From Pandas to Pepsis - A Guide to Rolex Nicknames

From Pandas to Pepsis - A Guide to Rolex Nicknames

Pandas, Pepsis, Hulks, Kermits, Batmans, Batgirls, Sprites and more – Rolex collectors have long enjoyed nicknaming their favourite models. But if you’re wondering how to find out more about Rolex’s many monikers, our specialists have come up with this handy guide to explain all…
Pandas, Pepsis, Hulks, Kermits, Batmans, Batgirls, Sprites and more – Rolex collectors have long enjoyed nicknaming their favourite models. But if you’re wondering how to find out more about Rolex’s many monikers, our specialists have come up with this handy guide to explain all…

R olex produces many of the most iconic and sought after timepieces in watchmaking. As such, as a myriad of nicknames have evolved over time, as enthusiasts and collectors affectionately identify their favourite Rolex watches, inspired by soft drinks, superheroes and an iconic frog. Sotheby’s global network of watch specialists are well-versed in this terminology and in this guide, pick out 13 of the most important nicknames to know.

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Rolex Daytona

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Paul Newman (Reference 6241), c.1968.

Paul Newman

What makes a Rolex Daytona a Paul Newman? It’s down to the dial. The legendary Hollywood star was famed for his love of Rolex Daytonas, with their distinctive design, contrasting sub-dials and square-block markers. Such dials have become indelibly associated with the fast-living, fast-driving motorsport-loving star, to such an extent that vintage Daytonas are often simply referred to as Paul Newmans. Indeed, the most expensive Rolex watch ever sold is a Rolex Daytona Paul Newman - owned by the actor himself.

Rolex Daytona Paul Newman John Player Special (Reference 6241), c.1969.

John Player

Another motorsports link, this time for the coveted John Player. This special-edition Rolex Daytona was created to commemorate British tobacco company John Player & Sons’ sponsorship of the Lotus F1 team in the 1970s. These vintage Rolex Daytonas are prized for their distinctive black and gold design, reflecting the JPS Lotus Formula One livery. In June 2021 Sotheby’s New York sold an extraordinary example of a Rolex Daytona Paul Newman John Player Special, selling the yellow gold chronograph for $625,000.

Rolex Daytona Panda (Rreference 116500LN), c.2022.

Panda

Originally designed as a tool for professional race car drivers, the Rolex Daytona Panda was inspired by racing cars and has in the decades since its launch in 1963, adorned the wrists of race car drivers, sportsmen, celebrities and notables including (of course), Paul Newman. The Panda name comes from its distinctive monochrome design, set off by an Art Deco panda dial face and steel bezel. The modern Rolex Panda (116500LN) remains one of the most in-demand watches in the world.

Rolex Daytona Zenith (Reference 16520), c.1998.

Zenith

Between 1988 and 2000, Rolex Daytonas carried a movement developed by Swiss watchmaker Zenith, the ‘Zenith El Primero’. The Rolex Zenith Daytona (16520 onwards) series that would evolve over five iterations until 2000 are highly prized to this day, for their unique movement and historical significance. Early examples had a now-prized inverted six on the bottom sub dial. Zenith Daytonas can be found in a variety of steel, gold and rose gold combinations, typically with black and white Panda dials.

Rolex Daytona Rainbow (Reference 116598RBOW), c.2012.

Rainbow

Impossible to ignore, with a distinctive, shimmering spectrum of colour on the bezel, the Rolex Rainbow Cosmograph Daytona was first unleashed at the 2012 Baselworld in a riot of colour that would alienate some and enchant others. This Rolex Daytona features almost 100 gemstones - 36 baguette-cut sapphires in a rainbow gradation and 56 diamonds adorning the mid-case. Rolex’s exacting standards for the gems means this Rainbow iteration of the Daytona is only produced in extremely-limited quantities, ensuring its consistently high value and coveted status. Some cite its growing popularity in recent years to musician and watch collector John Mayer, but the sports world also includes a number of famous wearers including Indian cricketer Virat Kohli and soccer icon David Beckham.

Rolex GMT

Rolex GMT-Master II Batman (Reference 116710BLNR), c.2017.

Batman

Holy GMT Master II Batman! This version of the Rolex GMT Master II features a black and blue ceramic bezel insert, reminiscent of our crime-fighting friend from Gotham city. The Batman Rolex GMT was introduced in 2013 as reference 116710BLNR. It is renowned for its heightened time zone functionality, including the rotatable 24-hour bezel and additional 24-hour hand. This highly distinctive hero watch continues to attract a price premium among Rolex collectors.

Rolex GMT-Master II Batgirl (Reference 126710BLNR), c.2022.

Batgirl

A close relation to the Rolex Batman this model is also a GMT Master II with a blue and black ceramic bezel insert, however in this case, we have a jubilee bracelet instead of the oyster bracelet of the Batman. Considered by some of the cognoscenti to be a more elegant and refined bracelet, the Rolex Batgirl perfectly complements its brother Batman as a watch of style and distinction.

Rolex GMT-Master II Coke (Reference 16710), c.1995.

Coke

A Rolex GMT-Master II with a red and black ceramic bezel insert? Coke it is. The Rolex was in production from 1982 to 2007, incorporating references 16760 and 16710. The former was only in production for a few years, making it especially sought after by collectors. This Coca-Cola GMT colour scheme was eventually replaced by the Pepsi.

Rolex GMT-Master Pepsi (Reference 1675), c.1965.

Pepsi

Back in the 1950s, Rolex introduced the first GMT-Master watch, with a two-toned bezel, aimed at pilots who needed to track multiple time zones simultaneously. Today, the Rolex Pepsi continues the story of the GMT-Master with the distinctive blue and red ceramic bezel insert, available in both oyster and jubilee bracelets. Pepsi bezels have been released in tightly controlled numbers over the years, meaning that today they are highly prized by collectors seeking a bit of fizz.

Rolex GMT-Master II Sprite (Reference 126720VTNR), c.2022.

Sprite

When this new Rolex GMT was unveiled in 2022, it took the entire industry by surprise, given its never-seen-before black and green ceramic bezel. Furthermore, the crown is placed on the left side of the case, at 9 o’clock. This configuration is known as destro, referring to the fact that the watch is designed to be worn on the left wrist.

While a few Rolexes from the 1950s and 1960s, including GMT, Submariner and Datejust were made with the crown at 9 o’clock, most probably upon special request, it is the first time Rolex has done it within its regular production. Quickly nicknamed the Rolex Sprite by the watch community, this model is subject to an extremely long waiting list.

Rolex GMT Root Beer (Reference 126715) c.2018.

Root Beer

During the 1960s and 1970s, Rolex GMT Masters with soft brown and gold bezel inserts signified opulent, sophisticated style and panache. These vintage Rolex Root Beer references have remained intensely collectable over the years and inspired an updated new GMT-Master II in 2018. This included an 18-karat Everose gold case, black dial and oyster bracelet- a knowing nod to the vintage Rolex Root Beers.

Rolex Submariner

Rolex Submariner Kermit Flat 4 (Reference 16610LV), c.2004.

Kermit

It ain’t easy being green sang Kermit the Frog in The Muppet Show. Unless you’re a Rolex Submariner, which launched in 1953 as a diving watch and has remained a watchmaking icon ever since. In 2003 Rolex launched the reference 16610LV to celebrate the Submariner’s 50th anniversary. Affectionately nicknamed the Kermit, this anniversary piece is the only Rolex Submariner reference to boast a green aluminium bezel insert. The Rolex Kermit was discontinued in 2010 after a seven-year production run, to be followed by the Rolex Hulk, and continues to see robust price performance.

Rolex Submariner Hulk (Reference 116610LV), c.2012.

Hulk

An unmissable green dominates this Rolex Hulk Submariner, lending it a certain resemblance to the all-conquering titular superhero. And like that furious green beast, this Rolex is a tough cookie – crafted in Rolex’s proprietary 904L stainless steel, known for its exceptional durability and anti-corrosive properties. It’s also rare – the Rolex Hulk is produced in very limited runs and as such assumes almost mythical status amongst serious collectors. Just like the Incredible Hulk himself.

Rolex Submariner Starbucks (Reference 126610LV), c.2021.

Starbucks

A riff on the green theme, this Rolex Submariner Date was introduced in 2020 (126610lv) and pairs a deep green bezel with black dial - hence the Rolex Starbucks nickname.

Rolex Explorer

Rolex Explorer II Steve McQueen (Reference 1655), c.1974.

Steve McQueen

In the 1971 movie ‘Le Mans’, Hollywood legend and daredevil racing driver Steve McQueen famously wore a Rolex Explorer II, a watch designed for adventurers, explorers and all who admired them. Or did he? Whilst that’s the common assumption behind the Rolex Steve McQueen, it appears this was a product of online misidentification, and that the actor actually owned a Submariner. That said the nickname has stuck, with collectors prizing this Rolex Explorer’s robust design stemming from its steel construction and fixed bezel. The McQueen association has lent it an irresistible flavour of ruggedness and old-school masculinity that will forever be associated with the ‘King of Cool’.

Rolex Explorer II Polar (Reference 16570T), c.2005.

Polar

There is no watch cooler than a Polar, the Rolex Explorer II whose icy white dial shimmers with brilliance and clarity. A mainstay of the Rolex Explorer 2 line-up, the Rolex Polar dial has been produced in evolving iterations and materials over the years but remains an iconic Rolex Professional watch.

Rolex Sea-Dweller

Rolex Submariner Double Red Sea-Dweller (Reference 1665), c.1972.

Double Red

First launched in the late 1960s as reference 1665 – the Rolex Double Red Sea Dweller was a take on the Rolex Submariner, intended for deep sea divers, capable of withstanding extreme pressure at depth. Its dial featured the watch’s name SEA-DWELLER on two lines, in bold red – hence the nickname. Later editions of the Rolex Sea Dweller had the name on a single line, necessitating this very specific informal name for the original, which has become a legend for Rolex watch collectors over the years.

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