Fasten your seatbelts for the story of the inimitable Rolex GMT-Master! As civil aviation took off after World War II, airlines began to fly over longer distances. As a result, pilots required accurate watches that could display multiple time zones simultaneously.
In the early 1950s, Pan American Airways (Pan-Am) requested Rolex to develop a watch for this very purpose. The GMT-Master was introduced in 1954. It featured an extra hand with a bidirectional 24-hour. This GMT-hand (‘GMT’ stands for ‘Greenwich Mean Time’) could be used to read the home time zone while the 12-hour hand displayed the ‘local’ time.
The production of the first GMT-Master (Ref. 6542) proved to be a rocky start for this model due to its fragility. It didn’t feature any protection for the crown yet and the bezel was made out of the easily-breakable material: bakelite. “Pussy Galore” in the James Bond movie “Goldfinger” did not seem to care about that, nor the problematic high level of radiations due to the luminous material.