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The Rolex GMT-Master II Ref 126710BLNR Batman made its debut at Baselworld 2019. It is not a new watch as such. Rather, it supersedes the popular but now-discontinued Rolex GMT-Master II Ref 116710BLNR Batman. Boasting several key updates, the Ref 126710BLNR is technically superior to its predecessor. But not everyone is happy about the way the new model looks. And speculation on the impact restricted supply will have on pricing is already rife. That seems fair, given what happened with the Rolex GMT-Master II Ref 126710BLRO Pepsi last year. So, is the new Rolex Batman a better buy than the old one? Read on to find out.

A (Very) Brief History Of The Rolex Batman

When the Rolex GMT-Master II Ref 116710BLNR Batman dropped at Baselworld in 2013, people took notice. This was the first Rolex watch to feature a bi-color ceramic bezel. That’s despite the fact that Rolex introduced cerachrom bezels to the GMT-Master II (Ref 116718LN) 8 years earlier in 2005. Ceramic is a tricky material to work with though. That’s why Rolex had always said it was impossible to make a bi-color bezel in ceramic. Until they did it, of course.

For collectors, this is significant for a number of reasons. There’s the obvious fact that it is the first watch to showcase this technical development. More importantly though, a bi-colour bezel was a fundamental design aspect of the original GMT-Master. Rolex developed the watch in the 1950’s in response to Pan-American Airways’ request for a watch that could display more than one time zone (for transatlantic flights). Its most distinguishing visual feature was the two-tone colour scheme, blue and red, which marked daytime from nighttime hours. Check out this Rolex GMT-Master Ref 1675 from 1963 to see what I’m talking about.

Unlike the original Pepsi, though, the ceramic bezel of the Ref 116710BLNR is blue and black (BLNR stands for bleu/noir). It doesn’t take much imagination then to see where the Batman nickname comes from. Same goes for the Rolex Submariner 116610 LV Hulk. This was surprising at the time, as there had never been a blue and black bezel in the collection before. Now, of course, it’s difficult to imagine the GMT-Master II line-up without one.

For several years, the Ref 116710BLNR was the only steel Rolex GMT-Master II with a bi-colour bezel. That’s because in 2014, Rolex decided to make the Pepsi GMT-Master II available exclusively in 18k white gold. This made it less accessible but also in some ways less authentic. After all, everyone knows a proper tool watch comes in steel. The flipside to this of course is that it paved the way for the Batman to establish a cult following of its own. That’s why getting your hands on one through the proper authorised channels generally requires months of waiting.

Now the original Batman has been superseded by the new Rolex GMT-Master II Ref 126710BLNR. Does that mean it’s the better watch to buy?

The Ref 116710BLNR vs The Ref 126710BLNR

To the casual observer, the Ref 116710BLNR and Ref 126710BLNR look virtually identical. The most obvious difference is the bracelet. The original Batman is worn on an Oyster bracelet, like the majority of the brand’s tool watches. Think the Rolex Daytona or the Rolex Deepsea. You get the idea. The new version, however, comes on the equally well-made but decidedly more mature 5-link Jubilee bracelet. In keeping with the sport watch theme, the bracelet is now fitted with a solid folding buckle with Oysterlock and 5mm Easylink extension.

According to Rolex, it’s not possible to switch between the two bracelet types. This is because the lugs have been redesigned specifically for the new end links of the Jubilee bracelet. This has been the source of some contention as many people prefer their tool watches with an Oyster bracelet. That’s not to say the Jubilee bracelet is in any way inferior. It’s not. Rather, it is more usually found on the brand’s dress watches, like the Datejust 41.

The case remains the same as before. That means 40mm in diameter and 12.5mm thick. The blue and black bi-colour ceramic bezel is unchanged, as is the black dial. This means a blue GMT hand, maxi-indexes and hands and a date window magnified by a cyclops at 3 o’clock. If you look closely, you will also notice a small crown logo between “Swiss” and “Made” at the bottom of the dial. That’s because the Ref 126710BLNR is fitted with a new generation Rolex movement.

The calibre 3285 offers a more efficient escapement and gear train and a new variable-inertia balance wheel. It also delivers an improved power reserve. The previous calibre 3186 found in the Ref 116710BLNR offered 50 hours when fully wound. The new calibre ups that to 70 hours. The movement is certified Superlative Chronometer and comes with a 5-year warranty.

The changes to the new Batman are part of a larger effort by Rolex to bring more cohesion to the GMT-Master II collection. As of 2019, all models in the collection must have a bi-colour ceramic bezel. And all models will be equipped with the new generation calibre 3285. As a result, four references have been discontinued with immediate effect. This is good news for Rolex lovers but could also have some influence over which Batman you buy.

Which Should You Buy?

On paper, the new Rolex GMT-Master II Ref 126710BLNR Batman is technically superior to its predecessor. Better movement, slimmer lugs and a more refined look overall. Does that make it a better buy than the old one? Not necessarily.

There are still several unknown variables. When will the new reference start being delivered to ADs? How long will the waiting lists be? And what will that do to resale prices on the secondary market?

It’s no secret that Rolex has been lagging on increasing the supply of its in-demand steel sports watches. Whether this is a deliberate strategy or due to genuine production constraints is subject to debate. There has been speculation that streamlining the collection will enable Rolex to increase production. If this is the case, then supply might slowly start catching up to demand. That’s great news for watch lovers but not necessarily so for flippers and investors.

On the other hand, we can say with certainty that production of the Ref 116710BLNR is capped. Once existing orders are filled, that will be it. As a result, prices on the secondary market are rising steadily. At the time of writing, Chrono24 had an average price of around GBP 11,500. That’s almost double the original retail price for those playing along at home.

The original Batman is still a popular watch and probably always will be. It was the first watch from Rolex to have a bi-colour ceramic bezel. It was also the first to have a blue and black bezel. And it was only in production for around 5 years. That means low volumes on the secondary market. Plus, a lot of people just like the Oyster bracelet better.

So, if you’re a collector/investor who wants to own a bit of Rolex history, I would say the Ref 116710BLNR is the watch for you. If you’re a watch lover who wants the latest and greatest from Rolex, then the Ref 126710BLNR is the obvious choice. Just be sure to put your name down yesterday, otherwise who knows how long you will be waiting.


Technical Specifications: Rolex GMT-Master II Ref 126710BLNR ‘Batman’

  • Case:Oyster – 40 mm – Oystersteel – monobloc middle case, screw-down case back and winding crown – Bidirectional rotatable 24-hour graduated bezel. Two-colour blue and black Cerachrom insert in ceramic, engraved numerals and graduations – waterproof to 100 metres / 330 feet.
  • Dial:Matt black – 18ct gold hour markers – Chromalight display with longlasting blue luminescence on hour markers and hands.
  • Movement:Calibre 3285 – bidirectional self-winding via Perpetual rotor – Parachrom hairspring – Chronenergy escapement – 70-hour power reserve –  Centre hour, minute and seconds hands – 24-hour display – Second time zone with independent rapid-setting of the hour hand – Instantaneous date – Stop-seconds for precise time setting – Certified as superlative chronometer (-2/+2 sec/day, after casing).
  • Price: GBP 7,150.

Technical Specifications: Rolex GMT-Master II Ref 116710BLNR ‘Batman’

  • Case:Oyster – 40 mm – Oystersteel – monobloc middle case, screw-down case back and winding crown – Bidirectional rotatable 24-hour graduated bezel. Two-colour blue and black Cerachrom insert in ceramic, engraved numerals and graduations – waterproof to 100 metres / 330 feet.
  • Dial:Matt black – 18ct gold hour markers – Chromalight display with longlasting blue luminescence on hour markers and hands.
  • Movement:Calibre 3186 – bidirectional self-winding via Perpetual rotor – Parachrom hairspring – 50-hour power reserve –  Centre hour, minute and seconds hands – 24-hour display – Second time zone with independent rapid-setting of the hour hand – Instantaneous date – Stop-seconds for precise time setting – COSC-certified chronometer.
  • Price: Discontinued / ~GBP 11,500 on secondary market.

 

Tom Mulraney
Tom Mulraney
Founder & Editor
Tom likes to write about luxury watches. So much so, that he created The Watch Lounge just so he would have an outlet for his passion. Together with his team, he is dedicated to bringing you original, entertaining (and maybe even a little educational) luxury watch and lifestyle content.

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