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

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  • Manufacturer: Rolex
    Year: Circa 1958
    Reference No: 6542
    Movement No: DN'903'051
    Case No: 397'320
    Model Name: GMT-Master
    Material: Stainless steel
    Calibre: Automatic, cal. 1066, 25 jewels
    Bracelet/Strap: Bracelet/Strap: Stainless steel riveted expandable Rolex Oyster bracelet , end links stamped 557, max overall length 210mm
    Clasp/Buckle: Stainless steel Rolex deployant clasp, stamped 2.66
    Dimensions: 39mm Diameter
    Signed: Case, dial, movement, and clasp signed.
    Literature: For another example of a reference 6542 with Bakelite bezel see 100 Superlative Rolex Watches by John Goldberger, p. 192.

  • Catalogue Essay

    Tool watches of the mid-20th century are some of the most collectible and sought after timepieces today, and the Rolex reference 6542 GMT-Master, released in 1954, is a first-generation model appreciated for its innovative mechanism and rare Bakelite bezel. Rolex developed the dual time zone watch in conjunction with Pan American airways so their personnel could tell both “local” and “home” time while traveling. With the introduction of the jet engine, intercontinental travel had become much more common and commercially available thus both flight staff and traveling executives needed a means to monitor time as they traveled across multiple time zones. Rolex created an ingenious method using the rotating Bakelite bezel that worked in conjunction with a fourth, 24-hour center hand permitting the wearer to clearly keep track of two time zones. The model had a robust, masculine appeal with highly legible dial, and the blue and red Bakelite bezel, unique to the reference 6542, allowed for the use of luminous numerals, which allowed the time to be visualized in the dark. Unfortunately, Bakelite, a type of plastic, proved to be fragile and could easily be chipped or cracked when the watch was either dropped or hit too hard against an edge. Within a few short years, Rolex released in 1959 a new model GMT-Master, the reference 1675, which replaced the Bakelite bezel with a far more resilient aluminum bezel insert. The model became an icon for sophisticates, and had such an international allure that in 1964, producers of the James Bond thriller, “Goldfinger”, featured it on the wrist of the female criminal, Pussy Galore.

    The present reference 6542, made circa 1958, is a lovely example of the model. It’s fitted with its original and still-glossy black lacquer dial with gilt lettering and luminous hour markers that have aged, along with the hands, to a warm brown hue. The case is beautiful, having never been polished, and retains its beautiful, crisp facets and original dimensions as delivered by the factory so many decades ago. The original luminous Bakelite bezel, so often missing or replaced on this reference, has aged gracefully over the last 60 years. Over the years, the GMT-Master has remained a perennial favorite amongst enthusiasts and the general public alike due to its practical functionality as a simple-to-use travel watch. It is a model that has a casual flair, which is suitable both in formal and informal settings, and complete, early examples like the present lot are wonderful watches that provide a window on to the innovative history of the brand and this iconic model’s origins.

  • 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 dual time wristwatch with Bakelite bezel and bracelet

Circa 1958
39mm Diameter
Case, dial, movement, and clasp signed.

Estimate
$70,000 - 120,000 
CHF69,800-120,000
€60,800-104,000
HK$549,000-941,000

sold for $81,250

Contact Specialist
Paul Boutros
Head of Watches, Americas
+1 212 940 1293
pboutros@phillips.com

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