Rolex is such a force to be reckoned with in the luxury world, and its products are so iconic, that an entire nickname-based taxonomy has developed around the brand’s wares.
Though certain other famous marques do indeed have timepieces that have been nicknamed by tightknit collector circles — think of the “Ed White” Omega Speedmaster, for example — the practice has reached new heights where the Crown’s watches are concerned, to a point at which everyone from your teenage brother to your retiring dad knows what a “Pepsi” refers to beyond the beverage. There’s a circular effect at play in which the desire for its watches makes room for alter-ego monikers, which subsequently increases brand visibility and desire for Rolex watches. It’s a vicious cycle!
One important point to make is that all of these nicknames are just that—nicknames. With very few exceptions, each of these terms was invented by the collector community and never officially used or sanctioned by Rolex itself. So, though an authorized dealer will no doubt understand you just fine if you inquire after a “Rolex Pepsi,” a Rolex employee would likely grit their teeth. Of course, these playful aliases are much more enjoyable to use than the practice of memorizing and slinging around reference numbers—the average person will have no idea what the heck you’re talking about if you begin waxing poetic about the beauty of the 126710BLRO. (And that’s probably as it should be…)
So without further ado, here is a breakdown of the most commonly used Rolex nicknames. (And remember, be sure to send this along to your significant other so they can stop wondering why you’re constantly talking about “Batman,” despite being a fully-grown adult.)
Batman: A GMT-Master II — the reference 116710BLNR introduced in 2013 — with a blue and black bezel insert. This reference was subsequently upgraded to the 126710BLNR and given the newer Calibre 3285 movement in 2019, but it kept the Dark Knight-inspired name.
Batgirl: The GMT-Master II reference 126710BLNR with a blue and black bezel insert…and a Jubilee bracelet. What distinguished this model as the “Batgirl” was the addition of the Jubilee bracelet in 2019 and a new generation movement, however now this reference is currently available with either a Jubilee or an Oyster bracelet making it hard to distinguish between its “Batman” counterpart without box and papers or an expert to confirm the interior caliber.
Bart Simpson: This is some in-the-weeds stuff, but: The crown on certain reference 5513 Submariners made in the mid-1960s — which were the last to feature “gilt” printing — have a coronet (the Rolex crown logo) that looks strikingly similar to Bart Simpson’s hair.
Bubbleback: Early Oyster Perpetual models were outfitted with movements whose design necessitated a slightly raised, ovular case back that protruded from the plane of the watch case — hence the “bubbleback” moniker. Rolex made gobs of these beautiful — albeit smallish — watches from the 1930s through roughly the 1950s.
Buckley (Dial): A type of Day-Date or Datejust dial that features painted Roman numerals, rather than applied versions. The nickname comes from one John Buckley, a collector and dealer based in NYC, and a big fan of this dial type.
Coke: A GMT-Master II with a red and black aluminum bezel insert, which first appeared on the reference 16760, and subsequently appeared on the reference 16710. Currently, there is no “Coke” in the Rolex catalog.
Fat Lady: When the GMT-Master II debuted in 1983 in the reference 16760 — a watch that would otherwise be known as a “Coke” — it featured a case 0.5 mm thicker than its predecessor in order to accommodate a new caliber 3085 movement. This particular reference has thus become known as the “Fat Lady”…or, alternatively, the “Sophia Loren” in reference to the Italian actress’s famous curves. (It also included a sapphire crystal, white gold hour surrounds, and independent local hour setting, making it the first truly “modern” GMT-Master variant.)
Green Lantern: In early 2022, Rolex released a left-handed GMT-Master II with a green and black bezel that technically has three aliases: “Green Lantern”, the “Sprite,” or the “Destro” (Italian for right because left-handers are meant to wear their watch on their right hand) depending upon whom you ask. It’s available on both Oyster and Jubilee bracelets.
Hulk: A green Sub, reference 116610LV, that features a green Cerachrom bezel, a green dial, and a Rolex “Super” case.
John Player Special: A Daytona reference 6264 or 6241 in solid gold with a black exotic dial, and called thusly after John Player & Sons, a UK-based tobacco company and Formula 1 sponsor. The company’s cigarette boxes were black with gold lettering — hence the association.
Kermit: A reference 16610LV Submariner Date, which was introduced in 2003 in time for the Sub’s 50th anniversary. This reference featured a first for Rolex — a green bezel insert, executed here in aluminum, which lent it its Muppet-themed nickname.
Paul Newman: A “Paul Newman” is any hand-wound Daytona with what Rolex referred to as an “exotic” dial — a series of dials manufactured by Singer that featured blocky indices in the sub-registers as well as funky Arabic numerals and pops of color. They came to be known as “Paul Newman” watches because the famed actor wore at least two different Daytonas with these dials — most famously, his reference 6239, which hammered in 2017 at auction for close to $18M.
Pepsi: A Rolex GMT-Master or GMT-Master II with a blue and red bezel, for obvious reasons. This could be any reference — from the 1950s-era 6542 to the modern 126710BLRO. (Even the meteorite-dialed 126719BLRO is technically fair game given its bezel colors, though maybe this one deserves its own nickname. The “Space Pepsi,” perhaps?) This color combo originally came about as a nod to PanAm’s logo, as the GMT-Master was created for personnel for that airline.
Polar: An Explorer II with a white dial, which could be a reference 16550, 16570, 216570, or 226570.
President: Though the Rolex Day-Date has become known colloquially as the “President,” technically this is a name used by Rolex to denote that watch’s bracelet — a special bracelet made specifically (and only) for the Day-Date, and available at retail only in precious metals.
Root Beer: A GMT-Master or GMT-Master II with either a half-brown, half-gold bezel insert — which are found on two-tone watches with brown dials — or one with a fully brown insert and gold text. (More modern references with Cerachrom bezels in black and brown feature two-tone Rolesor cases or solid-gold Everose cases.) Why “root beer?” Picture the A&W root beer logo colors.
Smurf: A white gold Submariner with a blue bezel insert and either a blue (reference 116619LB) or a black (reference 126619LB) dial — the latter being the newer watch, and the one currently in the Rolex catalog.
Starbucks: In late 2020, Rolex introduced a new Sub with a Super case, a green Cerachrom bezel, and a black dial (ref 122610LV), making for a watch sort of halfway between a Kermit and a Hulk, but it’s visually closer to the Kermit. The difference is the new 41 mm case, thinner lugs, wider bracelet and the new caliber 3235 (or 3230 on the no-date version), offering higher energy efficiency. The collector community has subsequently named this reference the “Starbucks” given its black and green color combo — but maybe it would’ve been better to combine “Hulk” and “Kermit” into “Hermit?” (No? Bueller?)
Steve McQueen: The earliest Explorer II, the reference 1655, has come to be known rather curiously as the Steve McQueen — despite there being no evidence that the iconic American actor ever wore one. (His Rolex of choice was a Submariner.)
Stella (Dial): A type of exotic dial found on vintage Day-Date models from the 1970s. These dials were manufactured by a Swiss company — called Stella — and were actually referred to by Rolex as “lacquered Stella” dials. Made from colored enamel, they’re instantly recognizable and were supposedly mostly sold in the Middle Eastern market.