A GMT-Master II luxury wristwatch, produced by Rolex SA, stands on display during day two of the 2018 Baselworld luxury watch and jewelry fair in Basel, Switzerland.(Photographer: Stefan Wermuth/Bloomberg)

The Rolex That Everybody Wants This Year Is Actually Affordable

(Bloomberg Businessweek) -- Rolex SA is the master of iteration. By changing minuscule elements of its beloved watches over the years, the Geneva-based company has created hundreds of variations to chase, collect, and compare. But the GMT-Master II, which arrived this year at the Baselworld watch expo in Switzerland, is no small update: It’s a major new version of a colorful timepiece the company started producing in 1959 and later discontinued. Iterations of the earlier model became collectors’ favorites for their distinctive red-and-blue bezels, which evoke the Pepsi logo. (Another iconic brand, Pan Am, adopted the GMT as its official watch.) In 2014, Rolex reintroduced the watch and its iconic bezel in a white-gold version for $36,750. This model is stainless steel, a tougher metal better suited to rugged travel, and retails for a more wallet-friendly $9,250.

The Competition

For true Rolex fans, the only alternative is another stainless-steel watch from the company, such as the “Batman” GMT-Master II ($8,950), which has a blue-and-black bezel, or the $9,050 all-green “Hulk” Submariner. Sister brand Tudor released its own $3,900 GMT watch with a blue-and-red bezel as part of the Black Bay line. Outside the family, Tag Heuer’s $2,100 Formula 1 Calibre 7 was introduced in 2014 in a partnership with the racing series.

The Bottom Line

This distinctive watch has a lot to offer. The bezel is made of cerachrom, a ceramic compound resistant to fading and scratches; the case metal is another extra-hard Rolex invention called oystersteel. The watch comes with a 70-hour power reserve, convenient for travelers on long plane rides who may not be able to move enough to charge it. At 40mm, it’s not huge, but it will make a substantial impact on your wrist. $9,250

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.