We often gravitate towards watches that we can identify with. More often it’s a reflection of the persona that we want to identify with and then try to project it. Omega markets limited editions for days that end in “y”. Rolex won’t even allow you the “privilege” of being on a waitlisted for a Daytona. Luxury watch brands have figured out how to become experts at getting you to “buy-in” to the excitement of adventure with the purchase of a stainless steel sports watch.
A “Pepsi” watch is a sports watch that has both the colors blue and red on the bezel. I’ve previously claimed, “2018 is the year of the GMT”. #Pepsifever fuels the fire.
I balked on pulling the trigger at the local AD on a Tudor Black Bay GMT last month. I’ve second guessed my decision way too many times since then. Prices for Rolex Pepsi GMT Masters are still in the stratosphere. Those are financially out of my reach. Where does that leave me and many other enthusiasts?
I’ve always been aware of Steinhart watches, but I didn’t understand them as a brand. The lack of understanding made me apprehensive. Was Steinhart just another homage brand? Are these clones or replicas? What’s the difference between a $500 Steinhart Ocean One and a $100 Parnis? When the opportunity came up to check out the Steinhart Ocean 39 GMT Pepsi Bezel, I wasn’t about to pass it up. Could it cure #pepsifever on a budget?
Before looking at the Steinhart GMT I wanted to take a better look at brand itself. We are so accustomed to watch brands throwing their history in our faces that I actually had to do a digging for once. Steinhart watches has only been around since 2001. Their history, or lack thereof, is simply an affordable version of the iconic watches that you’d recognize. The main influence of their homage pieces is distinctly Rolex. However, they do make some originals as well.
They are a very small German-based company with only a handful of employees. You can meet them in a bizarre photo pyramid here.
One advantage is of being a small business is being able to quickly react to the market. Steinhart listened to their customers (and the maxi-case haters) and recently reduced the case size of their bestselling 42mm Ocean 1 to add a more vintage inspired size of 39mm, which is where the Steinhart Ocean 39 GMT fits in.
The reason that Steinhart is so elusive in the United States is that they don’t have a US distributor (hint-hint Long Island Watch). They currently only sell online. This includes selling on their own website and through other international online retailers. Don’t expect to try on a Steinhart on in a brick and mortar store and then find a discount on Amazon.
As you might expect, the Steinhart Ocean 39 case shape is very similar to a Rolex GMT Master II ref. 16710. It’s the classic oyster case with a few tweaks. The first thing that you will notice is that the Steinhart GMT crown protrudes from the crown guards in the locked position. The lugs are not drilled. This would have helped bring a little more vintage flavor.
The diameter is listed at 39mm. But the Steinhart Ocean 39 GMT wears slightly smaller due to the skinny (or as what used to be normal) lugs. The height (excluding the date cyclops) is a respectable 13mm. The polished sidewalls of the case make the height deceptively thin. That’s an old Oyster case visual trick. The case is so Rolex-like that I was surprised looking at the case back. It’s a screw down, but it’s not plain.
There is an etched Neptune, god of the sea, with his signature trident, riding a seahorse chariot. It fits the theme of a dive watch retrofitted for air travel. The standard information about the watch model is listed on the circumference. It is very hard to tell the difference in sizes on eBay and I’ve seen many inaccurate listings. The 39mm version will say “THIRTY-NINE” on the case back.
Steinhart Ocean 39 GMT Case Dimensions
- Case Diameter: 39mm
- Lug to Lug: 47mm
- Case Thickness: 13mm
The brushed stainless case is what you might expect at this price point. The Steinhart Ocean 39 GMT isn’t too shiny and the brushing is consistent. I really appreciate that because the teeth on the bezel are overly polished. With a Rolex, the finishing quality is much higher. Rolex is able to polish only between the teeth to cut down on the “bling” factor. When light does catch one of these areas on a Rolex it gives off a subtle flash. You don’t get this with the Steinhart GMT because the entire bezel is overly polished.
Despite the Steinhart Ocean 39 case being made of 316L stainless steel, expect scratches. After all, this is not 904L Oystersteel. A small detail, but important to consider. But having the case accumulate scratches and scars isn’t a bad thing. This watch was made to be part of your active lifestyle. Don’t baby it.
The 39mm case size does feel refreshing. Athletically, it’s completely proportional to on my 6.75″ flat wrist. If you have smaller wrists, the 47mm lug to lug is a dream come true. Similar versions of this Steinhart Ocean 39 GMT come in 42mm and 44mm as well. I think that it’s pretty cool to be able to get the Pepsi look you want for a variety of wrist sizes. Despite the variety, the 39mm case is the clear winner.
The Steinhart Ocean 39 GMT dial is also very similar to a Rolex sports model. It’s a white 5-liner with a logo and red model designation over matte black. The matte black borders on fauxtina. I think that it’s just enough to give the Steinhart GMT a little extra vintage charm. Modern Rolex watches have much more of a deep and glossy black. The “Swiss Made” designation at six o’clock, refers to the ETA movement – not the origins of the watch. From three or more feet away, the “Steinhart” name and crowned “S” logo could easily be mistaken for a Rolex logo. This is not a coincidence.
The main three hands are the typical Mercedes hands that you find on a Rolex with a few proportional tweaks. The Steinhart GMT hand is a triangle with a red stem to help differentiate it. I appreciated that the GMT hand extended all the way to the minute indices. I’m not a fan of fat half-sized, stubby GMT hands.
BGW9 blueish lume has been appropriately applied to the Steinhart Ocean 39 GMT. It’s easy enough to be activated and can hold a charge better than most homages. Even the applied hour markers are Rolex-like, but with the same flaw as the hands. Both the hands and the hour markers are much too thin. It really takes away from the three-dimensional depth of the dial.
The date window is must-have on a GMT watch. I appreciated the convex magnification bubble (the Cyclopes) on the Steinhart Ocean 39 GMT. There are two improvements that Steinhart could make with it. The first remedy would increase that magnification (even if it needed to be .05mm taller). The other improvement would be to make the date font thicker. The answer probably lies someplace within a compromise of those two design flaws.
This is the main attraction. I have #pepsifever, but not of the ceramic variety. I’m of the opinion that Rolex didn’t get the colors right on the ceramic Pepsi GMT Master. I realize that coating aluminum with color is easier than mixing pigments into ceramic. I do believe that the charm of the Pepsi colorway comes from the smooth aluminum. But the Steinhart Ocean 39 GMT Pepsi nails the colors perfectly. It’s just like a Pepsi can.
One thing that I always forget is that GMT bezel often does not have a luminous pip like a dive watch. This Steinhart 39 GMT’s bezel is no exception. It’s not a big deal because I would never take this watch diving… because I would die. It’s the hardest bezel that I’ve even tried to rotate. It’s even firmer than a Seiko Samurai. You have to grab a fist full of it to make it move (Editor’s Unhelpful Note: In the biz we call those #WhiteKnuckleBezels).
Speaking of bezels, the Steinhart Ocean 39 GMT is equipped with a uni-directional 120 click bezel. It was a little disappointing not to have a multi-directional 24- or 48-click bezel. This made the watch feel more diver than flyer when using it. It’s not a deal breaker. Steinhart had to cut certain costs in order to keep the price reasonable. This is done by sharing parts such as hands, crowns, gaskets, etc. between their different models.
Many of you already know what a fan I am of the Oysterglide clasp and modern Oyster bracelet. And by a fan, I mean obsessed. If you don’t agree, I challenge you to compare one at your local Rolex AD to any other competing brand’s metal bracelet. There is no comparison. So how can we objectively review the Steinhart Ocean 39 GMT’s bracelet?
Most homage watches suffer because of how the bracelet quality compares to its inspiration. But Steinhart did a few things right. There are solid end links. The removable links are screwed. The concave links are slightly tapered. The Steinhart Ocean 39 GMT bracelet measures at 20mm up towards the case and tapers down to 16mm at the clasp. The safety clasp is also much more solid than anything in this price range.
Something that I would change would be the flick-lock clasp. The flip lock is too loose and the clasp is too tight. There are four micro-adjustment holes. Most of the time the watch feels too tight. If I move the micro adjustment back one spot, it’s too loose. I’m still struggling to find the right position.
Powering the Steinhart Ocean 39 GMT is the ETA 2398-2 movement. It’s reliable and used in a variety of other brands such as Hamilton, Glycine, Christopher Ward, and Breitling. It’s cost-effective and reliable, but it does have one major flaw.
The hour hand does not jump like a GMT Master II or Black Bay GMT. In the 2398-2 the GMT had jumps instead. The whole idea of the convenience of the GMT feature is to set the GMT hand to your home time and adjust the hour when you land in a new time zone. It’s backward on the 2398-2, the GMT hand jumps and the hours does not.
Some people refer to this a “caller” GMT. If you work in New York and you have a client base in Los Angeles, you could set the Steinhart Ocean 39’s 24 hour GMT hand to Pacific Standard Time to prevent calling them at 5am PST by mistake. Or you could just subtract three. (Math: It’s tricky!) If you don’t know military time and want a GMT, it’s a good time to learn. The Steinhart GMT’s hand only rotates once per twenty-four hours and it must be read in military time on the bezel.
The original GMT was designed for pilots that would travel between multiple time zones daily. Not being able to jump the hour hand loses some of that nostalgic feel. Instead of feeling like “Catch Me If You Can,” flying feels more like “The Terminal,” but you’re still much better off than “Cast Away.”
The power reserve hasn’t been an issue because the Steinhart Ocean 39 GMT hasn’t left my wrist since it came in (more than 24 hours ago). I imagine that it’s someplace around 35-40 hours in real life. That’s important because GMT’s are second watches for many people.
Is it easy to tell time? Yes
Would I #watchfast it? Yes – hardcore on the bracelet
5 Things that I love
- 39mm case – the case is the perfect size for my 6.75″ wrist
- Cyclops window – I sign documents all day long and never remember the date
- Color Combo – Blue / Red/ Black goes well with everything
- Automatic Swiss movement GMT function for less than $600 USD
- Fantastic 300m water resistance
5 Things that I hate
- Dreading explaining to someone that it’s not a Rolex
- “Caller GMT” 2893-2 ETA movement – no jumping hour hand
- Limited access in the US – must buy sight unseen
- Unidirectional bezel
- The Clasp on the bracelet
One of the biggest personal hurdles for me was feeling like a “poser” wearing a Steinhart GMT. I always think about that fictional conversation in my head where a stranger compliments my “Rolex” and I have to tell them that it’s a Steinhart. I need to get over that because the conversation is never going to happen in real life. It would be more realistic to get a compliment about how great the watch looks. It wears effortlessly with everything from a bathing suit to a sports coat. That’s what is important. Not the brand.
The Steinhart Ocean 39 GMT is a heck of a value proposition. We have to remember that everyone has their own budgets and limits. Not everyone can catch #pepsifever and hunt down an $8,000 faded GMT Master. At the end of the day, a high-horologist should compliment you on this watch. After all, in a sea of overly-priced fashion brands and tech of the month smartwatches you made a fantastic decision. The Steinhart Ocean 39 GMT is nothing anyone should turn their nose up at.
Automatic, vintage proportions and a Pepsi bezel: How can you go wrong? If they are sold out online, just wait a few days. They will restock. There is no production cut conspiracy here. Steinhart is planning on selling a ton of these. And they will. Prices tend to vary for new and used pieces so check out the latest offerings on eBay here to see what’s available.
Steinhart has also confirmed that there will be a “Coke” red-black version of the GMT-Ocean 39 later this year. You are able to order replacement parts off of their website. This includes bezel inserts. Steinhart listens to their customers, and they react quickly. Rolex fans are still waiting for the ceramic Coke GMT.
Please contact me on Instagram (watch_gb) for any additional questions or comments about the GMT-Ocean 39.
Greg is a long-time watch lover based in upstate New York. Greg is a supply chain professional by day and private watch consultant by night. Greg brings his own style to the TBWS website as a contributor by blending bits of humor into technical assessments. You can follow his cycling and snowboarding adventures on Instagram as he pursues the perfect 3-watch collection.