With blank Rolex Guarantee, GMT-Master instructions, shell-shaped tag, an undated certification note from the American Rolex Watch Corp. regarding the luminosity of the piece. Further accompanied by the original fitted mint green presentation box.
The present watch is a rare and appealing example of Rolex dual time zone reference 6542. Preserved in exquisite and excellent overall condition, it features the much sought-after and intact bakelite bezel and impresses with its sharp case outlines and the polished angles on the sides of the lugs. Moreover, it has the correct production date references on the inside of the case back and clasp. The watch is stamped II.59 on the inside of the case back, indicating production of the watch body in the second quarter of 1959, as well as 3.60 on the clasp, equally indicating production of the expandable bracelet in the third quarter of 1960. The gilt printing displayed on the black gloss, or lacquered dial, is nice and clear. The watch also features a Cyclops lense, which Rolex introduced in the 1950s and which was an optional choice for the GMT-Master model, allowing the magnification of the date by two and a half times for increased legibility.
For collectors it is always a pleasure to find a reference 6542 with an intact acrylic or bakelite bezel. Bakelite or scientifically polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride, is 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 making such bezels more precious to the avid collector.
The desirability of this particular watch is further enhanced by the presence of its original accessories, including the period Guarantee and mint green box. Certainly, the delightful green shell-shaped tag embossed with the words "Swimpruf", "Rolex Oyster" and "Printed in Switzerland" is a nice extra to have. Likewise, few watches have the little certification note from the American Rolex Watch Corp. with the wording: "It is hereby certified that the bezel and dial of this GMT Master No. 461831 have been tested and do not contain any substance in violation of the Atomic Energy Commission regulations".
Due to the extraordinary success of the Rolex Sports models in the 1950s, it came as 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.