A year later and reference 6542 GMT Master was born with a rotating 24hr bezel, GMT hand and cyclops date window.
Unlike the rotating bezel of the Submariner, the GMT Master bezel was made from Bakelite – the first synthetic plastic – as was the bezel ring which was coated to resemble metal. The insert was transparent with the blue and red sectors printed on the reverse.
The numbers were painted in radium and, due to the curved top of the insert, appear to hover within the plastic. Sadly, the reaction of the plastic to temperature made it very brittle, a condition worsened by the damaging effects of the radium, and many bezels cracked and disintegrated. Rolex produced a second version with a metal bezel and changed any damaged ones at service.
This Bakelite bezel Rolex in excellent condition, is accordingly a rare survival and carries an estimate of £20,000-30,000 at Fellows’ watch sale on July 25.