Rolex Ref. 6542 GMT Master
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Rolex Ref. 6542 GMT Master

Why We Love It

Ask any vintage Rolex collector worth their salt what the most collectible reference of GMT is and the answer will invariably be “6542, of course.” They could also, if pressed, tick off the selling points of this reference: Bakelite bezel, gilt chapter ring, small arrow GMT hand, and a case with no crown guards. However, he might also say, under his breath, “Good luck finding one that’s untouched.”

Because the fact is that while “untouched” 6542s are out there, you wouldn’t dream of actually wearing one outside of a padded room. If you came across one, you’re more likely to keep it in a safe and take it out only to admire it under the light of a full moon. Which is a shame, because these watches were meant to be worn—more than that, they were meant to fly.

Offered here is a perfect compromise for anyone who wants a wearable 6542. The seconds hand and small arrow GMT hand, as well as the case, are as they appeared when the watch left the factory in Geneva. But as often happens throughout a watch’s lifetime, the original Radium dial was switched out in favor of a tritium version during the course of a routine service at Rolex, and the fragile Bakelite bezel was eschewed in favor of a red-back aluminum service replacement. But the tritium dial has taken on a fine patina over time, and the strong case—along with a Jubilee bracelet—makes this a 6542 which you can actually wear.

The Story

By 1953, Pan American Airlines was the leader in around-the-world flights, and the problems these flights posed necessitated a new kind of timepiece. Pan Am’s pilots were among some of the best-trained in the industry—even though the airline embraced the most modern technology, each pilot was able to navigate using dead reckoning and celestial navigation. However, Pan Am realized that even the most well-trained of pilots needs a watch that could show two timezones at once, making navigation that much easier.

The watch that Rolex made for Pan Am—this watch—has become nothing short of an icon.

Among collectors, the very first reference of GMT Master—the Reference 6542—has attained a reputation that’s perhaps unmatched by any other model of GMT. As such, the prices have climbed as high as the altitude at which these transatlantic flights would travel. But for the savvy collector, bargains can still be had…


SKU: AS02675

Stainless steel Oyster case is approximately 38mm (excluding crown). Reference 6542. Calibre 1035. Circa 1958.

Overall Condition: Case is in very good condition overall with sharp bevels and moderate signs of use and wear. Bezel is a service replacement assembly with early red backed aluminum insert, showing a beautiful fade. Dial is an early chapter ring tritium service replacement, with rich patina to the luminescent elements of the hour markers. Matching tritium service replacement hour and minute hands, and original radium sweeping seconds and full lume small triangle 24-hour GMT hand. Signed crown. Case back has some signs of use and wear.

Includes one later Made in USA 20mm oval-link Jubilee bracelet, which shows some signs of stretching.

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