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Stealing the spotlight

Rolex's latest collection has a new GMT-Master II in steel, with a new bracelet and powered by a new movement.

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The latest Pepsi GMT-Master II in steel and "Jubilee" bracelet.

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Left: The latest "Root Beer" in all rose gold. Right: The latest "Root Beer" in steel-rose gold.

LAST year it was the Oyster Perpetual Sea-Dweller. The new diving watch came in a bigger case housing a new movement. A new cyclops lens on the sapphire crystal shield covering the dial offers a magnified display of the date. The "Sea-Dweller" name stands out in eye-catching red on the dial - a reminder of the first Sea-Dweller model launched in 1967.

This year it's the Oyster Perpetual GMT-Master II that takes the spotlight in Rolex's new collection. Queues for the watch, which features a red and blue ceramic bezel with the 24-hour scale, were already long before the watch hit the shops. Customers in Geneva were told the wait could be as long as eight years! One Singapore watch retailer calculated it to be 15 years for his customers. Prices in the grey market for the new GMT-Master II have shot up to as high as US$22,000, over two times the recommended retail price.

While the makeover of the Sea-Dweller was pretty obvious in its latest reincarnation, it's more subtle in the GMT-Master II. At first glance, the two-time-zone travel watch with a 40mm stainless steel case is almost identical with the white gold version rolled out four years ago. In particular, there's the same striking red and blue scratch-proof ceramic bezel which has earned the model the nickname "Pepsi" - red and blue are also the colours of the soft-drink Pepsi Cola's logo.

The giveaway is the bracelet. The 2014 Pepsi was fitted on a white gold solid-link bracelet, but the new one has the "Jubilee" in the historical five-link style rather than the more common three-link "Oyster" style. The latter was first created for the Oyster Perpetual Datejust line launched in 1945. A safety clasp has since been added to it. This ensures you don't accidentally open the bracelet. A Rolex-patented fast extension system allows it to be extended easily by about 5mm for comfort.

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The "Jubilee" bracelet has appeared on past GMT-Master models, but it's the first time the bracelet is brought together with a steel case and a red and blue ceramic bezel in the new Pepsi.

Being made of stainless steel, the latest Pepsi is lighter. It's also more affordable than the white gold version, which is over three times more pricey. The updated Pepsi, water-proofed to 300 metres deep, has a US$9,250 recommended price tag.

A new generation automatic movement (calibre 3285), once fully wound, keeps the watch ticking non-stop for 70 hours when not worn, 20 hours longer than the previous model. Rolex has 10 patents pending for technologies used in this movement.

Of course, like all Rolex watches launched these days, the latest GMT-Master II is certified a Superlative Chronometer, a guarantee of excellent performance on the wrist.

The red and blue bezel takes after the original 1955 GMT-Master - and it remains the defining feature of the Pepsi. But not all GMT-Master models have remained true to the original colours. They have appeared in bezels of various colours - black and red (the "Coke"), all black and blue and black ("Batman").

Apart from the Pepsi, this year Rolex also introduced a new GMT-Master II model with a black and brown ceramic bezel - and there are two versions of this: one is an all-rose gold watch (US$36,700) and the other a rose gold and steel "Rolesor" combination watch (US$14,050). It's the first time that a brown ceramic has been used on a Rolex timepiece.

Both the all-Everose gold and Rolesor versions have been unofficially dubbed "Root Beer".