Vintage Yellow Gold Rolex GMT-Master with Bakelite Bezel

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Yellow Gold Rolex GMT-Master (Reference # 6542)
With Rolex placing an emphasis on the GMT-Master II BLNR in recent marketing efforts, it is as good a time as any to take a look at early GMT-Master models, like the Reference 6542 shown in the photo. This yellow gold configuration dates back to 1959, just a few years after the first GMT-Master was introduced. Developed by Rolex in association with Pan Am Airlines, this watch harkens back to the golden age of aviation, when trans-continental travel was made possible by jet engine technology.

The GMT-Master 6542 features an 18k gold case that measures 38mm in diameter and houses an automatic Caliber 1006 with 25 jewels. The yellow gold material makes this reference particularly rare given the fact that most tool watches of this period were manufactured in stainless steel, not precious metals. Another interesting material feature is its Bakelite bezel tinted in cognac brown. Bakelite was used to minimize the reflection on the bezel to make it easier for pilots to read the time while flying. The date wheel has a cream color that adds another interesting element to this unique piece.

vintage rolex gmt master yellow gold brown bakelite
Rolex GMT-Master 6542 (photo: Phillips)
This particular 6542 was put up for auction by the original owner at Phillips in Geneva last year selling for approximately $139,000 US. Many Baselworld 2017 rumors indicate that Rolex may be releasing a new GMT-Master II configuration based on the heavy attention the model has been getting in recent weeks. The consensus is that a 'Coke' configuration will be released in stainless steel. I think it would be interesting to see a new yellow gold GMT as well.

The combination of brown and gold evokes the aesthetic of the bronze models that watchmakers like Panerai and Tudor have released in recent years. The only reason I don't think Rolex will release a new stainless steel GMT is that they have invested so much in promoting the BLNR in recent months that I don't think it makes sense to cannibalize those sales with a competing steel configuration. In a few weeks all of our conjectures will be either confirmed or dispelled. I will be sure to post all of the new Rolex configurations from Baselworld 2017 as soon as they are revealed. For now, check out my predictions here.


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