The present watch is one of the very rare 18K gold examples of the celebrated GMT-Master reference 6542, the vast majority of this model cased in stainless steel. It furthermore stands out by its excellent overall condition.
Due to the extraordinary success of the Rolex Sports models in the 1950s, it came to no surprise when the world's largest airline Pan Am commissioned a specially designed watch allowing their pilots to keep track of time in two locations.
With the beginning of transatlantic flights with jet aircrafts in 1956, travellers appreciated the fact that the journey times were reduced from 13 hours to 7 but suffered from new phenomena, the jet lag. Worried about the possible effects on their pilots and, after researches, Pan Am management advised them to keep on "home" time while away from base. As at the same time they needed to know the local time and consequently, a joint task force from Pan Am and Rolex was assigned. The team devised a watch with an additional hour hand, which revolved once every 24 hours and a rotating bezel marked with those same 24 hours. The model was named "G.M.T.-Master" after the world's standard time, the Greenwich Mean Time.
The first GMT model, reference 6542, was launched in 1954 and was immediately recognizable by the bright acrylic or bakelite bezel insert with the twenty-four hour markings printed to its underside. This material was chosen to reduce reflection which would disturb the pilots. The bezel ring was also made of acrylic and coated in an alloy to resemble metal. It then turned out that the flexibility of this material could cause the bezel insert to break and that in very warm environments the printing would often flake off. Consequently, Rolex decided to replace the acrylic insert against a more resistant metal version.
Mainly cased in stainless steel, the few examples of the early GMT Master series in gold and in such outstanding overall condition as the present watch are highly sought after collector's watches.