“Kermit.” “Stelline.” “John Player Special.” What in tarnation?
Many Rolex watches have seemingly random nicknames associated with them, the meaning and derivation of which is murky to the average consumer, to say the least. We thus aim here to provide you with an efficient and free translation service that can be employed the next time you look through an auction catalog and have no idea wtf is even going on.
These nicknames aren’t like reference numbers — they generally make decent sense and aren’t pulled from the twisted mind of some 1950s-era Swiss engineer whose four-letter numerical combinations are now the bane of every human trying to wrap his mind around the vintage Rolex market from here to Timbuktu. (The “Kermit” is a 50th anniversary Rolex Submariner with a green bezel, for example. Because Kermit is green. You…you do know who Kermit is, right?)
So here’s a handy list of some of the most common watch nicknames (there are, in fact, many more) — see them a few times and they’ll start to stick in your mind. Just try not to reference them around your wife, parents, or non-watch people, or they’re likely to think that you’ve been speaking with make-believe friends again.
First introduced in 2003 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Submariner, the 16610LV featured a black “maxi dial” last seen nearly 20 years earlier and a green bezel, a first for the Sub. The watch became known as the “Kermit” in celebration of a certain green muppet, and prices for this limited watch now reach well over $15,000 for good examples with box and papers (the original boxes and paperwork that came with the watch). Amazing what a little color can do for pricing.
Like the Kermit, but greener! First released in 2010, the 116610LV features a thicker case than that of previous models and a striking green dial in addition to a green bezel. If you dig the beefier “super case” but want a different colored dial and don’t want to pay a “greemium” (see what I did there?), you’re in luck — this is the current production case for the Sub, Sea Dweller and GMT Master II.
If you know one Rolex nickname it should probably be this. It's the first in a series of names for GMT Master (or GMT Master II) watches with colorways that are easily compared to colas by our brand-saturated brains. GMT Master watches use bicolored 24-hour bezels to differentiate night and daylight hours, and the name Pepsi refers to any reference, new or old, which is blue and red. This is the OG color of the now famous GMT watch as it was debuted in 1954.
Unlike in the cola wars, in the world of Rolex, Coke follows Pepsi — at least chronologically and in terms of popularity. The Coca-Cola colors are, of course, actually red and white, but the name more or less makes sense as it conjures an image of a full bottle of the dark soft drink with its red label.
The Root Beer
Sensing a pattern? Yeah, it's another soda, but not a specific brand — or maybe "The Root Beer" just rolls off the tongue better than "The A&W." Rolex nicknames aren't an exact science, and you'll find the Root Beer monicker applied to various GMT Master (II) watches with some use of brown in their bezels. A two-tone Root Beer Rollie (Rollie is the nickname for the brand itself) with a brown dial (reference 16753) might also be called a Clint Eastwood or Dirty Harry for the actor/character that wore one.
Not every bicolored Rolex GMT bezel has to be named after fizzy drink. Who knew? Whatever mainstream association a color scheme conjures is fair game, and black-and-blue? Why, Batman, of course. Soda and superhero references betray the childlike zeal with which Rolex collectors enjoy their grownup hobby.
What's steel and gold and blue all over? Well, apparently not much else but a Rolex "Bluesy," as this nickname doesn't have any apparent cultural reference. Yes, it's blue, but it's a very specific nickname which applies only to a two-tone Submariner with blue dial and bezel. The first Bluesy reference dates to 1985 but a modern rendition also exists in the brand's current catalog. Perhaps even weirder than the nicknames bestowed by the public, Rolex has a lexicon of its own in which its combination of gold and steel, otherwise known as two-tone, is called Rolesor.
The John Player Special
So there are manual-wound Rolex Daytonas, and then there are exotic-dial “Paul Newman” Daytonas, and then there’s this real inside-baseball-type thing — a ref. 6241 in gold with a black Paul Newman dial and seconds counter demarcated in 15, 30, 45, and 60-second intervals. The “John Player Special” moniker is a reference to the black and gold livery of John Player Special cigarettes.
The Jean-Claude Killy
Five references of the Dato-Compax, one of Rolex’s most complicated watches (triple calendar chronographs, in this case), are collectively referred to as the “Killy”: the 4768, 4767, 5036, 6036 and the 6236. Why the nickname? In the 1960s, famed skier Jean-Claude Killy became a Rolex ambassador after winning several titles, and though he never appeared wearing a Dato-Compax in any ads, he was said to own one. These are some of the rarest, mot sought after serially-produced vintage Rolexes.
The Paul Newman
Referred to as “exotic dial” references by the brand, Italian collectors began referring to these funky Daytonas as “Paul Newmans” in the 1980s after a photograph of the famed actor wearing his personal watch began making the rounds. The exotic dials were made by Singer, featured cool art deco numerals — and were a commercial flop for years. Go figure. (They spanned several references, so a “Paul Newman” could be one of several Daytona models.)
Ok, this is a Tudor, but it deserves a mention. Supposedly the French Marine Nationale requested a dive watch with better visibility underwater, and Tudor responded by introducing the reference 7016/0, the first of the “Snowflake” Submariners, so-called because of their snowflake-shaped handset and square indices. Four “Snowflake” references were introduced from 1969 through 1975, including the 7016/0, 7021/0, 9104/0, and 9411/0, and Tudor has since reintroduced the handset in certain modern models.
The Military Submariner. The references 5513, 5517 and double-reference 5513/5517 are generally what folks think of when the term “Mil-Sub” comes to mind, but other issued Rolex Submariners (earlier references, for example, such as the A/6538) can also take this moniker. From 1971 through 1979, only about 1,000-1,200 of these watches were produced for the British MOD and issued to SBS and SAS operators. Tell-tale signs include fully graduated bezels and circle “T” dials, though these are sometimes replaced.
The 6239, the first true Daytona, was introduced by Rolex in 1963, but prior to this (and concurrent, for several years), the reference 6238 was available in various case metals and dials, from 1960 through 1967. Though it features a smooth bezel and tachymeter scale printed on the dial (as opposed to on the bezel), it’s easy to see the DNA of the later Daytona models present in the Pre-Daytona.
One of just two vintage Rolex references with triple dates and moon phases (the other being the Oyster-cased 6062), the “Padellone” (“large frying pan”) got its Italian nickname due to its oversize, flat 38mm case. Produced for a short time in the 1950s in steel, yellow or pink gold, these exceedingly rare, beautiful watches hammer for hundreds of thousands at auction.
Dating to the early 1950s, the 6062 features an Oyster case and triple-date complication with moon phase, one of just two vintage Rolexes to feature such a combination. Rolex then replaced the standard indices on certain 6062 dials with stars, giving rise to the Italian moniker “Stelline,” meaning “starlet.” These watches are rarer than hen’s teeth, and priced accordingly.