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Rolex GMT-Master II Root Beer - The 4 Best Affordable Alternatives

Posted on February 23 2021

The Best Rolex Root Beer Affordable Alternatives

Batman is more popular than beer.

Not in the real world, of course. But in the world of watches, the black knight trumps root beer.

What the hell am I talking about?

I’m talking about the Rolex GMT-Master II. Rolex’s classic sports watch. There are a couple of versions, with the blue and black nick-named The Batman.

But Batman has a less popular sibling. It’s brown and gold and nicknamed The Rolex Root Beer. If you’ll excuse the pun, it’s more of an acquired taste.

But it does have it’s fans. That’s why it is also referred to as the Rolex Clint Eastwood.

And anything that is good enough for Clint is good enough for me.

The Best Affordable Rolex Clint Eastwood Alternatives


I’ll be honest here.

I wasn’t in the market for a Rolex GMT-Master homage. But I was out doing the grocery shopping and spotted this watch for sale in a local pawn shop.

Rolex GMT-Master Root Beer Watch

It got me thinking. So I sent the picture to my Rolex collecting friend Graeme. That started a discussion and before I knew it I was looking for an inexpensive version.

Guess what?

There aren’t many. That lack of popularity among Rolex fans has filtered down into the homage watch market. But the more that I looked, the more that this watch grew on me. And the more that I wanted one.

Like Clint Eastwood, I’m now a fan.

Unlike Clint, I’m happy to settle for something more affordable.

Stuhrling Aquadiver Watch

The Stuhrling Aquadiver is the closest affordable model to the GMT-Master and would be my first choice for a homage watch.

It’s faithful to the original Rolex Root Beer and is amazing value for money. All the elements that you’d want are there. The same colouring, the same hands, dial and bezel. It even has the cyclops lens over the date window.

And it costs well under £100.

For that, you get a Swiss quartz-powered watch, with the brands own patented Krysterna crystal. There is also 100M of water resistance. You’re getting a lot of watch for your money.

I’m particularly taken with the attempt to recreate the Rolex down to the small details. The hands - all four of them - are the same format and colour as the Rolex’s. The markers are the same colour and shape and it has a gold crown and two-tone strap.

It’s not the first Stuhrling to catch my attention, and it’s not the first Stuhrling homage I’ve highlighted. As I noted, this Rolex hasn’t attracted the same attention from affordable and homage brands. So it’s nice to find a watch so close to the original.

It’s mid-sized, with a comfortable 42mm case and a substantial 22mm bracelet.

If you want a watch that looks like the Rolex Clint Eastwood - and you’re on a budget. Buy this.

Stuhrling Aquadiver 3965

  • 42mm Diameter
  • 12mm Thick
  • 22mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Swiss Quartz movement
  • Krysterna Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance

 



Invicta Pro Diver 34103 Watch

The Invicta Pro Diver takes inspiration from the Rolex Root Beer. But it isn’t a full homage. It has the colouring and the general style - but without matching the small details. It still has Invicta DNA.

Like the Stuhrling, it’s a very affordable watch.

It’s even better value for money as it has greater water resistance - 200M - and a sapphire crystal. Again it’s quartz-powered, this time with a reliable Japanese movement.

At first glance, the Pro Diver is similar to the Rolex.

But on closer inspection, it’s more like a Submariner with the Root Beer colour palette. There’s no GMT function and despite having the same coloured dial and bezel, the two-tone colours aren’t carried over to the bracelet or crown.

So you have an interesting watch - a Root Beer Submariner. It’s smaller than the Aquadiver and has a slimmer bracelet. It’s a great choice if you don’t want a watch that’s too close to a Rolex clone.

Invicta Pro Diver 34103

  • 40mm Diameter
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Japanese Quartz movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 200M Water Resistance

 



Mathey-Tissot GMT Watch

The Mathey-Tissot is a Swiss-Made quartz homage to the Rolex Root Beer.

It’s very close in design and would make a great upgrade from the Chinese made Stuhrling. If you’re willing to pay a bit extra for the ‘Swiss-Made’ wording at the bottom of the dial, this could be the watch for you.

There are no surprises here. It has a 42mm case with a 20mm bracelet. The styling is a real attempt to recreate the Rolex GMT-Master aesthetic. Any design differences are minimal.

It has a Swiss-Made quartz movement, sapphire crystal and 100M of water resistance. So overall, it’s a well-made affordable piece. It is more expensive than the previous two watches, but this reflects the branding. It’s a Swiss heritage brand with Swiss production.

It’s not the easiest watch to find, so I’d recommend going directly to the manufacturer.

Mathey-Tissot GMT H903RNM

  • 42mm Diameter
  • 10mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Swiss Quartz movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance

 



Parnis Root Beer GMT Watch

Chinese brand Parnis provide a lot for the money. This model has an automatic movement, ceramic bezel and a sapphire crystal - and it’s well under $100.

It’s not a direct homage to the Rolex, but it has the general style. It closely resembles the GMT-Master II - the case, dial and hands are similar. But where the Stuhrling also replicates the bold two-tone colouring, the Parnis plays it safer.

Here there’s more stainless steel and less gold colouring. There’s no gold on the bracelet, bezel, hands or crown. That’s a shame - but then I suppose it depends if you’re after a full homage or just a watch influenced by the Rolex.

If it’s the latter, then this watch is a bargain. It’s nicely sized too. A comfortable 40mm case with a modest 20mm bracelet.

And then there’s the movement. This Chinese mechanical watch is less than half the price of the Quartz Mathey-Tissot. Swiss reputation versus the lower cost of a Chinese piece.

Parnis GMT

  • 40mm Diameter
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Automatic movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 30M Water Resistance

 


A Quick Introduction to the Rolex GMT-Master


If you’re like me, you’ll find the story of a watches creation as important as the watches appearance. I find that perfection is when the watches job and its look complement each other.

The cliche is to say that it’s a blend of ‘function’ and ‘form’.

It’s a cliche. But trust me, it’s true. The best watches - divers, pilots and military - were all developed from a specific need. The beautiful design influenced by the role the watch needed to play.

The watch was a tool and as such has a specific function.

The Rolex GMT-Master II is one such watch.

As with most aspects of 20th-century watchmaking, Rolex was at the forefront of GMT watch design.

The idea for the GMT function is a great example of a design produced to solve a real-world need. Pilots wanted a way to see the time in the time zone they had just left. They also needed the time in the new time zone that they were entering.

A watch was required that could tell two different times. One of those was Greenwich Mean Time - hence the GMT.

American airline Pan Am approached Rolex to produce a watch for their pilots. In 1954 the Swiss brand delivered the GMT-Master.

This watch included an extra hand which along with the bezel could be used to set a second time zone.

Later releases of the watch included a blue and red bi-colour bezel. An upgraded GMT-Master II was released in 1983. The version that interests us is the 2018 release of model number Ref 126711CHNR - the new Root Beer.

It’s not been the most popular GMT watch. Certainly not as popular as the blue and black Batman variation. But it is distinctive and has its fans.

The basics, which I’ve judged the affordable alternatives against are:

  • GMT hand
  • Two tone Bezel
  • Mercedes Style Hands
  • 40mm Diameter
  • Cyclops at 3 o’clock
  • Black Dial
  • Oyster or Jubilee style bracelet

 

Conclusion


The Rolex Root Beer is a quirky watch.

It has a proven style, used in other popular Rolex models. But it’s colouring doesn’t appeal to everyone.

But when it does - they love it. Arguably, this watches biggest fan is Clint Eastwood. And in return for his enthusiasm, we’ll often reference this watch using his name.

If like me, you find this colour scheme intriguing but you don’t have Clint’s budget, then you’ll likely be looking for an affordable alternative.

I was a little surprised to find how few options there are.

I’ve found the four best and highlighted them above. There’s a nice mix of quartz and automatic models, full homages and model generally inspired by the Rolex Root Beer. There should be one that works for you.

If you know of others, let me know in the comments.

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