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With the advent of the first transcontinental flight in 1953, the pilots of Pan American Airlines required a watch that could tell two timezones simultaneously. As the story goes, they approached Rolex, and in short order the Rolex GMT (as in Greenwich Mean Time) Master was born. The name is a bold declaration of what Rolex intended the watch to be: a true master of the skies.
That first reference of GMT-Master, the Reference 6542, was essentially a heavily-modified Turn-O-Graph with the Caliber 1035 movement upgraded to include a 24-hour driving wheel and a 24-hour-hand. The case was modified to include a rotating 24 hour Bakelite bezel in a distinctive blue and red, but lacked the crown guards that would adorn all subsequent references of GMT-Master. But the Reference 6542 was only produced from 1954 to 1960, and was the replaced with what was to become the gold standard of vintage Rolex GMTs -- and perhaps one of the world's most iconic sport watches -- the Reference 1675.
In addition to the GMT's association with Pan Am, the model also has another surprising connection: to NASA. While a Rolex was never flight-tested by NASA for manned space missions, unlike the much-vaunted Omega Speedmaster, Rolexes did in fact make it to space on the wrists of astronauts. Jack Swigert, from the crew of the Apollo 13 mission, credited his Rolex GMT-Master--not his Omega Speedmaster--for allowing him to make life-saving calculations that allowed the astronauts to fly back to Earth after their spacecraft's oxygen tanks ruptured. Another visited the moon in the pocket of Ron Evans' space suit.
This particular GMT-Master dates from the early days of the Reference 1675 and has an early gilt dial rather than the more commonly seen matte dials, which were introduced around 1967. And what a beauty this dial is! Dials from this era of Rolex often take on a fine stippling, associated with exposure to humidity for long periods of time. This dial, however, hasn't "stippled" so much as "varnished", giving it the appearance of tree bark, or even rust. While we've seen plenty tropical dials before, this is without a doubt one of the most unique examples we've ever seen on a GMT. With a nicely faded bezel insert to match, it's an excellent example of how unique and beautiful a vintage watch can be.
The GMT-Master is deeply rooted in aviation history and is quite simply one of those watches that has a place in every watch collection, big or small, and collectors are constantly on the hunt for the perfect example. Owning a handful of these ourselves, we can say without question that a good GMT is a companion not easily matched by any other watch - particularly if it is one with oodles of character!
Stainless steel Oyster case is approximately 39mm (excluding crown). Reference 1675. Rolex Caliber 1570 Automatic Movement. Circa 1965.
Overall Condition: Case is in good condition throughout, showing signs of prior polishing and light blemishes from age and use. Lugs remain thick and fat. Gloss gilt dial has developed an intense patination, with rich tropical elements and beautiful texturing reminiscent of birch bark. Luminescent elements on the dial and hands have aged brilliantly. 5:00 marker shows some lume loss. "Pepsi" bezel insert has developed a beautiful heavy fade. Case back is in excellent condition. Underlined Rolex-signed crown.
Includes brown textured Italian leather strap. Also includes two 20mm nylon straps from Crown & Buckle
Analog/Shift stands behind the authenticity of our products in perpetuity.
We back each Analog/Shift vintage timepiece with a one-year mechanical warranty from the date of purchase.
All of our watches include complementary insured shipping within the 50 states. We are happy to hand deliver your purchase in Manhattan or you may pick it up at our showroom.
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