Rolex timepieces have more nicknames than any other watch brand, and we’ve picked some of the most popular models that have earned unofficial monikers.
Remarkably, for a company that makes an estimated one million watches a year, demand for Rolex watches is at an all-time high. Rolex’s unrelenting strategy of making products with superior quality, making evolutionary designs that become timeless, and meticulously controlling all aspects of communication and distribution are core strategies that keep them at the top. Whether nicknames play a role in Rolex’s success — or if they are a result of the brand’s success — is open for debate. What’s not is that people use Rolex nicknames affectionately, and that’s typically the sign of a successful product.
A Paul Newman or “Paul Newman Daytona” refers to a particular dial type within certain vintage Rolex Cosmograph Daytona chronographs. It’s arguably the first or second most recognizable nickname of all Rolexes made. The version above is a Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Paul Newman “Oyster Sotto.” Paul Newman Daytonas are the most coveted and valuable Rolex watch models. Just one look at the price of a Newman Daytona selling at auction (one sold for a record of over $17 million in 2017) or a modern Daytona selling on the secondary market (they often fetch double the retail value on the resale market) — and the Paul Newman association with the Daytona shows the significant impact of a good nickname.
One of the most universally loved nicknames within the Rolex world is Pepsi which refers to GMT Master or GMT Master II models that have a blue and red bezel insert. Dating back to 1954, the GMT-Master Ref. 6542 was the first GMT-Master and was made in response to a request from Pan-Am Airlines made for a reliable watch that could simultaneously display two time zones for use on transatlantic flights. The first GMT-Master came with a blue and red “Bakelite” bezel which is one reason the iconic “Pepsi” colorway is so popular and has lasted in the Rolex collection to this day. An interesting fact is that the original GMT-Master was worn in the 1964 James Bond film Goldfinger film played by actress Honor Blackman who is a villain named “Pussy Galore.” And that is how the original GMT-Master 6542 Bakelite Pepsi timepiece earned the nickname Pussy Galore.
The green dial of the discontinued Hulk Submariner distinguishes it from a “Kermit” Submariner — which also has a green bezel — because the Kermit has a black dial whereas the Hulk bezel matches its dial. Unlike many of the other nicknames that we discuss in this article, the Hulk, or “Lunette Verte” edition came in only one version (Ref. 116610V) to date.
Unlike the majority of Rolex nicknames that are exclusive to a specific model, like the Submariner or GMT-Master, which can span multiple references within its respective collection. The Rainbow Rolex nickname is not tied to a specific model or reference. Pictured in Yacht-Master form, Rainbow Rolexes are also available in Day-Date and Daytona variations. The Daytona Rainbow is the most famous and sees widespread adaptation by celebrities as well as achieving sky-high resale prices. The Yacht-Master has rainbow-colored jewels only on the bezel, whereas the Daytona has a rainbow-set bezel and dial, not to mention a jewel-set bracelet. The current Rolex Day-Date rainbow has clear diamonds on its bezel, dial, and bracelet, and the rainbow setting is used just for the hour markers.
Introduced in 1955, Sean Connery first wore the Rolex Submariner 6538 “Big Crown” 2-Line version in Dr. No (1962), and it stayed on his wrist in From Russia with Love (1963) and Goldfinger (1964). Him wearing the Submariner as Bond is a huge factor in making it famous.
The Batman refers to the black and blue ceramic bezel-equipped versions of the Rolex GMT-Master II on an Oyster bracelet (Ref. 126710BLNR). Interestingly, if equipped with a Jubilee bracelet, the watch is referred to as a “Batgirl.” Both versions are in Rolex’s current catalog.
Some of the other Rolex wristwatch nicknames include Kermit, Cermit, Smurf, Bao Dai, Coke, Root Beer, Clint Eastwood, James Cameron, Pussy Galore, Steve McQueen, Bart Simpson, Bubbleback, Nipple Dial, Padellone, Oyster Sotto, Blueberry, John Mayer, Jean-Claude Killy, Patrizzi, Bart Simpson, El Cornino, Zenith Daytona, Texas Timex, President, Monoblocco, Stella, Exclamation Point Dial, Great White, Rail Dial, Presidential, Starbucks, Red Line, Sigma Dial, Triple Six, Stelline, Wide Boy Dial, Underline Dial, Unicorn, Ice, Bruiser, Plutona, and Polar.
The cover photo is a 1991 Rolex GMT-Master Pepsi Ref. 16700 curated by Analog Shift and taken at Watches of Switzerland SoHo.