PAN AM & 1675

It was 1954. To prevent pilots and flight crew from suffering from jet lag on board its Boeing jets, Pan-Am asked Rolex for a model that indicated the local time of arrival and that of the place of departure at the same time. Thus was born the first GMT reference 6542. The development team was led by Captain Fred Libby of Pan Am and Rene P. Jeanneret, the public relations manager of Rolex. The GMT name was registered on April 21, 1955, the movement was based on the 1030 of the Turnograph, which, with the addition of the fourth red hand, indicated the 24 hours. The two-tone bezel graduated with the 24 hours, by turning, was positioned in correspondence with the second time zone to be read.

The first advertisement of GMT 6542
The first advertisement of GMT 6542

This first "GMT" movement was initially christened 1036, then 1065 and 1066, and production started in 1956.

Legend has it that there are around 100 one-of-a-kind examples with a white dial, some dubbed an "albino" GMT.

It is said that the head of Pan Am, Juan Trippe, one day saw on the wrist of an executive one of the GMTs intended exclusively for crew members, confiscated it and ordered that all the executives who had stolen the GMTs that day should return them to the legitimate recipients.

At that point the Pan Am executive class felt at fault, so Trippe ordered 100 examples with the white dial from Rolex. It is believed these were the last 6542 produced.

One of 100 very rare examples of 6542 "Albino"

Another important detail that collectors love about this model is the bakelite ring, the very first specimens were equipped with this particular ring, but it proved to be very fragile and easy to break, as well as having another huge problem, the numbers were made with a special radioactive mixture of military origin which made them glow in the dark, TRITIUM.

Tritium was obtained as a byproduct of the production of nuclear weapons. After some time it began to be suspected that some ferrules were also contaminated with strontium-90, far more dangerous than tritium. Rolex distributed circulars requesting GMT owners to return them for inspection. In the meantime, the bakelite ferrules were replaced by stamped metal ferrules. Not infrequently the GMTs under review returned with a brand new metal bezel to replace the offending bakelite bezel. The initial production of the bakelite ferrules therefore lasted about a year, after which they were replaced by metal ones. The new bezels remained in production for about 18 months, after which they were again replaced by the plastic ones, this time Geyger counter-proof, for the last production period of the reference 6542.

Go and discover the new graphics dedicated to this reference...! BAKELITE