Confessions Of A Collector – Acquiring My Dream Watch, The Rolex GMT Master II CHNR (aka Root Beer)
Certain watches, especially grail pieces, can elicit feelings, usually a feeling of butterflies in the stomach. But sometimes these grails can be unachievable, either due to availability or simple financial limitation. For me, my grail has been the Rolex GMT Master II CHNR in two-tone Everose and Oystersteel, which has earned it the nickname, "Root Beer." And as luck has it, a couple of years after its release, I finally got the call!
As Baselworld 2018 opened its doors, I woke up to the news out of Switzerland that the new watches had finally launched at the much-anticipated fair. Rolex, as usual, impressed collectors and fans by introducing the hugely anticipated Rolex GMT Master II "Pepsi." But my eyes were on something else, something "sweeter." There I saw it, inspired by the old Rolex GMT Root Beer Two-Tones of the Seventies, the Rolex GMT Master II “Chocolate.” Now granted, a couple of differences exist. But the resemblance was uncanny.
Love at first sight
Looking at my Instagram feed that day, I slowly start hating myself for missing THE Baselworld, where my dream watch was launched. Slowly, I came back to my senses. I needed to touch and see the watch in the metal to make sure it was the Rolex I wanted for a very special birthday that was coming up (my 30th). But truth be told, the mere digital view of it made my heart pound out of my chest.
Fast forward a couple of months, and rumors started circling that a couple of retailers got the piece, but it barely had time to hit the cases before it was SOLD OUT. The chances of my seeing this new Root Beer in the metal faded quickly. In addition, I started seeing the market go crazy on the Pepsi version, both on the vintage and new pieces. I started thinking that I might need to wait a couple of years before even seeing this new GMT.
Then one night, at a collector’s event, I saw it! A dapper man was wearing it across the room from me. My heart started pounding, and I felt the butterflies coming again. I slowly walked over to the gentleman and it turned out that he knew me from Instagram! He probably saw my heart-shaped eyes while looking at his marvelous wristwear, and he promptly took off the watch and handed it to me. My legs started to shake; here was the moment of truth. I politely asked if I could try on the watch, and he responded, "Of course!" I am not going to lie, trying it on was everything I expected.
The watch looked terrific in the metal. It was the perfect balance of steel and Everose gold, the black and chocolate 24-hour ceramic bezel was an ideal combination. I was in love.
From that day on, I decided that I didn’t want a Datejust for my 30th birthday in 2020. I set my heart on the Root Beer. Talking with my husband (which is how we make decisions in the Shanks family), we decided to put ourselves on the list at our hometown retailer, where Josh was already (patiently) waiting for his Daytona C (and as of writing he still is). Judging by the length of his wait time, we thought it would be wise to get on the list as early as possible and hopefully the watch would arrive in time for July 2020.
When adding our names to the list, we were told that the "two hot watches" (the Root Beer AND the Daytona) wouldn’t be possible. So, we talked to one of our close friends about the situation. Our friend, appalled by the treatment we received, introduced us to his retailer, who was super kind and understanding of our plight. He asked us what pieces we longed for, we sent our wishlist, and we mentioned we were in no rush to get them. He took good note and promised to keep us kindly informed as the weeks, months, and potentially “years” went on.
Months passed and one fateful day Josh got THE text, "Hey man, Root Beer?" He immediately called me and we decided to go for it, even though it was a year and four months earlier than expected. We didn't know if we would ever get another chance, since the Root Beer is in the "hot watches" category.
That Saturday, we drove up to said retailer, and I was nervous, wondering if I made the right choice. It was almost as if I had cold feet. Josh reassured me; he knew how much I drooled over that piece. When we arrived, we were warmly welcomed by the friendly and extremely professional salesperson Matt, who kept a warm smile throughout the process. He sat us down and said, "Are you ready?" My heart was bouncing; my legs were shaking, and I couldn’t find the words. I probably murmured "yes," but in all honesty, it's all a blur. I was about to get the watch I had dreamt about for more than a year.
He presented me with the watch; I looked at it, tried it on. Yup, still loved it! We decided to go forward with the purchase. However, due to Rolex's policy, Matt made me take ALL the stickers off before walking away. I looked at him in disbelief. I always like keeping my stickers on my phone as long as I can and was honestly hoping the same for my first ever Rolex. However, I wouldn’t let the removal of a few small pieces of plastic get in my way. I signed the warranty card and got the watch sized perfectly to my wrist. There I was, the owner of my first Rolex.
The watch I couldn’t get enough of
Let's face it, there is no watch more iconic or more recognizable in the world than a Rolex. Always imitated, but never duplicated, Rolex is an institution that is beyond compare. They have been making watches since 1905, and there's a reason why they are still the leaders. Very few companies can pride themselves on consistently being identified with the pursuit of excellence. Rolex watches live up to this expectation in spades.
The design of my Rolex GMT Master II Root Beer is perfectly proportioned. You would think that the 40mm Oyster case would be too big for my wrist. But no, the size fits perfectly, and even more with the Oystersteel and Everose combination. The black dial has perfect readability as advertised by Rolex. The Chocolate and Black Ceramic bezel is robust and easy to use.
The second time zone function is ideal for me. Not that I travel all the time, but with my family in Switzerland and Portugal, it’s easy to know what time it is at home with only a glance at my watch. It's a little thought, but I do believe it makes me feel closer to home, even though we have an entire ocean and six hours difference between us.
I am unsure of what will be next in my collection since I got the watch that was haunting my dreams. Every time I go to a Rolex retailer, I keep getting looks, with sales advisors asking me how I got my Root Beer, they're always lurking and saying with a sly smile, "you got lucky." To some, I probably don’t look like the typical Rolex buyer.
I’ll add that I would love to see a shift in how retailers and sales advisors handle the fact that it’s hard to get some Rolex pieces. Phrases such as "It's a hot piece, you can't get one" or "you have to buy five Datejusts before we might consider you for a sports model" should leave the vocabulary. For example, it is easy to say, "Rolex watches are extremely sought after because of their quality and extremely recognizable style" or "Unfortunately we ran out of sports watches, they are quite popular, but may I interest you in the Story of Rolex?"
I loved my experience with my retailer; he was kind, understanding, and never made me feel like I was getting too hot of a watch for me. He made it sound like it was the perfect watch and companion of a lifetime. And it was exactly how I dreamed the acquisition of my first Rolex would be. I cannot thank him enough.
Looking forward, I would love for Rolex in the coming years to play a bit more with the Datejust collection. Just putting it out there, but a steel Datejust with a grey meteorite dial could tempt me once again….
(Photography by Liam O'Donnell)