As many of you may already know, Rolex introduced their very first pilot watch in 1954 with the GMT-Master ref. 6542. The watch was built for Pan Am pilots to keep track of home time and local time simultaneously as they flew around the country and the world. But what you may not know is that alongside the famous inaugural stainless steel GMT-Master watches with the blue and red “Pepsi” Bakelite bezels, Rolex also made a handful of yellow gold GMT-Master ref. 6542 models. Super rare and super gorgeous, join us as we zero in on this uncommon vintage beauty.
This GMT-Master 6542 Shines Bright in Gold
There are so many fantastic details to highlight on this vintage GMT-Master ref. 6542, which on their own would already excite collectors, but taken all together, this watch is just downright impressive.
First up, unlike the more well-known stainless steel varieties, this GMT-Master 6542 is crafted in precious 18k yellow gold. That’s pretty special considering that the GMT-Master was developed as a tool watch. Second, we have the Bakelite bezel, flaunting a rich reddish brown color that complements the yellow gold case perfectly.
When Rolex first debuted the GMT-Master 6542, they used Bakelite material to fashion the bezels along with radium numerals floating inside. Unfortunately, Bakelite proved to be too brittle for the job and had a tendency to shatter. Rolex quickly replaced them with aluminum bezels in future models.
So, not only is a GMT-Master with a Bakelite bezel already uncommon in today’s market, but one that’s brown rather than blue and red is almost unheard of. These would have had to survive over six decades of existence!
The Unique Dial Details of the Gold GMT-Master 6542
The chocolate brown dial of this yellow gold GMT-Master ref. 6542 carries on the warm colorway of the watch and houses the so-called “nipple dial” style. Not only are the faceted indexes also in yellow gold, but they are filled with luminescence too.
Of particular interest are the hands on this particular yellow gold GMT-Master ref. 6542. Instead of the Mercedes-style hands we are now accustomed to on the GMT-Master, this vintage version has alpha-style hour and minute hands with a line of luminescence running down the center. What’s more, the seconds hands does not include the typical round luminescent detail but instead, is simply straight. There’s also the long and slender extra GMT-hand tipped with a small luminescent triangle. Finally, we can’t forget about the date window at 3 o’clock and the Cyclops lens on the acrylic crystal.
What’s it Worth?
Rolex only produced the GMT-Master ref. 6542 for a short while from 1954 until 1959. As expected, these low production numbers make the demand for the first GMT-Master watch model even stronger. But throw in the rarity of a yellow gold version and you have one ultra-collectible vintage Rolex watch.
In 2010, Christie’s sold a similar example for about $160,000. Furthermore, in 2013, Sotheby’s sold one for $125,000, while in 2016, Phillips sold one for $350,000. What would you estimate this example of the vintage yellow gold GMT-Master ref. 6542 is worth today? Leave us your estimates in the comments section below.