Sunday, March 24, 2024

A Rolex GMT-Master II with a Ceramic Coke Bezel








A patent filed in mid-2023 by Rolex but only made public last month reveals the brand is perfecting the multicolor-bezel manufacturing process, mentioning four times the red-and-black color combination. 

What the patent says: Rolex prefers to use zirconia-based ceramic for its bezels due to its high strength and durability. While zirconia-based ceramics are naturally white, the pigmentation process and certain color combinations are difficult to produce. Rolex has had to use an alumina-based ceramic for the blue-and-red bezels, which lack the same durability. 

Until now. Rolex says it can now create a Coke bezel with a durable zirconia-based ceramic bezel.

Rolex revealed it has found a way to reliably produce red-and-black bezels as well as red-and-orange bezels (Fanta?) on a zirconia-based ceramic. The patent says the color combinations have “a very attractive appearance.” 

Rolex could wait until the GMT-Master's 70th anniversary — in 2025, according to — to release the Coke or Fanta, or unveil them during the next edition of Watches and Wonders, at 8:30am CET on April 9. For your viewing pleasure, I shared a computer-generated animation of a new Rolex with a Coke bezel. Please click below and enjoy!


JAKE'S TAKE: I find Rolex's statement in the patent saying they figured out how to create color combinations that feature a "very attractive appearance" to be very interesting. I have always thought ceramic bezel inserts were inferior to anodized aluminum bezels as ceramic bezels often look washed out—in certain lighting conditions. 

The photo below shows an anodized vintage Rolex Pepsi bezel up close and notice it almost has a sparkle pattern to it. This high/low characteristic results in a metallic look that reflects a lot of light while remaining rich in color.

The Black ceramic bezel insert on the Submariner often, in many lights looks washed out, as if it is a dark grey color as apposed to a rich jet black.

Same thing with the LV Submariner (Hulk) that had the green dial. The green sunburst dial on that model was off-the-hook popping, as it featured aluminum embedded in the dial, which made it pop in all lighting conditions, but the green bezel looked washed-out, dull and plasticy. 

It sounds like Rolex figured out how to make create a ceramic using zirconia sapphire crystal that features a more robust contrast and color saturation profile, which would be the best of both worlds. Just to be crystal clear, Zirconia is commonly referred to as 'Cubic Zurconia'' which is essentially what high quality sturdy synthetic diamonds are commonly make from.  My understanding is that Rolex crystals are made from synthetic sapphire crystal, which is basically Zirconia.

Everybody has been asking me what I think we will see this year at Watches and Wonders, and I have no idea. That being said, I REALLY hope to see a Coke or Pepsi Bezel insert that has the glowing lume bezel numbers, like they had on the original GMT-Masters that first became available in Q4 of 1956.

GMT Bakelite Bezel

The original GMT Master models—beginning in 1955-1956—featured a so-called "bakelite" bezel insert that would glow in the dark, and some of them still do, as seen in the lume-shots below. This first image from Stefano Mazzariol shows the bezel insert still glowing after all these years.

This next image shows both the dial and bezel insert and hands still glowing.

The first generation Rolex GMT had what has been dubbed a "Bakelite Bezel" but I don't think it is made from bakelite. It appears to be some kind of clear epoxy. 

The amazing thing about the design of these original GMT bezels is that the numbers on the bezel glowed in the dark and as seen in these amazing macro photos, the numbers seem to be frozen in an icy bezel–kind of like insect specimens that got trapped in tree sap millions of years ago, and can still be seen through the sap.

The photo below is a wrist shot I took back in 1999 wearing my Coke GMT-Master, and notice how popping the anodized aluminum bezel looks in ALL lighting conditions. [When I look at the photo of my old Coke GMT, it looks strange with the tiny winding crown, but that used to be a key characteristic that differentiated the GMT-Master from the Submariner!]