When it comes to GMT Master’s none are as desirable as the ref. 6542, the very first Rolex ever issued of this model. Designed to be the watch of choice for Pan-Am pilots, the GMT Master became the benchmark when it comes to two-timezone watches. A title that it still as true today as it was when the watch was launched in 1954. Despite being the first, what mainly sets it apart from later versions of this model is the bakelite bezel. The numerals inside the bezel are actually filled in with Radium. The thought behind it is that even in low-light conditions you could easily check the time in both time-zones. While this must have looked amazing when these watches were first issued, it was also a cause for trouble. Bakelite is by itself already quite brittle, and combined with the radioactivity of the Radium made it that Rolex discontinued this bezel quite quickly.
Especially after more than 60 years, GMT Masters Ref. 6542 that still have the original bakelite bezel are very rare. What makes them even rarer is when the bezel is still in great shape and shows a very attractive discoloration like this GMT Master does. This is an unusual occurrence that watch collectors refer to as “tropical”.
Now there are tropical watches and Tropical watches. The one on this GMT-Master is clearly of the latter category, showing a beautiful, even discoloration of both the dial and the bezel in a deep terracotta hue. It goes into the direction of the Root Beer GMT Master; only this watch has more of a red tone in the dial. Unique is also that the half of the bezel that was originally red turned to the same color as the originally black dial! Discoloration like this is very rare, and although this reference by itself is already quite a challenge to find in such a remarkable good condition, the dial and bezel on this particular GMT Master make it a unique piece.
This is also exactly the reason why Rolex with tropical dials commands such premiums over the same model with a regular dial. They are rare, unique, and add an extra layer of character to an already charismatic watch.