A number of GMT watches have hit the market this year, but two really 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 entirely unexpected – more on that shortly.) Given the insane waiting lists, outrageous price premiums and overall hype surrounding the Pepsi GMT-Master II, however, we can’t help but ask the question: is the new Tudor Black Bay GMT better value?
The Rolex GMT-Master
To give some context to the current craze for the GMT-Master II Ref 126710BLRO, it’s helpful to have a quick look at some Rolex history. Like many of the brand’s legendary tool watches, such as the Submariner and the Explorer, the GMT-Master was introduced in the 1950’s. Intercontinental travel by commercial airline was just starting to become a thing, bringing with it the increasing need to know the time in various places in the world, simultaneously. As a result, Pan-Am Airways, the largest international air carrier in the United States at the time, requested a watch that could display more than one time zone (for transatlantic flights).
The solution Rolex came up with was elegant in its simplicity. A fourth hand was introduced to the dial, 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, which marked daytime from nighttime hours. The Rolex GMT-Master was issued by Pan-Am to their crews on long-haul flights and was quickly adopted as the official watch of several other airlines.
Over the years, the Rolex GMT-Master, and later the GMT-Master II have become some of the most recognised GMT models on the market. They are still heavily favoured by commercial pilots as well as fashionable jet-setters and are credited with creating the blueprint for the modern GMT watch. Functional yet versatile, the GMT-Master II is a classic go anywhere, wear with anything type watch.
Several iterations of the GMT-Master II are available, but the classic ‘Pepsi’ bezel will always hold a special place in watch lovers’ hearts. That’s why it was so frustrating for many when, in 2014, Rolex decided to make the Pepsi GMT-Master II available exclusively 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’s why, since its release earlier this year, the Rolex GMT-Master II Ref 126710BLRO Pepsi has raced to the top of the grail list for many collectors. Waiting lists from authorised dealers are months long with no guarantees of delivery. Not surprisingly, the steel GMT-Master II with coveted ‘Pepsi’ bezel is now trading on the secondary market at extraordinary prices (over double recommended retail).
Presented in a 40mm Rolex Oyster case made from Oystersteel, the lugs and sides of the case have been subtly redesigned to fit on a five-link Jubilee bracelet. This is the first steel Pepsi GMT-Master II to feature the brand’s iconic Cerachrom bezel insert in red and blue ceramic, which is obviously a major drawcard. The bidirectional rotatable bezel is engraved with a 24-hour scale and allows for easy simultaneous viewing of a second timezone via the red GMT hand. The black dial is equipped with hour markers made from 18ct gold and uses Rolex’s highly legible Chromalight display with long-lasting blue luminescence for easy reading in low-light conditions.
Inside is the calibre 3285, a new-generation movement entirely developed and manufactured by Rolex. Equipped with a Parachrom hairspring, offering greater resistance to shocks and to temperature variations, as well as the brand’s Chronergy escapement, it offers a guaranteed power reserve of approximately 70 hours. Like all Rolex Perpetual movements, the 3285 has been certified as a Swiss chronometer by the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC). The movement has then undergone additional testing by Rolex after casing to ensure a final precision of -2/+2 secs a day, earning it the title of Superlative Chronometer.
The official retail price is GBP 7,150 / USD 9,250 but you can expect to pay GBP 13,000 – GBP 15,000/USD 18,000 – USD 21,000 on the secondary market for the privilege of owning one right now.
The Tudor Heritage Black Bay GMT Ref M79830RB
The Tudor Heritage Black Bay GMT is also a sought-after model, but availability is not limited to the same degree as the Rolex. Does that reduce its desirability somewhat? Possibly but if you’d rather be able to wear and enjoy your watch right now, this probably isn’t going to be as much of a concern for you.
Traditionally Tudor has often been referred to as the younger (poorer) man’s Rolex, however, that reputation is fast falling away. 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 with its high quality yet accessibly priced watches. Drawing heavily 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. Interestingly though, despite being around when Rolex introduced the original GMT-Master, Tudor doesn’t really have much history when it comes to GMT watches. As such, the new Heritage Black Bay GMT Ref M79830RB is exactly that; new.
As with all models in the Black Bay collection, 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. Like the GMT-Master II, the Black Bay GMT is equipped with a bi-directional rotatable bezel calibrated for 24 hours. Divided into two colours, 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 and the night-time hours on the blue. You won’t find any hi-tech ceramic here, however. Instead, the bezel insert is made from anodised aluminium, which some collectors actually prefer as it will age with the watch over time.
Presented in a 41mm steel with contrasting polished and satin finishes, the Tudor Black Bay GMT shares the versatility of the Rolex GMT-Master II Ref 126710BLRO Pepsi. The black dial provides the perfect contrast for the lume-filled hands, making reading the time easy even in low-light conditions. A particular highlight is the riveted steel bracelet with polished and satin finish, which ties in nicely to the tool watch concept but in a slightly dressier way. There’s also the option of a “Terra di Siena” brown leather strap with folding clasp and safety catch that looks great with the GMT bezel, or a black fabric strap with a burgundy band.
Inside is a new manufacture movement, the automatic calibre MT5652. Created by Tudor specifically for this new GMT model, it incorporates an additional 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, the manufacture calibre MT 5652 offers a comparable 70-hour power reserve and is also certified as a chronometer by the COSC. In keeping with the dive watch DNA of the Black Bay collection, the Black Bay GMT is rated waterproof to 200m.
The official retail price is GBP 2,790 / USD 3,900.
Is The Tudor GMT Better Value?
There’s no real obvious answer to this question as it depends on a number of factors, nearly 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?
In the short term, probably, but that’s assuming you flip it straight away. I’ve heard a few stories of buyer’s remorse from people who just had to have the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona 116500LN right now. Price be damned! Once the initial hype died down and prices stabilised somewhat though, they found they couldn’t sell their watch for the same exorbitant price they paid. If you’re planning to hold on to the watch for the long-term, meaning years, possibly decades, you likely will eventually see the return.
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 being said, it is reasonably readily available at retailers and you won’t need to buy several other models first before being given the opportunity to purchase. The flipside of course is that you are more likely to see other people wearing one, although if you’ve been on Instagram recently it seems there are no shortage of new Rolex Pepsi GMT’s being delivered.
At the fundamental level, however, both models are largely 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 offer 70-hour power reserves, however the Rolex movement is undoubtedly 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 undeniably a consideration when buying any luxury product.
If you find yourself deciding between the two, the best thing you can do is find a retailer who offers both (most authorised Rolex retailers also stock Tudor) and compare the two side by side. Given the high demand and apparent low supply of the Rolex GMT-Master II Ref 126710BLRO Pepsi, however, this will likely be a lot harder than it sounds. Ultimately 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: GBP 7,150 / USD 9,150.
More info at www.rolex.com.
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: GBP 2,790 / USD 3,900.
More info at www.tudorwatch.com.