When a certain watch is widely popular with the masses, it’s usually for good reason. Maybe the overall design is simply easy on the eyes, the dial color is very on trend, or the watch has an exciting history to look back on. The three watches I’m going to write about today have all done something right, otherwise they wouldn’t be as popular as they are. Even so, I just can’t get on board with them – I think they are completely overrated. It’s not just their obscene market prices either; I just don’t like them.
I’m fully aware that I am in the minority with these opinions, but I think it’s good to share a slightly different take on these fan favorites from Rolex and Omega, and tell you what I would choose in their place. I’ll start by saying this is just my own, subjective opinion. There is no doubt that each of the watches in this article has earned its status, but I just can’t warm up to them. Sometimes the shoe just doesn’t fit…
1. The Rolex GMT-Master II Pepsi: Too Colorful
OK, so there is no question that the Rolex GMT-Master II is a beautiful watch to behold. The case, which we know and love from the Rolex Submariner, is extremely distinctive and attractive. Thanks to the useful GMT function, you can keep track of three time zones at once, and the bezel is easy to use. Overall, this is a classy watch and its haptics are on point – as you’d expect from a Rolex. However, the real reason there has been so much hype around this watch in recent years is probably the colorful bezel. The blue and red “Pepsi” variant has watch lovers swooning. But is a price tag north of $30,000 really justified? For me, the answer to that question is a clear no, especially since the “Pepsi” bezel looks far too sporty and doesn’t suit a lot of outfits. This is why I would always prefer a black Rolex GMT-Master II, even if the premium is a little more modest. This watch, which was discontinued in 2019, basically offers you everything that the “Pepsi” does plus added versatility.
Rolex GMT-Master II: A Simpler Alternative
You’ll have to decide for yourself if the price of the black Rolex GMT-Master II is fair or not, but the GMT-Master II ref. 116710LN is definitely cheaper than its “Pepsi” or “Batman” counterparts. The black-on-black look pairs well with any outfit and suits any occasion, making it ideal for everyday use. The green GMT-Master inscription and green GMT hand are small, but welcome accents providing visual interest without sacrificing versatility. Although you can’t buy this variant on a Jubilee bracelet, I personally prefer the look of the partly polished Oyster bracelet with this watch anyway. If Rolex decides against re-issuing this GMT-Master II variant down the line, this reference could very well become a coveted collector’s item, which in turn could lead to appreciation in years to come.
2. The Rolex Oyster Perpetual: Not My Thing
In September 2020, Rolex debuted a new reference of the Oyster Perpetual, including a selection of new, colorful dials. These have since caused a real hype, which has subsequently benefited the more traditional dial variants as well. As a watch enthusiast, I have the utmost respect for the Rolex Oyster Perpetual, technically speaking. It is, after all, pretty much the basis of every Rolex model. That being said, I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around the hype over this simple icon. Ultimately, it’s no more than the entry-level model of a big-name brand. Colorful dials – which, by the way, were implemented quite carelessly, in my opinion – do not change that. It looks like Rolex simply brought back the “Stella” dials from the 1960s and inserted them almost untouched into modern Oyster Perpetual cases. The pastels are obviously popular among watch lovers, and current market prices speak for themselves, but I actually find the colors aren’t really suitable for a contemporary timepiece; they strike me as a bit outdated.
Non-Rolex Alternative: Classic Tudor or Colorful Omega
If you’re looking for a suitable alternative sans date function, I would have no qualms about choosing the Tudor Black Bay 36 or 41. The manufacturer’s proximity to Rolex (yet complete independence) ensures you are getting a good-quality watch for a fraction of what you’d have to fork over for a Rolex Oyster Perpetual. If it’s the eye-catching dial you’re after, however, you must take a closer look at the new, 38-mm Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra “Rainbow.” While I think Omega has borrowed rather generously from Rolex here, the Omega dials are actually a lot better. The sunburst effect is more impressive and the colors are warmer, more modern, and more aesthetically pleasing than those on the Rolex Oyster Perpetual. While it’s questionable that Omega followed Rolex’s lead so closely with their dial colors, the Aqua Terra is definitely its own watch with a unique character. At around $6,000, the Omega is significantly more affordable than the Rolex, which nowadays will set you back at least $10,000. Plus, the Omega boasts a useful date complication, which the Oyster Perpetual of course lacks.
3. The Omega Speedmaster Professional: Buyer’s Remorse
I can still remember how excited I was to finally hold my Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch in my hands. I had been saving for months, and for someone who had seen and read everything about NASA and the Moon missions, the Moonwatch was an absolute must-have for me. Omega also pulled out all the stops with the predecessor of the current Speedmaster. The watch came in a huge collector’s box with lots of great extras that won me over and only reaffirmed my “must-have” feeling. But just a few short weeks later, I noticed how seldom the watch actually made it on my wrist. Was it the unconventional bracelet that didn’t appeal to me? Or the matte black dial lacking in variety? Or the inconvenient manual movement that needed winding at least every two days? Whatever the case, I just couldn’t warm to the Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch. While I can appreciate the fascination this watch holds for many watch lovers, I just personally don’t like wearing it. If you ignore the watch’s great history and its overall iconic design, what remains is a timepiece that literally looks the same as it did in 1969 – a bit old-fashioned for my taste. It wouldn’t take much to spruce it up, in my opinion; a slightly more elaborate dial design and a more modern bracelet would do the trick. I can understand why the Biel-based manufacturer is slow to alter its legendary icon too much, and why the newest version goes back even further to the model’s roots, but I think the Rolex Daytona perfectly demonstrates how a brand can perfectly transport an icon to the modern era without losing its DNA.
In-House Alternatives: Omega Speedmaster Co-Axial and Dark Side of the Moon
One suitable alternative would be the slightly smaller Omega Speedmaster with a Co-Axial movement. While this watch never made it to the Moon and is nowhere near as iconic as the Moonwatch, it is decidedly more modern and offers a lot of advantages: an updated dial, an automatic movement, and a date display. With a price tag around $5,500, it’s even cheaper than the Omega Speedmaster Professional. The Dark Side of the Moon Apollo 8 watch is another exciting interpretation of the classic Moonwatch, and one that I would definitely prefer over the original.