Rolex Milgauss: A Tool Watch with a Ferromagnetic Shield
The Rolex Milgauss can withstand the strongest magnetic fields, making it the ultimate tool watch. Originally developed for engineers and scientists, today this sporty-elegant luxury watch is also a top choice for fashion-forward watch enthusiasts.
5 Reasons to Buy a Rolex Milgauss
- Antimagnetic up to 1,000 gauss
- Rolex Caliber 3131: a superlative chronometer
- Brand recognition: lightning-bolt-shaped second hand and green sapphire glass
- One size: 40-mm case in 904L stainless steel
- Waterproof to 100 m (10 bar, 328 ft)
Perfect for Scientists, Businesspeople, and Recreational Athletes
The Rolex Milgauss holds a special position within the Oyster collection. It is the Geneva-based manufacturer's first watch with resistance to strong magnetic fields thanks to its shield made of ferromagnetic materials . Since its introduction in 1956, this protective shield has been guarding the Milgauss against magnetic fields of up to 1,000 gauss. This also explains the watch's name: It is a combination of the French word for thousand (mille) and the unit of measurement for magnetism "gauss." Today, the Rolex Air-King has the same protection. Amagnetic components, such as the blue Parachrom hairspring, protect all other Rolex watches.
What's more, this timepiece is water resistant to 100 m (10 bar, 328 ft) as a result of its screw-down case back and Twinlock crown. This means the Milgauss is not only suited for scientists, who encounter strong magnetic fields in their work, but it is also a universal timepiece that can be worn while swimming or playing sports. Thanks to its sporty-elegant look, it is likewise at home in the office and serves as the daily companion of many executives and businesspeople. Its design includes a 40-mm Oyster case and a three-piece link Oyster bracelet with polished middle links, both of which underscore the watch's elegance. The orange, lightning-bolt-shaped second hand, as well as the orange "MILGAUSS" inscription and minute scale around the edge of the dial are hard to overlook. Green-tinted sapphire glass is yet another characteristic feature of the Rolex Milgauss .
How much is a Rolex Milgauss?
|Reference number||Price (approx.)||Features|
|6541||Over 184,000 USD||1st generation, extremely rare|
|1019||Starting at 24,600 USD||Rare vintage watch|
|116400GV||7,900 USD||Green sapphire glass|
|116400||7,100 USD||Clear sapphire glass|
Detailed Price Information
A Rolex Milgauss with the reference number 116400GV and a Z-Blue dial costs about 7,900 USD in mint condition. Pre-owned models go for as little as 6,900 USD. The same watch with a black dial and orange indices at 3, 6, and 9 o'clock sits in a similar price range. The abbreviation "GV" stands for "Glace Verte" and refers to the green-tinted sapphire glass. Without this special glass, a Milgauss ref. 116400 costs about 7,100 USD new and 6,100 USD pre-owned.
The ref. 6541 was one of the first Milgauss models and was produced from 1956 until the early 1960s. Examples with this reference number are so rare today that they can sell for over 184,000 USD at auction. The ref. 6543 is even rarer. It was manufactured in very limited numbers for a short period of time prior to the 6541. Prices for this reference number can also hit above 184,000 USD. These early reference numbers have black, rotatable bezels and Oyster cases and bracelets reminiscent of the first Rolex Submariner watches.
The Rolex Milgauss with the reference number 1019 is a real treat for fans of vintage watches. This model was in production from the early 1960s until 1988. Despite its relatively long manufacturing period, the ref. 1019 remains scarce. This is because the Milgauss was not particularly popular at the time, so it was only released in limited numbers. Such rarity makes it especially interesting for collectors. You can purchase a pre-owned ref. 1019 starting around 24,600 USD, making them much more expensive than the current models.
The History of the Milgauss
The Milgauss stands out due to its antimagnetic properties. A special balance spring and a soft iron cage around the movement protect the watch from any magnetic fields. It premiered in 1956 with the reference number 6541. Today, these original models are extremely rare and sell for very high prices. The Milgauss was originally designed for scientists and other professionals who often work near strong magnetic fields. Rolex didn't need to look very far from their own backyard: The nuclear research center CERN, where such conditions are the norm, was founded in 1954 and is also headquartered in Geneva.
The strength of magnetic fields is measured in gauss, named after the mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss. The first Milgauss was meant to withstand 1,000 gauss, hence the watch's name. Production of the model stopped in 1988, but began again in 2007.
The Dangerous Effects of Magnetism on Movements
Magnetic fields pose a serious danger to a watch's accuracy. Most of all, the balance spring is susceptible to increased deviations. This doesn't only apply to a certain work environment, either; even everyday use can cause deviations. The German watch manufacturer Sinn tested around 1000 of their watches and determined almost 60% were magnetized. Half of them had serious errors due to the magnetic fields. Everyday items such as speakers and garage door closers contain strong magnets and could cause these issues. The same applies to electric motors, which is why locomotives and trams also experience this problem.
Amagnetic Components within the Movement
One of the most important antimagnetic measures Rolex has taken in the modern Milgauss models is the Parachrom balance spring. The manufacturer introduced it in 2005, after a five-year development period. The blue spiral is made of a zirconium-niobium alloy with an oxide coat and is not influenced by magnetic fields. The soft iron cage is another defense against magnetism. It fully surrounds and protects the movement following the principles of a Faraday cage. This cage is made of a special mixture of alloys that is kept secret by Rolex. The antimagnetic inner cage of the Milgauss is made up of two parts, which the watchmaker screws together after placing the movement within. There are openings for the hands and the crown.
According to international standards set by ISO, a non-magnetic watch may only deviate by +/- 30 seconds per day after being exposed to a magnetic field of 60 gauss. With resistance up to 1,000 gauss, Rolex's watch easily surpasses this requirement. Its precision is far more exact than demanded by the ISO standard, as it only deviates by +/- 2 seconds a day. Thanks to its incredible accuracy, the Milgauss is also certified by the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC).
In-house Caliber 3131 Since 2007
The in-house movement 3131 powers the Milgauss. This automatic caliber has a 48-hour power reserve and vibrates at 28,800 alternations per hour (4 Hz). The 3131 premiered together with the new version of the Milgauss in 2007. The central second hand can be stopped so the watch can be set to an exact reference time. The 3131 is closely related to caliber 3135, which powers the Sea-Dweller with a date display. A date display would create a hole in the Milgauss' shielded movement and damage the cage. Therefore, this feature was purposefully not included.
The Twinlock Crown: Water Resistant to 100 m (10 bar, 328 ft)
The Milgauss has a mid-size diameter of 40 mm and is, therefore, a good companion for both thin and larger wrists. The case is made of 904L stainless steel. Rolex considers this type of steel to be particularly tough and noncorrosive. There's no need to fear being near water when wearing a Milgauss either, as it's waterproof to 10 bar (100 m, 328 ft). It can be worn while swimming and snorkeling. Its Twinlock crown uses two rubber gaskets to keep water from seeping into the watch.
A polished bezel surrounds both the green sapphire glass and dial, which is available in either black, white, or blue. All of the hour indices on the white dial are orange. Only 3, 6, and 9 o'clock are colored orange on the black dial, while the rest are white. The blue dial features entirely white indices. A characteristic mark of the Rolex Milgauss is its orange lightning bolt second hand ending in an arrow. This extra unmistakable touch stands out on the otherwise streamlined watch.
Similar to its case, the Milgauss' three-piece link bracelet is also made of 904L stainless steel. The band is a so-called Oyster bracelet, which Rolex uses for many other models. Its middle links are polished while the outer links have a matte satin-brushed finish. The bracelet can easily be extended 5 mm with the Easylink system and adjusted to fit your wrist.
Watches Protected Against Magnetic Fields and the METAS Certificate
Other brands have tackled the challenge of creating antimagnetic watches. Omega has succeeded particularly well, especially with their Aqua Terra > 15,000 Gauss from the Seamaster collection. Together with the Swiss Federal Office of Metrology (METAS), Omega introduced a new certification in 2014. Every watch that could withstand magnetic fields of 15,000 gauss was labeled as "Officially Certified" by METAS.
IWC developed the Ingenieur Automatic watch, which can withstand magnetic fields up to 1,000 gauss thanks to its soft iron cage. Sinn's 756 series, on the other hand, can only withstand fields up to 756 gauss. Today, brands are using more and more non-magnetic components to build antimagnetic watches.
From Specialized to Everyday
The Rolex Milgauss was originally designed in the 1950s for a small group of specialized users. Today, it's one of the most sought-after, expensive, and rare vintage watches on account of its small production run. Deviations caused by magnetic fields aren't uncommon. The Milgauss combats this problem with its non-magnetic Parachrom hairspring and a soft iron cage around its movement. With its stainless steel case, reserved design, and lightning-bolt second hand, it's perfect for anyone looking for a subtle, yet exceptional Rolex.