudor manufacture caliber with COSC Chronometer certification and a power reserve of an impressive 70 hours.
Rolex GMT Master II Pepsi Automatic
This watch represents the latest evolution of this true watchmaking icon, which despite the almost 70 years since its launch, continues to represent a wave reference. It maintains its relatively small size of 40 mm, a bidirectional bezel in Cerachrom, and mounts an in-house caliber 3285 that offers a superlative chronometer performance and a power reserve of 70 hours. It comes with a five-link Jubilee bracelet with a micro-adjustable safety clasp. Beautiful and virtually impossible to buy at list price!
Lorier Hyperion GMT Automatic Pepsi
If you like the thought of going back to the seventies, you shouldn’t miss this excellent timepiece from a micro that has really been making waves lately. Lorier interprets the stylistic canons of the GMT watch with a very personal and pleasantly retro style for a truly excellent result. The timepiece, in marine steel including the bracelet, mounts inside its 39mm case a Soprod C125 caliber with 42 hours of power reserve and GMT indication and offers 100 meters of water resistance.
Squale Blue/Red GMT Ceramic
One of the most famous Maison in the diver segment offers this pleasant dive GMT with water resistance characteristics really out of the ordinary (300 meters). It mounts a Sellita SW300-1 caliber with a Quickset function, housed in a solid 42mm case, complemented by a steel bracelet. The icing on the cake is a Pepsi ceramic bezel, making it a perfect combination of a GMT watch and diver.
Raymond Weil Tango 300 GMT Automatic
Raymond Weil is a small family-owned Maison that is not particularly well known, and that’s a shame, as they produce very good quality watches at prices that are competitive with the “big boys,” and this Tango GMT proves it. It’s a full GMT watch that mounts a Swiss GMT Ronda quartz movement in its 42mm case with an aluminum Pepsi bezel. It offers e score of top-notch technical features, such as 300 meters of water resistance and a sapphire crystal with anti-reflective treatment.
Mondia Madison MI-799-SSBLRD-BK-GB GMT Quartz
Mondia had a rich and charming history in Swiss watchmaking, then got a little lost. Today it is Italian owned and continues to offer interesting and competitively priced timepieces like this pleasing homage, which takes the GMT features and interprets them with a Ronda 515 quartz movement, mounted in a 42mm case with Jubilee design bracelet and aluminum bezel. The Madison GMT Quartz offers an excellent water resistance of 200 meters.
Marc & Sons Series GMT Automatic
A recent German reality, the company founded Marco Heimrich has been able to stand out in the micro scene thanks to the care of its achievements and offers this GMT watch that mounts a Swiss ETA 2893-2 movement in a 41 mm case that provides the timepiece an outstanding water-resistance of 500 meters. Completing the picture is a bidirectional aluminum bezel, treated with BGW9 Superluminova as markers and hands. A version with a bronze case is also available for those who love the antiqued steampunk-ish look.
Yema Superman GMT Automatic
Yema is an influential French company that lately has been making a comeback, proposing tasty timepieces that are based on historical models of its rich production, reinterpreted with modern materials, and offered at highly competitive prices. This timepiece essentially reproduces its first diver’s watch of 1963, with its 300 meters of water resistance and accompanied by its original locking mechanism of the bezel. A distinctively shaped bracelet and a pleasingly slim bezel take us right back to the 1960s skin diver we love so much.
Bamford London GMT Heritage Automatic
A diverse variation on the theme of the classic GMT timepiece comes to us with this watch produced by Bamford of London, which offers us a compact 40mm cushion case, like Panerai, and a very intriguing Pepsi bezel, which moves thanks to a second crown placed at ten o’clock. The watch mounts a Sellita SW300 caliber with 42 hours of power reserve and a lovely steel bracelet with an original design and a characteristic vintage-look mood that will appeal a lot.
Steinhart GMT Ocean One Automatic
The German company is known in enthusiast circles for being an excellent manufacturer of timepieces, and here again, it lives up to its reputation. The Ocean One GMT offers a superbly crafted GMT timepiece in two different sizes (39mm and 42mm), with an aluminum bezel (although some models now mount a ceramic alternative), case, and bracelet in stainless steel and perfectly finished details, in Steinhart style. It features a Sellita caliber and offers a water resistance of 300 meters.
Zodiac Aerospace GMT Automatic
For a few years, Zodiac has been part of the Fossil group, which is spending some effort to relaunch it, taking up references that have made the history of the brand. And while it’s not precisely a Pepsi, this Aerospace, repurposed in 2019 in a few limited series – including one with a light blue and orange bezel – piques our interest. It has a size of 40 mm, five more than the original, and mounts a solid ETA 2893-2 movement. In addition, it offers a water resistance of 200 meters and a beautiful steel bracelet with a polished/matte finish.
Baltic Aquascaphe GMT Automatic
Baltic is a French micro-brand that has been growing for a few years now thanks to its production of simple, linear, and well-executed timepieces that take up strictly vintage lines interpreted with taste and sobriety. The Aquascape, available in a blue and orange livery, represents one of our favorites. It mounts a Soprod C125 automatic movement mounted in a 39mm case, with a water resistance of 100 meters. The watch is available with a rubber strap or a beautiful seven-row beads of rice bracelet.
The Bottom Line
If you love watches with a sporty edge that take up patterns and suggestions from the past in a style that will never fade, a Pepsi watch is definitely for you. And even if you can’t get close to the original, the GMT Master II, the watch market offers plenty of excellent alternatives you can enjoy choosing from, which often have features even superior to the original.