Highly-coveted Swiss watch brands like Rolex have cemented their place in the whole field of horology. As one of the pioneer watchmakers, Rolex is notable for having iconic timepieces that also come with catchy, memorable nicknames. Some popular examples from the brand’s GMT-Master II collection include the Rolex Pepsi and Rolex Root Beer, which are named after soda drinks, as well as another well-known watch that is dubbed with a famous DC comic character’s name, the Rolex Batman.
Following the brand’s trend of naming watches after beverages, we have yet another striking GMT-Master II watch: the Rolex GMT-Master II Ref. 16710. Commonly known as the Rolex Coke, this is one of the most sought-after timepieces in the GMT-Master II series. In this article, we will be delving deep into the stylish Rolex Coke and everything it has to offer.
History of the Rolex Coke
Rolex GMT-Master II Ref. 16760
Out of Rolex’s extensive series of GMT watches, perhaps the most famous is the Rolex Pepsi, which immediately garnered much attention when it was released in 1954. Rolex continued to research and develop its GMT timepieces, before finally debuting its upgraded collection, the GMT-Master II.
The first-ever GMT-Master II watch to be launched was the Rolex GMT-Master II Ref. 16760. Introduced in 1983, the Rolex GMT-Master II Ref. 16760 had a color palette that resembled the popular Coca-Cola beverage. Encased in a traditional bottle container, the Coca-Cola drink itself came in black, while its brand name was stamped on the bottle in a bright red label. The Rolex GMT-Master II Ref. 16760, with its two-tone combination of black and red, was therefore quickly associated with the famous Coca-Cola soda. It became the first watch to earn the nickname “Rolex Coke”.
The original Rolex Coke was built with a rather chunky body. This was necessary to accommodate its thick in-house Caliber 3085, which had a diameter of 28.5mm and a height of 6.3mm. As a result of its physique, this first Rolex Coke actually also went by two other names. Firstly, it was called the “Rolex Fat Lady”, because it possessed a taller case height, a broader bezel, and chunkier crown guards compared to previous Rolex GMT-Master watches. This watch also came to be known as the “Sophia Loren”, after a popular Italian actress. This was because the Ref. 16760’s thick curves reminded folks of Loren’s curvy figure.
Rolex GMT-Master II Ref. 16710
Several years after the debut of the Rolex GMT-Master II Ref. 16760, Rolex released an updated version of the original Rolex Coke in 1989: the Rolex GMT-Master II Ref. 16710. This variant was constructed with a slimmer height and smaller crown guards. It also ran on a brand-new, more advanced movement. The updated Rolex Coke was in production for about 18 years before Rolex decided to discontinue it in 2007. In fact, it is this specific Rolex Coke GMT-Master II Ref. 16710 that we will be tackling in this article.
Although it has been about 15 years today since the Rolex Coke was discontinued, watch fans continue to hope for the brand to release it again, or to even produce a newer version of it. As of today, the vintage Rolex Coke is sold mostly as a pre-owned collector’s item, with prices sky-rocketing with every passing year. With that, let us learn more about the Rolex Coke and what makes this watch so one-of-a-kind.
Anatomy of the Rolex Coke
Case and Caseback
The Rolex Coke comes in a 40mm case made of the brand’s patented, highly scratch-resistant Oystersteel material. This case spans a lug-to-lug measurement of 47.6mm and has a standard lug width of 20mm and a height of 12mm. Given these measurements, the Rolex Coke will fit nicely on smaller-to-average-sized wrists. It also comes with slim watch lugs that slant inwards, giving the watch a more streamlined, subtle build that you can easily slip under the cuff of your shirt.
The surface of the Rolex Coke’s case is embellished with a lovely satin finish. This is complemented by uniformly satin-finished lug hoods and polished flanks on both sides of the watch. This interplay of different textures gives the watch an exquisite sheen that is unlike any other, so it shines lustrously no matter what angle you view it from.
When you flip the watch over, you will also see a plain screwed-down caseback. Made of solid, brushed Oystersteel, this sleek and sturdy caseback protects the watch’s reliable in-house movement.
The two-tone bezel of the Rolex Coke is the most identifying characteristic of this watch. The shiny red and black color scheme of the bezel’s Cerachrom insert recalls the colors of the bottled Coca-Cola soda, hence its catchy nickname. This is a bi-directional rotating bezel, with grooved sides that are shaped like a bottle cap, so that wearers can grip and turn it more easily when setting the time.
Aside from its Coca-Cola hues, the Cerachrom bezel insert is also patterned with a 24-hour GMT scale in clean silver indicators. This plays a crucial role in helping wearers keep track of a second timezone using this watch. Since the bezel can be rotated in two directions, you can easily turn it back to your intended hour format, even if you accidentally rotate it out of the desired timezone of your choice.
On the right side of the watch case, you can find a screw-down crown surrounded by two crown guards. The top of the crown is elegantly engraved with the iconic Rolex crown logo, which is a traditional feature of all Rolex timepieces.
One thing to note is that, unlike its Submariner cousins, the Rolex Coke is not actually designed as a dive watch. Nevertheless, the crown of this watch is still equipped with the brand’s patented Twinlock system. Together with the watch’s securely screwed-down caseback, this Twinlock system ensures that the Rolex Coke has a depth rating of 100 meters, which meets the ISO 6425 standard for dive watches.
As such, you can freely take this watch with you to all your water-based adventures like swimming and snorkeling. Indeed, the Rolex Coke’s respectable water resistance capacity depth rating is a testament to the quality and durability that Rolex imbues in all of its watches.
The Rolex Coke houses a distinct, jet-black dial. It is decorated with luminescent hour indices in various geometric shapes, Rolex’s signature Mercedes hands, and a date window at 3 o’clock. This date display is magnified by a classic Rolex Cyclops lens, which makes it easier for wearers to read the date. The dial also includes an additional, fourth GMT hand. This GMT hand has an arrow-headed tip and is painted in a vibrant red tone, allowing it to stand out more clearly against the rest of the black dial.
Furthermore, this dial is safeguarded by a layer of luxurious sapphire crystal. As the most durable watch crystal available on the market, it offers excellent resistance against scrapes and impacts. Indeed, you will not have to worry about accidentally dropping the Rolex Coke or bumping it against a hard surface, as its sapphire crystal will not easily break or scratch.
The Rolex Coke is offered with a three-link Oystersteel bracelet. This bracelet shows off an intriguing aesthetic makeup that is very similar to the Rolex Coke’s case, with satin-finished top links and gleaming, polished sides. It is also equipped with what Rolex calls the Oysterclasp. This is an Oystersteel safety deployment clasp that is further locked in place by a built-in additional flap,
With the watch’s secure locking system, you will not have to worry about it falling off your wrist or accidentally snapping the clasp open. The clasp is also engraved with the brand’s crown logo, which adds a lovely air of refinement to this timepiece.
Underneath the good-looking exterior of the Rolex Coke is an in-house Perpetual Caliber 3185. This powerful automatic movement is fitted with 31 jewels and beats at a frequency of 28,800 vibrations per hour (4Hz). It boasts an impressive power reserve of 50 hours. This durable movement is also highly resistant to shocks and temperature changes, thanks to its innovative Parachrom hairspring.
First introduced in 1989, the Caliber 3185 is one of the oldest in-house movements from Rolex. Today, the Caliber 3185 can only be found on the brand’s earlier watches, with one example being the Rolex Coke. In 2005, the Caliber 3185 was replaced by the upgraded Caliber 3186. The Caliber 3186 is now used to drive newer timepieces from the GMT-Master II series, such as the Rolex Batman, and from the Explorer II range, like the Rolex Explorer II Ref. 16570.
The use of the rather old-school Caliber 3185 helps boost the Rolex Coke’s reputation as a distinguished vintage timepiece.
The Rolex Coke is one of the most coveted luxury watches in the world, and it is set at a price that reflects this. Thanks to its hardy Oystersteel build, its prestigious brand name, and its refined vintage movement, the Rolex Coke is priced at a whopping $31,769 USD.
One of the best things about the Rolex Coke is that you can expect its price to appreciate in the coming years. Since Rolex stopped the production of this watch in 2007, in most cases, it is sold as a secondhand timepiece. Indeed, you would be lucky to be able to find an unused, untouched piece of this vintage watch. Thanks to its rarity and vintage quality, the Rolex Coke stands out as an excellent investment watch.
Alternatives to the Rolex Coke
We know that the Rolex Coke is exceptionally pricey and may not cater to everyone’s budget. As such, if you love the look of the Rolex Coke but are looking for a more affordable, entry-level alternative, we have got you covered. Detailed below is a list of timepieces from different trusted watch brands that show off a similar design and aesthetic to the Rolex Coke. Do not worry – unlike the Rolex Coke, you will not have a hard time finding any of them since they are all widely available in the market today.
1. Bell & Ross Instruments Ref. BR0393-BL-ST/SCA
Firstly, we have a uniquely square-shaped watch from Bell & Ross: the Bell & Ross Instruments Ref. BR0393-BL-ST/SCA. This watch distinguishes itself with its angular case and stylish Coke colourway. It is presented in a 42mm x 42mm square case made of stainless steel and a thick black leather strap. Like the Rolex Coke, it also boasts a bidirectional 24-hour GMT bezel with a fashionable black and red insert. The screw-down crown on the right side of the watch, along with its solid caseback, gives the watch a water resistance capacity of 100m.
Like the Rolex Coke, this watch’s dial also showcases a matte black finish. It houses thick hour indices and Arabic numeral hour markers in a large round typeface, along with thick sword hands and a circular date window between 4 and 5 o’clock. As a GMT watch, this dial also contains an additional GMT hand, which has an arrow-headed tip that is outlined in bright red.
This Bell & Ross Instruments timepiece runs on an in-house Caliber BR-CAL 303. Based on the ETA 2893-2 movement, this automatic movement is fitted with 21 jewels and has a beat frequency of 28,800 vibrations per hour (4Hz). It also possesses a standard power reserve of 42 hours.
You can purchase the robust Bell & Ross Instruments Ref. BR0393-BL-ST/SCA for around $4,200 USD.
2. Seiko Prospex Ref. STBR009
For another affordable timepiece greatly influenced by the Rolex Coke’s design, check out the Seiko Prospex Ref. STBR009. This is a limited-edition watch, with only 2,000 pieces available worldwide. Hailing from Seiko, a watch brand that is famous for its arsenal of versatile dive watches, the Seiko Prospex Ref. STBR009 is a rugged and chunky-looking diver that doubles as the perfect everyday companion.
This Seiko Prospex watch is packed in a 42.7mm round case made of stainless steel and black polymer. This is coupled with a sturdy black silicone strap. Completing the watch’s striking, mostly black motif is its jet-black dial, which is protected by a layer of Hardlex crystal. This dial is filled with geometric hour indices and thick arrow-headed hands, all of which are generously coated with the brand’s LumiBrite material. A compact date aperture also sits at 4 o’clock.
The only color that can be found on this Seiko watch comes from its stylish elapsed time scale bezel. This unidirectional rotating bezel is fitted with a ceramic insert in the classic black and red Coke hues. Unlike the Rolex Coke, however, which has the insert divided evenly into two different colors, this watch’s bezel is only painted vibrant red up to the 15-minute indicator.
Inside this watch, you can find a solar-powered Caliber V147 movement. This quartz movement has an excellent accuracy rate of +/- 15 seconds per month and can withstand water pressures up to 200 meters. When fully charged, it can also last up to approximately ten months. You will not have to worry about this Seiko timepiece stopping at any time since it can be quickly and efficiently charged through exposure to any stable source of light.
If you want a dive watch that comes in the style of the Rolex Coke, the Seiko Prospex Ref. STBR009 retails at $575 USD.
3. Bulova Classic Ref. 98B348
Lastly, we have the Bulova Classic Ref. 98B348. This watch sports a 44mm stainless steel case and a black silicone strap. On top of this Bulova timepiece is a two-tone elapsed time scale bezel that can be rotated unidirectionally. It is painted in the same metallic red and black hues as the bezel of the Rolex Coke, hence its similarity to the iconic Rolex watch.
This dial also showcases a sector black dial. The outer ring of the dial has a smooth finish and consists of thick white hour indices and a small date complication at 3 o’clock. The center segment of the dial, on the other hand, bears a waffle-like texture and is furnished with thick, luminous sword hands. Protecting this watch face is a layer of scratch-resistant mineral crystal, which gives its wearer a clear view of the dial
This Bulova Classic watch is powered by a battery-operated quartz movement that’s very easy to maintain and replace. It has an extended battery life of two years.
The Bulova Classic Ref. 98B348 sells at a bargain price of just $239 USD.
No matter how expensive the Rolex Coke is, a classic watch like this is no doubt an ideal investment. If you have the budget and happen to come across this glorious timepiece, consider yourself one of the luckiest persons in the world. A rare vintage watch like this is truly a treasured possession that deserves the highest level of appreciation.
All images courtesy of WatchShopping website, unless otherwise stated.
Photo Credits: watchuseek and Reddit. Featured image courtesy of Paola Kizette Cimenti on Flickr.
On the hunt for an elegant dress watch? Read our article about the Grand Seiko White Birch. Or if you’re interested in a dress watch that has a very unique style, read our review of the Grand Seiko Godzilla.
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