The Rolex Milgauss has been the model for the watch collector who doesn’t really consider themselves a “Rolex person.” Its design has always been a touch more outlandish than its counterparts, and its party piece – an internal antimagnetic shield – is not a feature that you can interact with or observe like you can with a dive bezel or chronograph complication.
Although it has largely been overlooked throughout most of its history, the Rolex Milgauss is a truly unique watch among the various models that make up the brand’s current catalog. Among Rolex’s offerings, it’s one of very few models that you can easily pick out in a crowd and identify, without doubt, and from a reasonable distance – especially when we’re talking about the Rolex Milgauss Z-Blue.
After a long time out of the Rolex catalog, the Milgauss was re-introduced to the collection in 2007, followed by this especially funky Z-Blue dial variant in 2014. The latter is what we’re going to be focusing on today, as it is hands-down one of the most interesting and peculiar Rolex models currently available, and also the model that really took the Milgauss from being an underrated classic to one of the many models that you simply cannot buy at a retail level without spending some time on a rather lengthy waiting list.
In this guide, we’ll take a look at the history of this unique antimagnetic Rolex watch that was designed for scientists rather than sportsmen, and then examine all of the key features that make the Rolex Milgauss Z-Blue a standout in the brand’s current catalog. So, without further ado, let’s take a closer look!
Table of Contents:
Rolex Milgauss Reference 116400GV – Z-Blue Dial
Milgauss Z-Blue 116400GV Key Features:
– Reference Number: 116400GV
– Production Years: 2014 – Present
– Case Size: 40mm
– Materials: Oystersteel (940L Stainless Steel)
– Functions: Time w/ Running Seconds, Antimagnetic Shield
– Dial: Z-Blue w/ Luminous Hour Markers
– Luminescence: Chromalight
– Bezel: Fixed, Stainless Steel, Smooth Style
– Crystal: Green Sapphire (Flat)
– Water Resistance: 100 Meters / 300 Feet
– Movement: Rolex Caliber 3131
– Strap/Bracelet: Oyster Bracelet
– Approx. Price (USD): $8,300 (Retail); $12,000 – $14,000 (Pre-Owned)
The History of the Rolex Milgauss Z-Blue
First introduced in 1956, the Milgauss was a revolutionary timepiece developed specifically for the scientific community. With the rise of industry during the 1950s and the increased presence of electricity, there were a whole new set of challenges for watchmakers in terms of dealing with magnetism. Many scientists and individuals working in power plants or laboratories were exposed to strong electromagnetic fields on a daily basis, which would significantly disrupt the timekeeping of their traditional mechanical watches.
To help this community of professionals with this new issue, Rolex created the Milgauss – a self-winding chronometer that was resistant to magnetic fields in excess of 1,000 gauss. As an important point of reference, most “magnetic resistant” watches of the time could only withstand magnetic fields up to 200 gauss. So, the Milguass was a major leap forward in terms of anti-magnetic watchmaking technology. And if you’re wondering where the name Milgauss comes from, it’s actually a portmanteau of the words “mille” meaning a thousand in French, and “gauss” which is the standard unit of measurement used for magnetic fields.
However, the Milgauss was discontinued in 1988 and when it was re-introduced at Baselworld 2007, it was an entirely different and thoroughly modern watch. This meant upgrading the model from the inside out – like replacing the acrylic crystal with a synthetic sapphire crystal for the new ref. 116400. Rolex even offered a green-tinted sapphire crystal on one of the new Milgauss watches – the ref. 116400GV. Additionally, the lightning bolt-shaped seconds hand returned to the collection, this time in bright orange to match the various dial accents on the new Rolex Milgauss watches.
Then in 2014, Rolex added a new blue dial to the Milgauss collection – aka the Z-Blue. Not only did this entirely upend the look of the watch, giving it an unusual and colorful appeal with that electric blue contrasting against its bright orange accents and green sapphire crystal, but it also helped further distinguish this antimagnetic watch line from the rest of the Rolex collection. With the Z-Blue dial, there was surely no way to overlook the Milgauss ever again, and it was really the model that started the Milgauss on its current trajectory of being entirely unavailable at a retail level and trading hands for values significantly above its brand-new price on the pre-owned market.
Appearance: Rolex Milgauss Z-Blue
The single feature that defines the Z-Blue version of the reference 116400GV Milgauss is its stunning Z-Blue dial, which is a unique shade of blue that is entirely unique to the Milgauss collection and that you won’t find on any other Rolex watches. Rather than being a traditional blue, the Z-Blue is a kind of metallic electric blue with a sunburst finish that reflects the greenish tones created by the green-tinted sapphire crystal above it. Accented with bright orange highlights that complement its orange lightning bolt-shaped seconds hand, the Z-blue dial makes for one of the most colorful and striking Rolex watches ever created.
If you like a watch with a little personality, the Z-Blue Milgauss has a lot to offer. The crisp and cool electric blue of its dial was chosen thoughtfully, with the intent of letting its orange minute track, seconds hand, and dial text stand out brightly without seeming out of place. Blue and orange is a challenging combo that can go wrong in a hurry, but it works extremely well here.
Another thoughtful shift from the black dial variant of the ref. 116400GV is the fact that Rolex opted to use a single color of Chromalight luminous material for this dial. All of its indices, as well as its hour and minute hands use white-colored, blue-glowing Chromalight rather than a mix of colors as seen on the black dial. There’s plenty going on with this watch as it is, so the multicolor lume would have definitely been a bit overkill, and the all-blue glow that it emits in the dark reminds you of the stunning electric blue that awaits you when the light returns.
Two requisite details that remain intact with the Milgauss are its “lightning bolt” seconds hand, and the green-tinted sapphire crystal – two traits that are only found on the Milgauss collection. Though both details are purely aesthetic, they’re charming in their own unconventional way and truly set the modern Milgauss collection apart from the rest of the generally more conservative models that make up Rolex’s portfolio. The green-tinted sapphire crystal is a fun and odd choice that unfortunately will cost you an arm and a leg to replace if you somehow manage to chip or break it, but provided that you aren’t too abusive with your watches, sapphire is extremely resilient and the Milgauss is the only Rolex model that features a colored sapphire crystal.
Functionality Rolex Milgauss Z-Blue
Naturally, the roots of the Rolex Milgauss remain in its anti-magnetic capabilities. Though still listed as resistant to at least 1,000 gauss, there’s much speculation that the actual spec is significantly higher. After all, Omega claims a 15,000 gauss resistance on many of its contemporary models, and Rolex isn’t one to be outdone with much of anything. Certain parties have tested the modern Rolex Milgauss’s antimagnetic capabilities with forces that are multiple times stronger than 1,000 gauss, and the watch emerged entirely unaffected.
The Rolex Milgauss is currently fitted with its own movement that differs from the Submariner, Explorer, and most of the brand’s other time-only models. Residing inside its internal anti-magnetic shield is the Caliber 3131 with a 48h power reserve, Parachrom hairspring, nickel-phosphorus lever/escape wheel, and Superlative Chronometer timekeeping standard of +2/-2 seconds per day accuracy. Fun fact, this movement also appears in the current 40mm Rolex Air-King, complete with the same antimagnetic components and shielding.
The Milgauss is fitted with a conventional 904L steel Oyster bracelet that has an Easylink 5mm comfort extension system in its clasp. While its 40mm case is high-polished throughout, the bracelet features brushed surfaces with glossy polished center links, and this polishing pattern extends to the clasp.
Although its case thickness is still incredibly manageable, the Rolex Milgauss is a bit on the portly side when compared to other models like an Oyster Perpetual or Datejust. This is in large part due to the antimagnetic cage that separates the case and movement, which helps bolster the piece’s antimagnetic properties by redistributing magnetic fields through its structure and protecting the movement within (similar to how a Faraday cage works). A Twinlock screw-down crown assures water resistance of 100 meters (330 feet) and grants access to both hand-winding and time-setting once unscrewed from the side of the case.
On The Wrist: Rolex Milgauss Z-Blue
All told, the Milgauss is another one of those great Rolex models that you can just wear day-in and day-out. Though its case is by no means ultra-thin, it is sleek enough to tuck under a shirt cuff yet offers a bit more wrist presence than your standard Rolex watch. It’s also fun and funky enough to throw on with jeans and a t-shirt, or other attire to wear during anything from a night out at the bar, to a day of tackling some home maintenance projects.
Although the Rolex Milgauss is a tool watch rather than a sports watch (after all, it was not designed for a specific sport or athletic activity), it is more than durable to be worn during most of life’s activities. All of Rolex’s Oyster Case watches offer their users at least 100 meters (330 feet) of water resistance, and the Milgauss 116400GV is no different. While it was built for a life spent in laboratories and hospitals, the Rolex Milgauss is just as tough as any modern Rolex, and its screw-down crown and caseback mean that it is more than water-resistant enough to accompany you on a rainy day hike or in the pool for a swim.
Like most 40mm watches built entirely from solid stainless steel, the Z-Blue Milgauss 116400GV can be a bit on the hefty side if you leave it on its bracelet; however the Milgauss uses standard lugs, so there are countless third-party straps out there if you really need to “lighten the load.” Also, be warned that the combination of its blue dial and green crystal will ensure that this watch gets noticed wherever you go – similar to wearing any gold or two-tone Rolex, don’t expect this watch to fly under the radar, despite its all-stainless steel construction and lesser-known positioning within Rolex’s catalog. All told, the Z-Blue dial makes it a statement piece, which isn’t a bad thing at all depending on your mood or preference.
Buying The Rolex Milgauss Z-Blue 116400GV
For its average asking price just north of $8k at retail and closer to $13k on the pre-owned market, there are a number of solid options out there, including some of Rolex’s most iconic models such as the Datejust and Explorer. Even opting for the black dial version of the reference 116400GV can save you as much as a couple of thousand dollars when shopping on the secondary market, and that number increases to around a $3k savings (or more) if you opt for a standard ref. 116400 Milgauss without the green sapphire crystal of its ‘GV’ counterparts.
However, if you fall into the category that finds a conventional Submariner, Datejust, or Explorer just a little too boring – or if you already have some of these models in your collection, then the Z-Blue Milgauss is a compelling alternative. You won’t see nearly as many out in the wild, which will be an added bonus for many, and as antimagnetic watches are slowly becoming the industry standard, the Rolex Milgauss’s days in its current form are numbered, assuming that Rolex intends to continue to stay ahead of the pack.
Built for scientists and laboratory technicians, the Rolex Milgauss is a tool watch rather than a sports watch. However, despite its tool-oriented origins, it is now one of the most playful and unusual Rolex watches currently in production, and the Z-Blue dial variant is easily the single most colorful Milgauss watch that has been produced thus far.