May 3, 2016
THE NAME GAME
A ROLEX BY ANY OTHER NAME IS OFTEN STILL A ROLEX. IF YOU KNOW THE CODE. WE OFFER INSIGHT TO THE MANY NICKNAMES COLLECTORS GIVE TO PIECES FROM THEIR FAVOURITE SWISS WATCH COMPANY.
WHEN IT COMES TO WATCHES, one often hears technical terms and jargon that to any non-collector may seem crazy. But to those whose veins run rich with “watch fever,” there are many of these terms, and all represent a never- ending sea of discovery and excitement.
Among the most enthralling and intense of the watch collecting sub-cultures is
the vast (and ever-expanding) world of vintage Rolex. Although I could not even begin to touch on every facet of Rolex nomenclature and collector-centric terms within this one article, I would like to just provide an introduction to the vintage Rolex universe by focusing on some of the more commonly heard nicknames of pieces from years past. With names like Root Beer, Stella, Steve McQueen, and most recently the Batman, it is hard to resist the temptation to learn more.
The Rolex GMT Master is one of the most recognizable Rolex models. In one form or another, this piece has been in continuous production for decades and can still be bought brand new from your local authorized dealer. Although many cosmetic and mechanical changes have been made to this model over the years, the durability and effortless dual time capabilities have not been lost.
The GMT Master has seen many different bezel color palettes (which are the source of many nicknames), different bracelet configurations, and an array of metals, both precious and standard. The first GMT Master that comes to mind to most people is the current model, reference 116710.
This model comes equipped with a black ceramic bezel, black dial, and the nearly perfect Oyster (three-link) bracelet that we have all come to know and love. Although this piece is more advanced than its ancestors, the idea remains the same.
Certain examples to note include the Pepsi GMT, reference 1675, with its colorful blue and red bezel; and the Coke GMT with black and red coloring. Both of these examples are nothing short of awesome. The Root Beer GMT is different, with its introduction of a new color palette along with a whole new dial color as well. Take note of the two-tone Jubilee bracelet, goldish brown dual-colored bezel and matching dial. With its funky color palette, this is definitely a period piece that screams old-school cool. Examples like this can be found with or without the quickset date feature, in two-tone (yellow gold and steel) or solid yellow gold, and with the Jubilee or the sportier Oyster bracelet.
The newest addition to the Rolex GMT family, with a sporty black and blue ceramic bezel, also has its own nickname: the Batman. More than a year after its debut, this piece still comes with a waitlist when being bought new.
It is no surprise that the most popular fine Swiss watch manu- facturer in the world has seen its share of important patrons. That being said, not all of these clients have had royal blood. The original king of cool himself was an avid fan of the crown. Origi- nally introduced in 1971, the Rolex Explorer II, like the Rolex GMT Master, features a dual-time indication. The main difference, however, is that the Explorer II has a fixed steel bezel.
When looking at this piece, perhaps the first thing one will notice is the bright orange GMT hand. This choice of color was originally intended for use by cave divers, or spelunkers, who after long periods of spending time in darkness would lose sense of whether it was a.m. or p.m. This fixed bezel system allows one to easily determine whether it is 5 a.m. or 5 p.m. simply based on what hemisphere of the dial the orange hand points to.
Although this model was not hugely successful when originally released, it was launched into the horological history books and given a nickname when Steve McQueen was spotted wearing one on numerous occasions.
In 1956 Rolex introduced one of the most iconic, and in my opinion, most beautiful watches ever made. The Rolex Day Date was the first wristwatch to feature a date indication along with the day of the week fully spelled out. Furthermore, it was fitted with the legendary waterproof oyster case and a special bracelet unique to this model. Available exclusively in precious metals, the Rolex Day Date quickly became one of the most exclusive timepieces ever produced.
The nickname President comes from the countless U.S. presidents, dignitaries, and world leaders who were often photographed wearing this unique bracelet with their Rolex Day Date over the decades. Available in over twenty languages, the Day Date transcends boundaries while commanding a strong presence no matter where it goes.
The first Rolex Day Date models had conservative dial options, ranging from cham- pagne to black. It was not until the early 1970s that Rolex released a collection of rather audacious dial colors for the Middle Eastern market. These dials, which are composed of enamel, are unique as no two examples are exactly identical; each dial was painted by hand. Given the wild nature of these models, Rolex soon began to take back and destroy these dials, making them exceedingly rare today.
The wide array of colors Rolex produced for these watches is nothing short of mind boggling. From white gold cases with peachy-pink dials, to yellow gold with stark red “oxblood” or even turquoise coloring, these beautifully colored masterpieces were nick named “Stella dials.”
Although the exact history of this name is not known for sure, it is commonly thought that the shiny dials got their name from the Latin word “stella,” which means star.
Everyone, collector or not, is familiar with the Rolex name. Thanks to the brilliant marketing and product placement of these pieces throughout the years, the legends surrounding the crown, and those who have one on their wrist, it has only become stronger as the years have come and gone. It is commonly thought that those who wear a Rolex have achieved something great, whether it’s a graduation, the birth of a child, or a big promotion.
As the most widely known and appreci- ated sign of “success,” these pieces have long adored the wrists of history’s most famous characters.
Even as the demand for yesterday’s masterpieces continues to grow, I look forward to seeing what tomorrow’s classics from Rolex will be.