With Rolex Guarantee dated 18 November 1959, Rolex Chronometer Certificate card stating that the watch was submitted for Swiss Institute for Official Timekeeping Tests, as well as Watch Rate Certificate No. 696687 from the Bureaux Suisses de Contrôle Officiel de la Marche des Montres dated 9 May 1958. Furthermore delivered with GMT-Master period advertisement leaflet with instructions, an invoice from the Rolex Watch Co. Ltd, Bexley, Kent dated 12 January 1962 for a gentleman's steel G.M.T. watch with the note "10 days, please confirm estimate" and the amount of 530 pounds sterling, together with a smaller receipt dated 25 January 1962 with a stamp stating that 506 pounds were received. In addition, there are several papers relating to the servicing of the watch, as well as two Rolex tin boxes, one of them containing a spare bakelite blue and red GMT-Master bezel, the other containing a spare blue and red metal bezel, as well as a small Boeing metal plaque displaying the dates for February 1999 and designed to fit a bracelet.
The lot also comes with three short newspaper clippings from December 1959, one from the Daily Mirror with the headline "Peril In your Watch", one from the Rhodesia Herald with the headline "Maker's plea for radioactive Swiss watches to be tested" and one from the Evening Standard with the headline "Emergency hunt-watches a health hazard?."
The original owner of the present watch without doubt cherished and meticulously took care of it. A pilot, or as accompanying servicing papers state an "Airline Navigator", he was among the target audience for Rolex's now classic reference 6542. Flying for Rhodesian Airlines he purchased the watch from his company, which offered its employees Rolex watches at a reduced price and immediately deducted the costs from the wages of the particular staff member. Hence, no official purchasing receipt exists.
The GMT-Master model was introduced to the market in 1954, with the reference 6542 being the first reference available. Initially, this dual time reference had a bakelite bezel. Bakelite was an early plastic, dating from the beginning of the 20th century and was used for its heat-resistance, as well as its electrical non-conductivity. For the GMT-Master, Rolex chose this bezel insert material for its property to reduce reflection. While the light will bounce off the material, it is not too glossy on a bezel and thus allows accurate reading even when the sunlight is strong. As bakelite bezels are easily breakable, the Geneva firm decided to replace the acrylic insert with a more resistant metal version. Hence, any reference 6542 with original or period bakelite bezel is considered a true collector's item.
The attractiveness of this lot is further enhanced by the story the watch tells with all its accompanying paper work. It was worn with pride by its owner over several decades, possibly during most of his career as an airline pilot. With an address in England, as the service papers document, he was particular about the correct functioning of his watch and brought it regularly to Rolex for servicing. On one of the servicing papers from the early 1970s it specifies that the client is a pilot and "relies on his watch being accurate".
The international lifestyle of the owner is also evident from a small site note on one of the papers, which states that the watch was serviced in Hong Kong by Rolex, but needed further testing. Aspects of the original owner's life, which cannot be found in the comprehensive paperwork, but shed further light on his adventures, include the fact that he flew Robert Mugabe in 1960 to Fidel Castro in Cuba, where he stayed for four days before flying Mugabe back. The watch was also on the original owner's wrist when he flew to Scott base in Antarctica and also when witnessing the launch of Apollo 10 on 18 May 1969 at Cape Caneveral, where he claimed "the earth literally moved" when the rocket was launched.
The special affection the owner must have had for his watch is further highlighted by the fact that he painstakingly kept together on one page three newspaper clippings from 1959, all of which touched upon potential health hazards related to radioactive compounds used in Rolex GMT-Master watches. At the time, health problems possibly related to radioactive material used on luminous hands and numerals were hotly debated and ultimately caused the industry to look for non-hazardous compounds.
It is very rare to come across a GMT Master reference 6542, still complete with both its original Guarantee and Chronometer Certificate. Furthermore, it has a long track record of having stayed in the hands of the original owner and having been cared for properly. The watch on offer here will most certainly entice the avid collector and presents a great opportunity to add a classic watch reference to one's treasure trove.
Among the papers pertaining to the servicing of the watch are in brief: - A Rolex letter dated 29 May 1973 stating the return of the watch to its owner and that "extensive testing" was undertaken to remedy a fault in the self-winding mechanism.
- An invoice from Rolex in Bexley, Kent, dated 29 May 1973.
- A Rolex letter dated 11th October 1972 stating the return of the watch to its owner and its demagnetisation.
- Three clipped servicing correspondence papers from The Rolex Watch Co. Ltd., Bexley, Kent dated August and September 1972 stating among other remarks: "Customer is Airline Navigator and relies on his watch being accurate. Would be grateful if accuracy can be improved, please adjust so that it gains a little rather than loses" and "Client is an Airline Navigator, is it possible watch has become magnetized and needs de-gausing?."
- A Rolex Watch Co. Ltd., Bexley, Kent invoice dated 7 October 1971 for 15.80 pounds sterling for the overhauling and waterproofing of the watch as well as for postage.
- A delivery note dated 7 October 1971, which has been clipped together with the three servicing correspondence papers from The Rolex Watch Co. Ltd., Bexley, Kent dated 1972, mentions the amount of 15.80 pounds sterling for the overhaul and waterproofing of the watch, the fitting of a new bezel and postage.
- An invoice from Rolex in Bexley, Kent, dated 15 December 1965.
- A receipt form Rolex in Bexley, Kent dated 22 November 1965 stating under customer comment's that the watch was "last serviced in Hong Kong by Rolex Agent 5 months ago but client has not got the receipt. Watch is erratic. Correct and test."
- An invoice from Rolex in Bexley, Kent, dated 10 May 1962.
- A receipt note from Rolex in London for the overhaul of the watch dated 3. May 1962.
- A Rolex, London invocice dated 6 August 1997 for the supply and fitting of a new clasp for a total amount of 19.09 (pounds sterling).