A rare and well-preserved stainless steel wristwatch with dual time, center seconds, bracelet and Bakelite bezel

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  • Manufacturer: Rolex
    Year: 1959
    Reference No: 6542
    Movement No: DN904’381
    Case No: 482'922, further stamped "III.59"
    Model Name: GMT-Master "Pussy Galore"
    Material: Stainless steel
    Calibre: Automatic, cal. 1066, 25 jewels
    Bracelet/Strap: Stainless steel riveted expandable Rolex Oyster bracelet, end links stamped 58, max length 200mm
    Clasp/Buckle: Stainless steel deployant clasp, stamped 2.55
    Dimensions: 39mm Diameter
    Signed: Case, dial, movement, and bracelet signed
    Literature: For another example of a reference 6542 with Bakelite bezel see 100 Superlative Rolex Watches by John Goldberger, p. 192.

  • Catalogue Essay

    Since its release in 1954, Rolex’s GMT-Master has been one of the most successful wristwatches, and even today the modern version remains in great demand. The post war economic exuberance of the 50s lead to a golden age of the jet age with increasing numbers of travelers exploring the world. Created by the brand in conjunction with Pan American airways, the reference 6542 was Rolex’s first dual time zone timepiece, used as a tool watch for pilots to keep track of local and home time. Amongst purists, the reference 6542 is perhaps the most desirable model with its strong masculine case, easily readable dial, and most importantly its rotating luminous blue and red Bakelite bezel. An early plastic made from synthetic components, Bakelite allowed Rolex to put luminous numerals on the bezel, which could be rotated, and when used in conjunction with the revolutionary red 24-hour hand, pilots could easily and simultaneously track dual time zones. Unfortunately, what in theory may work, the practical applications did not apply, with the Bakelite being fragile and the bezels easily damaged. Rolex replaced the 6542 in 1959 with the reference 1675 with the more durable metallic bezel insert.

    The present watch is a wonderfully-preserved example. The stunning black lacquer dial with gilt lettering and original lume plots will appeal to the most sophisticated collector. Even more outstanding is the case, which retains strong proportions and clear crisp lug bevels as delivered from the factory nearly six decades ago. The Bakelite bezel remains very nice with a small hairline through the ‘5’ hour marker, and is a window into the early years of an iconic wristwatch.

    In an age of jet travel and international intrigue, the reference 6542 was a watch for all sophisticates - its international allure lead the producers of the 1964 James Bond film, “Goldfinger”, to outfit the lead female criminal with the identical model GMT-Master. This extraordinary watch has remained close to factory specs since its manufacture in 1959. It is a watch that can be appreciated by all, and represents a rare opportunity for the discerning collector.

  • Maker Bio

    Rolex

    Swiss • 1905

    Founded in 1905 England by Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis as Wilsdorf & Davis, it soon became known as the Rolex Watch Company in 1915, moving its headquarters to Geneva in 1919. Like no other company, the success of the wristwatch can be attributed to many of Rolex's innovations that made them one of the most respected and well-known of all luxury brands. These innovations include their famous "Oyster" case — the world's first water resistant and dustproof watch case, invented in 1926 — and their "Perpetual" — the first reliable self-winding movement for wristwatches launched in 1933. They would form the foundation for Rolex's Datejust and Day-Date, respectively introduced in 1945 and 1956, but also importantly for their sports watches, such as the Explorer, Submariner and GMT-Master launched in the mid-1950s.

    One of its most famous models is the Cosmograph Daytona. Launched in 1963, these chronographs are without any doubt amongst the most iconic and coveted of all collectible wristwatches. Other key collectible models include their most complicated vintage watches, including references 8171 and 6062 with triple calendar and moon phase, "Jean Claude Killy" triple date chronograph models and the Submariner, including early "big-crown" models and military-issued variants.

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Rolex

Ref. 6542
A rare and well-preserved stainless steel wristwatch with dual time, center seconds, bracelet and Bakelite bezel

1959
39mm Diameter
Case, dial, movement, and bracelet signed

Estimate
CHF60,000 - 80,000 
€51,400-68,600
$63,500-84,700

sold for CHF93,750

Contact Specialist
Alexandre Ghotbi
Head of Sale
+41 22 317 81 81
aghotbi@phillips.com

The Geneva Watch Auction: SEVEN

Geneva Auction 12-13 May 2018