Several GMT watches have hit the market this year. Two stand out from the crowd. The Tudor Heritage Black Bay GMT Ref M79830RB. And the Rolex GMT-Master II Ref 126710BLRO Pepsi. The response to these two models, the Rolex in particular, has been staggering. Although not unexpected – more on that shortly. Given the insane waiting lists. Outrageous price premiums. And crazy hype surrounding the Pepsi GMT-Master II, though, we have to ask: is the Tudor Black Bay GMT better value?
The Rolex GMT-Master
So, what is driving the current craze for the GMT-Master II Ref 126710BLRO? Well, let’s start with some Rolex history. The GMT-Master launched in the 1950’s. Along with the brand’s other legendary tool watches, such as the Submariner and the Explorer.
During this period intercontinental travel by commercial airline was becoming a thing. This brought with it the need to know the time in various places in the world. Pan-Am Airways, the largest international air carrier in the US needed a solution. So, it requested a watch from Rolex that could display more than one time zone. It would be for Pan-Am airline crew on transatlantic flights.
The solution Rolex came up with was elegant in its simplicity. It put a fourth hand on the dial. One which pointed to a 24-hour scale shown on a rotating bezel. Its most distinguishing visual feature was the two-tone colour scheme. Blue and red. Marking the daytime from nighttime hours. The Rolex GMT-Master was issued by Pan-Am to their crews on long-haul flights. Soon it became the official watch of several other airlines.
The Rolex GMT-Master created the blueprint for the modern GMT watch. Today GMT-Master II is still favoured by commercial pilots. As well as fashionable jet-setters. Functional yet versatile, it is a classic go anywhere, wear with anything type watch.
There are now several iterations of the GMT-Master II. These include the Batman. And the now discontinued all-black version. But the classic ‘Pepsi’ bezel will always hold a special place in watch lovers’ hearts. That’s why many found a move by Rolex in 2014 so frustrating.
For reasons unknown, the company decided to offer the Pepsi GMT-Master II only in 18k white gold. Not only did this make the watch less accessible, it also somehow made it less desirable. After all, everyone knows that proper ‘tool’ watches come in steel cases.
The Rolex GMT-Master II Ref 126710BLRO Pepsi
That all changed in 2018, when the steel Pepsi made its triumphant return. It’s no surprise than that the Ref 126710BLRO Pepsi has become a grail watch for collectors. Waiting lists from authorised dealers are months long with no guarantees of delivery. The only option for most is the secondary market. Assuming you want your watch sometime this year.
The Ref 126710BLRO Pepsi features a 40mm Rolex Oyster case made from Oystersteel. The lugs and sides of the case have been subtly redesigned to fit the five-link Jubilee bracelet. This is the first steel GMT-Master II to have the iconic bezel insert in red and blue ceramic. A major drawcard. Engraved in the bidirectional rotatable bezel is a 24-hour scale. This allows for easy simultaneous viewing of a second timezone via the red GMT hand. The hour markers on the black dial are in 18ct gold. Rolex’s Chromalight display ensures long-lasting blue luminescence. Making for easy reading in low-light conditions.
Inside is the calibre 3285. This new-generation movement is developed and manufactured by Rolex. It’s equipped with a Parachrom hairspring. This offers greater resistance to shocks and to temperature variations. It also features the brand’s Chronergy escapement. This ensures a guaranteed power reserve of approximately 70 hours.
Like all Rolex Perpetual movements, the 3285 is certified as a chronometer by the COSC. The movement has then undergone further testing by Rolex after casing. This guarantees a final precision of -2/+2 secs a day, earning it the title of Superlative Chronometer.
Official retail price is USD 9,250. Finding a Ref 126710BLRO at an authorised retailer though is as likely as finding a unicorn horn. As such, the secondary market is your best bet for owning one right now. You will pay a serious premium for the privilege though.
The Tudor Heritage Black Bay GMT Ref M79830RB
The Tudor Heritage Black Bay GMT is also a sought-after model. Availability is not limited to the same degree as the Rolex though. Does that reduce its desirability somewhat? Hard to say. But if you’d rather be able to wear and enjoy your watch right now, that likely won’t be much of a concern for you.
Tudor has often been referred to as the younger (poorer) man’s Rolex. That reputation is fast falling away though. Tudor is still targeting a younger audience. But now it’s also courting buyers who could buy a Rolex but are instead choosing to buy a Tudor (or two).
Without doubt the Heritage Black Bay is the most popular collection the brand offers. The Black Bay is not quite to Tudor what the Royal Oak is to Audemars Piguet, but it seems to be getting that way.
Tudor has struck a chord with a new legion of watch fans. High-quality products at accessible prices. Drawing from its own archives for design inspiration, the models in the Black Bay line up give off a real 50’s – 60’s vibe. With the possible exception of the Black Bay Chrono, but you can draw your own conclusions on that one.
Tudor doesn’t have much history when it comes to GMT watches though. Despite being around when Rolex introduced the original GMT-Master. As such, the new Heritage Black Bay GMT Ref M79830RB is exactly that; new.
Like its siblings, the GMT takes inspiration from vintage Tudor watches from the 1950’s and 1960’s. That means snowflake hands, oversized crown and a railway style chapter ring. The Black Bay GMT is also equipped with a bi-directional rotatable bezel. Calibrated for 24 hours. Like the GMT-Master II.
Its bezel is in two colours too, burgundy and blue. It’s not technically correct to call this a ‘Pepsi bezel. But you don’t have to look far to see where Tudor has taken its inspiration. The twelve daylight hours are printed on the burgundy section. The night-time hours on the blue. You won’t find any hi-tech ceramic here, though. Instead, the bezel insert is anodised aluminium. Some collectors actually prefer this as it will age with the watch over time.
The Tudor Black Bay GMT comes in a 41mm steel with contrasting polished and satin finishes. It shares the versatility of the Rolex GMT-Master II Ref 126710BLRO Pepsi. The black dial provides the perfect contrast for the lume-filled hands. Reading the time is easy even in low-light conditions.
A particular highlight is the riveted steel bracelet with polished and satin finish. This ties in to the tool watch concept but in a dressier way. There’s also the option of a “Terra di Siena” brown leather strap. It’s equipped with a folding clasp and safety catch. And looks great with the GMT bezel. There’s also a black fabric strap with a burgundy band.
Inside is a new manufacture movement, the automatic calibre MT5652. Created by Tudor for this new GMT model, it has an extra hour hand that rotates once every 24 hours. There’s also a date complication, with the date displayed on the dial side at 3 o’clock. Beating at 28,800 vph, calibre MT 5652 offers a comparable 70-hour power reserve. It’s also certified as a chronometer by the COSC. In keeping with the dive watch DNA of the Black Bay collection, the Black Bay GMT has a waterproof rating of 200m.
The official retail price is USD 3,900.
Is The Tudor GMT Better Value?
There’s no real obvious answer to this question. It depends on several factors, all of which come down to personal preference. There’s no doubt that the Rolex GMT-Master II Ref 126710BLRO Pepsi is an icon. The fact that the Pepsi GMT is once again available in steel is a big deal. And the jubilee bracelet only adds to its allure. Will you get your money back if you pay above market to get one right now though?
There are no guarantees in life but it seems like a safe bet. Rolex does not seem interested in increasing production anytime soon. People said the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona 116500LN would become easier to get. Once the initial hype died down, etc. 3 years later it’s still one of the most impossible watches to find. Even more than the Nautilus Ref 5711.
The argument is even more compelling if you’re planning to hold on to the watch for the long-term. Meaning years, even decades
The Tudor GMT meanwhile is unlikely to go up too much in value. Although you may see some appreciation over the long term (again we’re talking years here.) That said, it is the more accessible of the two. And you won’t need to buy several other models first. The flipside of course is that you are more likely to see other people wearing one.
At the fundamental level though, both models are the same. Time-only watches with a GMT function indicated by a 24-hour hand on a rotating bezel. Both feature chronometer-certified manufacture movements. And both offer 70-hour power reserves. Though the Rolex movement is more hi-tech. With its Parachrom hairspring and Chronenergy escapement. Likewise, the Tudor doesn’t carry the same brand cache as the Rolex. Which is a consideration when buying any luxury product.
If you find yourself deciding between the two here’s my advice. Try to find a way to compare them side by side. Given the high demand and low supply of the Ref 126710BLRO Pepsi, this will likely be a lot harder than it sounds. But worth a try if you can manage it.
Ultimately though it comes down to which watch you really love and, of course, your budget.
Technical Specifications: Rolex GMT-Master II Ref 126710BLRO Pepsi
- Case: Oyster – 40 mm – Oystersteel – monobloc middle case, screw-down case back and winding crown – bidirectional rotatable 24-hour graduated bezel. Two-colour red and blue Cerachrom insert in ceramic, engraved numerals and graduations – waterproof to 100 metres / 330 feet.
- Dial: Black – 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 – Chromalight display with longlasting luminescence on hour markers and hands.
- Movement: Calibre 3285 – bidirectional self-winding via Perpetual rotor – paramagnetic blue Parachrom hairspring – Chronergy escapement with optimized energy efficiency – 70-hour power reserve – certified as Superlative Chronometer.
- Price: USD 9,250.
Technical Specifications: Tudor Heritage Black Bay GMT Ref M79830RB
- Case: 41mm – steel case with polished and satin finish – bidirectional rotatable 48 notches bezel in steel with 24-hour graduated anodised aluminium disc in matt burgundy and blue – steel screw-down winding crown, with the TUDOR rose in relief – waterproof to 200 metres.
- Dial: Black – centre hour, minute and seconds hands – 24-hour display – – date.
- Movement: Calibre MT5652 – automatic movement – satin-brushed openwork rotor with sand-blasted details – bidirectional rotor system – 70-hour power reserve – certified as a Chronometer.
- Price: USD 3,900.