The present lot is a truly stunning example of the Ref. 6542. The viewer is immediately taken in by the array of warm tones: from the burnt siena or tobacco colored dial, to the russet-colored hue of the bezel, all enveloped by the rich yellow gold of the case and bracelet, its accents echoed by the indexes and hands. The Bakelite bezel, maintained in excellent condition, lends a third dimension and depth to the case. It is very rare to find a Bakelite bezel on a gold 6542 in such good condition, as the material itself is rather brittle. The profile of the lugs serves as a study for collectors, demonstrating impeccably the subtle faceted edge so often polished out over years of wear.
By 1953, the commercial trans-Atlantic airline industry was at a point where planes were able to take off on one side of the ocean and land on the other in a matter of mere hours. Partly as a result of this, Pan American airlines approached Rolex, and the two companies began working on a watch that could easily tell the hour in two different time zones. When Ref. 6542, the first GMT-Master, was released in 1954, it became the official timepiece of Pan-Am Airlines. Their pilots found the watch to be a useful tool in the cockpit where many timing calculations were necessary over the duration of the flight. In addition, the simple ability to know what time it was 'back home' was very easy to see with the watch's Bakelite plastic bezel.