Rolex has a remarkable history of creating high quality timepieces that are as fashionable as they are functional. Their range of sophisticated wristwatches have traveled to the darkest depths of the ocean and reached the tallest peaks in the world, cementing the brand’s status as a leader in luxury and precision watchmaking. It’s no wonder Rolex has such a loyal following of enthusiasts who’re passionate about collecting the brand’s most elusive and impressive watch models. Along with drawing fans from every corner of the globe, Rolex watches have picked up quite a few nicknames over the years that, while not officially recognized by Rolex, have become widely accepted in the watch world. If you’re considering starting your own collection of Rolex watches, there’s much to learn. Start by checking out our complete guide to Rolex nicknames, so you can feel like an expert when it comes time to shop!
In the early 1950’s, Rolex teamed up with Pan American Airlines to design a watch for their team of pilots. This led to the design of the Rolex GMT-Master with a red and blue bezel that matched the airline’s color scheme. Not only did this watch display a second time zone, its unique, dual colored bezel also allowed Pan Am’s pilots to quickly differentiate between daytime and nighttime hours. Nowadays, you’ll hear this watch model referred to as the “Pepsi” because of its resemblance to the soda brand’s classic red, white, and blue logo.
When Rolex first debuted the GMT-Master II, it included a sleek, solid black bezel. They later introduced the two-tone black and red variation, dubbed the “Coca-Cola.” Though the famed beverage maker’s official colors are red and white, the overall arrangement of the stainless-steel watch with the black and red details resembles that of a refreshing can of Coke.
Rolex Root Beer
Falling in line with the soda theme, Rolex released a brown and gold GMT-Master in the 1960’s that came to be known as the “Root Beer” GMT. This Rolex GMT-Master features a caramel brown dial and two-tone brown and gold bezel, bringing to mind the image of a frothy glass of root beer. A genuine Rolex enthusiast may refer to the “Root Beer” GMT by another nickname, “Dirty Harry,” a reference to Clint Eastwood’s famous film character who brought the watch to the silver screen.
In 2003, the iconic Rolex Submariner celebrated its 50th anniversary. The Swiss watchmaker commemorated the occasion by specially releasing a new Submariner model with a jet black dial and a bright green bezel. The watch earned the nickname “Kermit” after the beloved Muppet character. The “Kermit” Submariner was also the first watch to introduce the Maxi dial which includes larger hour markers than former models.
Another green Rolex Submariner, nicknamed the “Hulk,” was released at Baselworld 2010. In addition to a green bezel, this Submariner features a rich green dial to match, plus a bulkier case and wider lugs that go hand in hand with its superhero moniker. The “Hulk” happens to also be the first Submariner to have a matching dial and bezel in a color other than black or blue.
If you prefer DC over Marvel, you’ll surely appreciate the “Batman” Rolex GMT-Master II. The combination of a black dial, dual-tone black and blue bezel, and blue 24 hour hands looks like something straight out of Gotham City. This is by far one of Rolex’s most popular GMT-Master II models, earning a huge following since its initial release in 2014.
The Rolex Explorer series caters to thrill seeking adventurers, designed to withstand the most extreme conditions. In fact, legend has it the first watch to reach the peak of Mount Everest was an early prototype of the Explorer. When Rolex released the Explorer II, they also introduced a white dial version. This contrasted with the stainless steel case gives the watch an icy cool appearance that inspired its nickname, the “Polar” Explorer.
Rolex’s reference 116619 Submariner is one of the brand’s most impressive watch models, though you wouldn’t guess it from its nickname—the “Smurf.” These timepieces are crafted from 18-karat white gold, and include a matching electric blue dial and bezel that inspire its cartoonish name. The “Smurf” Submariner is favored by celebrities and athletes for its high quality craftsmanship and exceptional style. It’s no wonder this watch tends to be a little pricier than other Rolex models.
Rolex Double Red Sea-Dweller
When commercial diving company COMEX needed a divers watch that could reach the deepest depths of the sea, they naturally turned to one of the most exclusive watch manufacturers in the world. Rolex crafted the “Double Red Sea-Dweller,” nicknamed for the two tiny lines of red text on the dial that read “SEA-DWELLER SUBMARINER 2000.” Because the original Sea-Dwellers were just variations of the Submariner, the watch bore both names on its dial. The watch was produced for a decade between 1967 and 1977, and was the first to feature a Helium Escape Valve that allowed the watch to function at depths up to 2,000 feet.
Rolex Great White
After Rolex ceased production of the “Double Red Sea-Dweller,” they replaced it with a new version that had some slight modifications. First, the brand removed the Submariner label, drawing a clear distinction between the Submariner and Sea-Dweller collections. The red text that gave the “Double Red Sea-Dweller” its epithet was replaced with white lettering, inspiring a new nickname—the “Great White.”
For an avid Rolex collector, few watch models are more coveted than the reference 6062, better known as “Stelline.” Rolex manufactured the watch for three short years during the 1950’s, making them highly valuable and difficult to come by. In addition to their rarity, the “Stelline” is one of only two Rolex watches to ever feature a triple calendar function and moonphase. You can identify a “Stelline” by its hour markers, which are either triangular or star-shaped. “Stelline” translates to “little star” in Italian, hence the watch’s celestial moniker.
Generally, Rolex watch dials tend to include lines of text such as the watch’s name as well as special features or functions. However, a handful of Rolex Daytona’s were designed to be free of any text other than the Rolex brand name. These vintage Daytonas are few and far between and are known simply as “Solo” for their unelaborate dial.
Rolex Fat Lady/Sophia Loren
The first GMT-Master II that Rolex produced was the reference 16760, which also marked the brand’s first separately adjustable 24-hour hand. This particular GMT- Master II was only manufactured in stainless steel and had a red and black “Coca-Cola” bezel insert. Additionally, this specific model features a thicker case and bezel, and larger crown guards than previous ones. For this reason, the watch was nicknamed the “Fat Lady.” You’ll also sometimes hear the watch referred to as “Sophia Loren,” a title that hints at the timepiece’s curvier appearance.
Much like the “Stelline,” the Rolex “Padellone” reference 8171 is one of the most collectible Rolex watches in existence. The word “Padellone” is Italian for “large frying pan,” a nod to the watch’s unusually large case. Measuring 38 mm in diameter, the Rolex “Padellone” was the first of its kind, as the average size of a men’s wristwatch in the 1940s was no more than 35 mm. Aside from redefining fashion norms of the day, the “Padellone” is the only Rolex watch, aside from the “Stelline,” to have a triple calendar function and moonphase. When it comes to rare vintage Rolex’s, the “Padellone” reference 8171 is a collector’s holy grail. Getting your hands on one of these treasured timepieces can prove quite the challenge, especially since Rolex is rumored to have produced less than a thousand of them.
Surely you’ve heard a Rolex Day-Date referred to as a Rolex “President.” Though the name “President” actually indicates the style of bracelet, it seems to have stuck thanks to a number of U.S. presidents who’ve publicly worn a Day-Date. This watch is often mistakenly associated with President Dwight D. Eisenhower, though in fact he never owned one. Instead Eisenhower wore a Rolex Datejust which had several features in common with modern Rolex “President” Day-Dates.
Rolex Paul Newman
In the 1960s, Rolex experimented with their Cosmograph Daytona, releasing the classic watch with a new and unique dial. Unfortunately for the Swiss watchmaker, the redesign was a flop, and sales of the watch were lackluster. That is, until legendary actor and race car driver Paul Newman sported one during a magazine photo shoot. Not only did he help launch the watch into super-stardom, he also gave the timepiece its famous nickname—the “Paul Newman.” When Paul Newman’s personal Cosmograph Daytona went up for sale, it sold for a staggering $17.75 million, making it the most expensive wristwatch ever sold at auction at the time.
Rolex James Cameron
The Mariana Trench is the ocean’s deepest point, with a depth of nearly 36,000 feet. Few have braved the dangers of exploring these uncharted waters, and only a handful of missions have ever been successfully completed. But, in 2012, with the help of Rolex, filmmaker James Cameron completed the first solo dive mission to the depths of the Mariana Trench, spending an unprecedented three hours exploring the unexplored. To commemorate such a historical moment, Rolex released a special edition Deepsea Sea-Dweller. The watch features a gradated dial that transitions from deep blue to jet black, representing Cameron’s descent into the sea. Additionally, the word “DEEPSEA” is printed to match the color of Cameron’s submersible, the Deep Sea Challenger. As you might imagine, the watch has come to be known as the “James Cameron.”
Rolex Steve McQueen
The original Rolex Explorer II reference 1655, is often called by its nickname, the “Steve McQueen.” However, the famous actor never actually wore this particular watch, preferring his stainless steel Submariner instead. The connection between the two stems from McQueen’s appearance in a 1970s advertising campaign that was organized to help boost the watch’s unimpressive sales. The campaign stuck in people’s minds, and the Explorer II came to forever be known as the “Steve McQueen.”
Rolex James Bond
Rolex watches are widely recognized for their appearance in the iconic James Bond films. When Sean Connery made his debut as the charming super spy in Dr. No, he donned a Rolex Submariner reference 6538, known as the original “James Bond” Submariner. The watch featured an over-sized crown and had no crown guards, distinguishing it from later Submariner models. Throughout the years, Bond has worn a variety of watches including alternate styles from Rolex, as well as Omega, Seiko, and more. But, for serious aficionados, the reference 6538 Submariner will always be the true “James Bond” Rolex watch.
Rolex Jean-Claude Killy
Between the 1940s and 1960s, Rolex produced a collection of triple calendar chronographs for the Rolex Dato-Compax series. These watches came to be known as the “Jean-Claude Killy” Rolexes after the famous champion skier who served as one of the brand’s ambassadors, and later as a board member. Though Killy was never actually photographed wearing one of these watches, it’s assumed that he owned one given his close ties to the brand and his appearance in numerous Rolex ad campaigns.
Rolex John Player Special
A Rolex Daytona “Paul Newman” is a rarity prized by collectors from around the world, and the “John Player Special” model within this collection is no exception. The Rolex Daytona “Paul Newman” reference 6241, was designed with a yellow gold case, black acrylic bezel, and a black dial that resembled the race cars driven by the Lotus Formula One team. Naturally, the watch was nicknamed for the team’s sponsor, the John Player & Sons ‘Specials’ cigarette brand.
Invest in a Pre-Owned Rolex Watch from Leo’s
Wondering where you can get your hands on an authentic Rolex watch without spending a fortune? Then it’s time to check out Leo Hamel Fine Jewelers in San Diego, where you’ll discover a vast selection of pre-owned Rolex watches. Each timepiece has been meticulously restored to perform as if it came straight from the Rolex factory. By purchasing a pre-owned Rolex from Leo’s, you’ll save on time and money without ever having to sacrifice style or quality! What’re you waiting for? Your dream Rolex watch is waiting for you here at Leo Hamel Fine Jewelers!