The Milgauss was first introduced in 1956 as an antimagnetic watch for scientists. The 40mm watch was discontinued in 1988, only to be revived in 2007. Modern Milgauss watches are available with either a black or z-blue dial and fitted with green sapphire crystals. 2020 update: suggested retail prices start at $8,300. Shop our full selection of used Rolex watches.
The Rolex Milgauss was specifically built to be highly resistant to magnetic fields that would otherwise damage traditional mechanical watches. Designed with scientists, engineers and medial professionals in mind, the Rolex Milgauss was the perfect timekeeping solution for individuals working in laboratories or factories where high-powered machinery or strong magnetic forces would render traditional mechanical watches useless.
Today, the collection is known for its smooth sleek design, unique luminous watch hands, and bold orange, green, and white colors. Bob's Watches carries a wide variety of pre-owned Rolex Milgauss watches including the Rolex 116400 and the Rolex 116400GV. Browse our selection of stylish timepieces above to find the best price when purchasing your antimagnetic Swiss watch.
Originally introduced in 1956, the model was a revolutionary timepiece developed specifically for scientists. The rise of industry during the 1950s and the increased presence of electricity brought with it a new set of challenges for watchmakers in the form of magnetism. Many members of the scientific community, along with 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 mechanical watches.
To contend with this new issue, Rolex created the Milgauss - a self-winding certified chronometer that was resistant to magnetic fields up to 1,000 gauss. As a point of reference, most "magnetic resistant" watches of the time could only withstand magnetic fields up to 200 gauss, so the Milguass represented a significant advancement for anti-magnetic wristwatches. The "Milgauss" name comes from a portmanteau of the words, mille meaning a thousand in French, and gauss - the unit of measurement used for magnetic fields.
The Rolex Milgauss's resistance to magnetic interference stems from a shield inside the case made of ferromagnetic alloys, which protects the movement. By placing the mechanical movement inside an internal cage made from ferromagnetic alloys, potentially harmful electromagnetic fields get redistributed throughout the conductive material, thus protecting the delicate movement within - just like how a Faraday cage works to block electromagnetic fields.
While relatively simple in design and execution, this Rolex innovation was highly effective at providing resistance to magnetic interference, and Rolex collaborated with some of the scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) during the development of the Milgauss to ensure that when it was officially released to the public, members of the scientific community would finally have a dependable wristwatch to use in the lab that could provide them with the same level of precision and reliability for which Rolex was known.
The first official Rolex Milgauss was the reference 654, although technically speaking, the reference 6543 was the very first Milgauss appearing in very small numbers almost 2 years before the official launch of the Milgauss in 1956. Due to the very limited numbers (less than 200 total examples), it is believed that the ref. 6543 was actually more of a prototype used during the development of the Milgauss, possibly the reference that was provided to scientists at CERN for testing. Even Rolex considers the ref. 6541 to be the very first Milgauss, and makes no official mention of the reference 6543 anywhere on their website.
By 1960, Rolex had updated the Milgauss, releasing the ref. 1019. Functionality, the Rolex Milgauss 1019 retained the same antimagnetic properties of its predecessor; however the overall aesthetic changed significantly. The black rotating bezel had been phased out completely, as had the lightning bolt seconds hand.
Dial options for the reference 1019 Milgauss included either black or silver, and there was also a special version of the silver dial, known as a CERN dial, which was produced without any luminous material on its dial and hands - made specifically for scientists, whose sensitive equipment might have been slightly disrupted by the radioactive luminescent material on the standard dials.
The ref. 1019 remained in production for a relatively long time, but by 1988, Rolex discontinued the Milgauss altogether. Although the watch was impressive from a technological standpoint, it had been in production for over a quarter of a century, and was looking somewhat dated when compared to many of the other watches in Rolex's catalog.
After the ref. 1019 was discontinued in 1988, the Rolex Milgauss remained absent from the brand's catalog until it was revived at Baselworld 2007. However, when Rolex brought back the Milgauss, it became a thoroughly modern creation, both inside and out, rather than just an update of the previous generation.
Instead of an acrylic crystal like on the early models, the new ref. 116400 came with a sapphire crystal for a significantly more modern and refined appearance, and 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.
As of 2020, the retail price for a Rolex Milgauss is $8,300. While a savings can often be found on used Milgauss watches, vintage references are considered to be very collectible, and certain examples can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
|Model||Retail Price||Second-Hand Price||Features||Crystal|
|Ref. 6541||N/A||from $150,000 (minimum)
||First generation, extremely rare; Black rotating bezel||Acrylic|
|Ref. 1019||N/A||from $24,995
||Rare vintage model; CERN Dial variations||Acrylic|
|Ref. 116400||N/A||from $6,300||Black or white dial; orange seconds hand.||Clear Sapphire|
|Ref. 116400GV||8,300 USD||from $6,599||Green-tinted sapphire crystal||Green Sapphire|
Today, the only model that is still in production is the reference 116400GV - both standard black dial and white dial models (both with clear sapphire crystals) are now discontinued. While all Rolex Milgauss watches are now fitted with green sapphire crystals, Rolex does still offer the Milgauss with either the option of the 50th anniversary black dial or the electric Z-Blue dial, and both option come with an official retail price of $8,300.
Additionally, since there are so few Rolex Milgauss references, there exists a significant difference in value between the different generations. Most modern Rolex Milgauss watches can be purchased for anywhere between $6,000 and $8,000 on the pre-owned market, but the price jumps to roughly $25,000 for an example from the previous generation of ref. 1019 watches. Additionally, the price jumps again when looking at the original reference 6541, with even the least expensive examples selling for more than six-figures at auction.
Since its introduction, the Milgauss has always been a time-only watch; no date window or Cyclops magnification lens has ever appeared on the collection. Rather than adding additional features or complications to the movement, the primary objective of the Milgauss has always been to achieve maximum precision and stability in the presence of strong magnetic fields.
When the Milgauss was first introduced, it was fitted with a black rotating timing bezel (similar to the Rolex Submariner dive watch of the time). However, during production of the reference 6541, certain examples were fitted with a large, flat smooth bezel rather than a black rotating one, giving these early Milgauss watches the appearance of having an oversized case and bezel.
By the time Rolex introduced the second generation of the Milgauss, the rotating timing bezel has been eliminated completely, eliminating that additional feature from the collection. All Rolex Milgauss watches after the inaugural reference all featured smooth bezels, and a smooth steel bezel remains the only option on the present-day model.
Without a doubt, the Rolex Milgauss's signiture design trait is its lightning bolt shaped seconds hand. First introduced on the inaugural reference in 1956, the lightning bolt seconds hand served as a not-so-subtle reference to the antimagnetic properties of the Milgauss, and quickly became the defining feature of the collection.
Rolex phased out the unique seconds hand (replacing it with a more traditional straight one) when they introduced the ref. 1019 Milgauss; however when the collection was revived in 2007 with the introduction of the reference 116400, the lightning bolt returned - this time more prominent than ever in the form of a bright orange seconds hand.
Although it is the lightning bolt seconds hand that has become the signature design trait of the Rolex Milgauss, the defining feature of the watch is actually one that is completely hidden from view. The internal shield constructed from ferromagnetic alloys is the thing that gives the Milgauss its anti-magnetic capabilities; however without opening the caseback of the watch, it is something that few owners will ever see.
On modern Rolex Milgauss watches, the internal anti-magnetic shield that protects the Caliber 3131 movement is engraved with a capital letter B with an arrow - the symbol for magnetic flux density (previous references do not have this engraving on their anti-magnetic shields).
Much like the rest of the collection, its movement is designed for optimum resistance to magnetic fields. The current movement used inside the Rolex Milgauss is the Calibre 3131, which (like most other modern Rolex movements) is an in-house certified chronometer and features a paramagnetic blue Parachrom hairspring, for greater stability in the presence of shocks, temperature fluctuations, and magnetic fields. Additionally, both the pallet fork and escape wheel on the Cal. 3131 are made from amorphous nickel-phosphorous, which is completely antimagnetic, further increasing the resistance to potentially disruptive magnetic fields.
The very first references had black rotating bezels fitted to their 38mm stainless steel cases, and appeared more like vintage Submariner references than contemporary Rolex Milgauss watches. However, certain examples of the reference 6541 were fitted with oversized smooth bezels rather than black rotating ones, and by the time the reference 1019 was released, the rotating timing bezel had been eliminated completely, and a rotating bezel has not made an appearance on a Rolex Milgauss watch ever since.
Due to the almost 20-year absence from the Rolex catalog and the extremely limited number of options available for the collection, there have only been a small handful of Rolex Milgauss references ever manufactured. However, due to their interesting history and unique styling, they are all popular among watch collections, and include the following references:
Much like many other sports/professional watches in the Rolex lineup, the Milgauss has only ever been manufactured in stainless steel and officially been offered on a matching stainless steel Oyster bracelet. While bezels, dials, case sizes, movements, and crystals have all changed over the years, the Jubilee bracelet has never been a factory-fitted option for the Milgauss, and no solid gold or two-tone models have ever been available.
Both the reference 6541 and the reference 1019 have 38mm case diameters; however when the reference 116400 was released in 2007, Rolex increased the case size to a more contemporary 40mm. Despite being slightly smaller than the Datejust 41, the Rolex Milgauss is noticeably thicker and weighs 157 grams due to the presence of its internal antimagnetic shield.
Additionally, the case and bracelet of the current model are constructed from Oystersteel - 904L polished stainless steel, which (compared to more traditional stainless steel alloys) possesses exceptional resistance to scratches and corrosion. Much like many other contemporary Rolex watches, the current Milgauss is fitted with a Twinlock crown, which ensures water resistance up to 100 meters - a significant improvement over the 50-meter water resistance rating of the first reference.
Like most other Rolex watches, the crystal material for the Milgauss has evolved over the years. The crystals fitted to the reference 6541 and 1019 were made from acrylic. However, when the Rolex Milgauss was revived in 2007, it was fitted with a synthetic sapphire crystal.
Additionally, on the 50th anniversary edition of the Milgauss (the reference 116400GV), the crystal was made from green-tinted sapphire glass. Today all watches in this collection have a green sapphire crystal, and to this day, the piece is still the only Rolex watch to feature a tinted crystal (of any color).
Like other "Professional" watches in the Rolex catalog, only a small handful of different dials have ever been fitted to the Milgauss throughout history. The majority of the dials fitted to the various watches have been black; however, a small handful of other colors have also appeared on Rolex's antimagnetic watch.
The inaugural reference 6541 was only available with a black "waffle" dial, while dial options for the reference 1019 expanded to include either black or silver. Additionally Rolex produced two variations of the silver dial 1019 - one that featured luminous hour markers, and one that completely lacked luminescence (known as a CERN dial), which was specifically designed for members of the scientific community working in labs, where the radiation from the lume might interfere with their sensitive equipment.
When Rolex introduced the reference 116400 in 2007, three different dial variations were made available. All three dials featured small bright orange accents and featured luminescent white or orange hour markers; however each dial was slightly different. The standard black dial featured bright orange for the 'Milgauss' name and inside the minute tack, while the white dial option increased the amount of color by adding bright orange luminous hour markers.
Additionally, a second black dial option was also available; however, this one was only available on the ref. 116400GV 50th anniversary edition with the green sapphire crystal. This black 50th anniversary dial can best be described as a mix between the standard black and white dials, featuring both white and orange luminous hour markers, orange for the 3, 6, and 9, with white lume used on everything else.
The most recent dial option arrived in 2014, when Rolex announced the reference 116400GV with Z-Blue dial. Like the original version of the ref. 116400GV, this new model featured a green-tinted sapphire crystal, and with the exception of the dial, it is just like the 50th anniversary edition. However, what was once black is now a vivid electric blue color, which further brings out the green tint of the watches sapphire crystal, and gives the watch a unique aesthetic that does not resemble anything else in the Rolex catalog.
The Milgauss's somewhat quirky style, with its lightning bolt shapes seconds hand, and bright splashes of color has made it a popular choice for celebrities and other high-profile individuals, particularly those in the creative industries. Some of the noteworthy individuals that wear these watches include (but certainly are not limited to) the following names:
The collection earns its name after the French term "mille" meaning 1,000, and "Gauss,” a unit used to measure magnetism. As its name would suggest, the model is resistant to magnetic fields up to 1,000 gauss. The early reference 6541 was the first Milgauss to feature the now-iconic lightning bolt seconds hand on the dial. It also bore quite a resemblance to the Submariner with a black rotating bezel and matching dial. The more popular ref. 1019 replaced ref. 6541 in the 1960s, replacing the rotating bezel for a smooth bezel and replacing the lightning bolt seconds hand with a straight hand.
The Milgauss was discontinued for quite some time between 1988 and 2007, after which the ref. 116400 was released to market. Featuring a 40mm case and the triumphant return of the lightning bolt seconds hand, the ref. 116400 caught the eye of many Rolex collectors in-the-know. Currently trending on the market today are both iterations of the reference 116400GV fitted with its green sapphire, including the black dial and the vibrant Z-Blue variant.