November 9, 2021
by Ariel Adams
I know what you may be thinking: Why are we being tortured with an article about yet another Rolex timepiece that can’t easily be purchased? True enough, even though these Rolex GMT-Master II steel watches are technically available on the market, actually being able to buy a steel Rolex watch is an unenviable task for many consumers these days, given the high demand. That said, enough people are actually able to purchase these watches, and they will each be produced for long enough that most people who actually want one should be able to get one (eventually). So, let’s take a hands-on look at the 2021 Rolex GMT-Master II references 126710BLNR (black and blue bezel) and the 126710BLRO (blue and red bezel) watches on the now-available three-link Oyster bracelets.
As it is with many new Rolex watches, the hot fuss regarding these two models is something only seasoned brand followers will notice. In fact, these watches are so similar to existing Rolex 126710 GMT-Master II watches (debut in 2018 on aBlogtoWatch here) that they share the exact same reference number of their sister watches, which are the exact same but come on Rolex Jubilee bracelets. Now Rolex offers the GMT-Master 126710 BLRO (red and blue “Pepsi” dial) and 126710BLNR (black and blue “Batman” dial) on either the matching Rolex Oystersteel Jubilee bracelet or the iconic three-link Oyster bracelet. This has two interesting effects I will discuss below.
First, let us point you to aBlogtoWatch coverage of the two previously released Rolex GMT-Master II 126710 watches that correspond with these same references numbers. I encourage you to review those posts, as we explain a bit more about how these GMT-Master II watches have differed from older-generation products, and about the latest in-house Rolex technology applied to them. Here, you can check our aBlogtoWatch hands-on coverage of the steel Rolex GMT-Master II “Pepsi” bezel 126710BLRO here, and then over here, we went hands-on with the Rolex GMT-Master II “Batgirl” 126710BLNR watch. This represents the latest-generation GMT-Master II watch that features the newly updated and refined 40mm-wide Rolex Oystersteel case, as well as the in-house-made caliber 3285 automatic GMT movement.
The 3285 automatic movement features the time, date, and a GMT hand that indicates a second time zone in 24-hour format. This “Superlative Chronometer” is double-certified for accuracy and performance (from COSC and also Rolex, internally). The movement is highly reliable and operates at 4Hz with 70 hours of power reserve. The 40mm-wide case is topped with a sapphire crystal (including “Cyclops” magnifier over the date window) and the case is water-resistant to 100 meters. The GMT-Master II is Rolex’s traditional travel watch, having originally been designed for the needs of commercial airline pilots who needed to know the time in other places.
A key feature of many GMT-Masters was often a two-tone bezel whose differing colors corresponded to AM and PM time (not precisely, but you get the idea). This was meant to help wearers visually reference the day/night cycle more effectively, but it was also a place for Rolex to add splashes of color. Black and blue, and blue and red are just two of various colors mixtures that GMT-Master II bezels have had over the years. And Rolex could quite possibly add more color flavor in the future. What brought these two-tone GMT bezels into the modern era was producing them out of ceramic. Rolex was heralded as a pioneer when, in 2013, it released the reference 116710BLNR GMT-Master II (“Batman,” as enthusiasts later coined it) because it was the first time a two-tone ceramic bezel was used on a commercial watch (until then, ceramic came in one color, but Rolex developed a technique to create a portion of the ceramic to be a different color (the chemistry and pigment is different on each half) through the complex baking process that create the ceramic material.
The “Batman” name was really a response to the fact that the black and blue colors were novel for a Rolex watch and that previous colors have had nicknames such as “Pepsi,” “Rootbeer,” or “Kermit.” In truth only a small number of Batman costumes had black with blue together (I believe this was an Adam West Batman reference) but the Batman name for the 116710BLNR watch stuck. A year later in 2014 Rolex debuted the first red and blue bezel in ceramic (as opposed to anodized aluminum from more historic GMT-Master II watches) with the reference 116719BLRO GMT-Master II watch here. People loves the look of the watch but it was produced in 18k white gold and thus priced out of most people’s limits. The Pepsi bezel GMT-Master II remained a gold-only watch for a number of years.
Now in 2021, Rolex has done the uncommon thing of producing a near clone to the 116719BLRO (which was in 18k white gold) with the new 126710BLRO in steel (Rolex likes to remind you they use their 904L steel alloy blend which they call Rolex steel). Rolex came near to this with the Jubilee version of the same watch, but now on the Oystersteel bracelet, they have effectively made the 18k white gold generation model feel like a bit of an estranged cousin that is older and costlier without the visual distinction. Rolex will of course say that while everything we said might be true, they were initially limited in production by the fact that making those blue and red Cerachrom bezels was slow. And that putting them in lower-production 18k white gold watches made sense, but that since then they have been able to improve the industrialization of the red and blue ceramic bezels such that they can now “afford” to put them into steel watches. In any event, I think it is excellent that there are even more versions of the now popular colors for the what is one of Rolex’s most popular and versatile watches — the GMT-Master II in steel.
The polished center-link on the GMT-Master II’s Oyster bracelet has always visually separated the GMT-Master II from, say the Submariner (whose bracelet links are brushed) with this decorative distinction. It is true that the Jubilee bracelet also has a similar decorative feature, but many people like the more masculine or rather industrial look of the Oyster bracelet on Rolex’s Oyster Professional line of watches. Some men even go so far as to say that the Jubilee bracelet is feminine, but in truth, Rolex makes these products to look good on either men or women, so it is reasonable to say that the Jubilee bracelet has feminine appeal. It also has masculine appeal, and for casual-wear purposes, many people actually find its smaller-linked bracelet to be more comfortable. The Oyster bracelet is clearly the more classic and conservative of the two bracelet options and is now finally available on two watches that the market would very much like to see with these options.
This also means that the GMT-Master II “Batman” is officially a two-generation product having been produced as first the 116710BLNR and now as the 126710BLNR. Commercially speaking, this will help more people enjoy a modern icon — which is an important statement to make in an era when getting popular Rolex sports is a hard thing to do, given that it sounds like Rolex is going to keep producing more of them. As for the steel GMT-Master II Pepsi watch, the story is somewhat similar in that Rolex is now producing more units of a look that is known to be popular with consumers.
The comfortable Oyster bracelets have a folding and locking safety deployant as well as a 5mm-long “comfort extension,” which is a sort of simple micro-adjustment system. Now, I hope that should you want one of these timepieces, getting one will be just as comfortable as owning one — but who are we kidding, 2021? Retail price for the Rolex GMT-Master II 126710 BLNR and BLRO watches is $9,500 USD. Learn more at the Rolex watches website here.