The Oyster Perpetual Milgauss was developed to function smoothly even under strong magnetic interferences. And it does – it can withstand magnetic fields up to 1,000 gauss! Hence its name, a combination of the French word for thousand, mille, and the measuring unit Gauss: Milgauss
The history of the Milgauss
Rolex themselves call it the watch of science and technological progress. Be they technicians, engineers or scientists – the Milgauss was developed in 1956 for those who are exposed to strong magnetic fields in their professional environment. Normally, magnetic waves affect the movement of a mechanical watch, because under its influence parts of the movement are magnetized, especially the escapement and oscillator. Significant rate deviations and even a complete stop of the watch can be the result. While the rate of a “normal” mechanical watch is already affected by a magnetic field of 50 to 100 Gauss, the Rolex Milgauss withstands the effects of a magnetic field up to 1000 Gauss (0.1 Tesla or 80,000 A / m) without suffering any loss to functionality or precision.
Space travel, electrical and medical engineering are fields in which such magnetic interferences often occur. The most prominent example of a Rolex Milgauss application is without a doubt the particle physics research center “CERN”, famous for its huge particle accelerator. Here it was confirmed in the 1950s that the Milgauss actually withstood 1,000 Gauss. This resistance is provided by a magnetic protection shield, which envelops the mechanism inside the Oyster case and consists of a ferromagnetic alloy manufactured by Rolex.
This fascinating video shows a watchmaker disassembling a Milgauss:
The second hand in the shape of lightning was the distinguishing feature of the Milgauss from the very beginning. In the early 1960s, a new model with various modifications came on the market, for example now without the lightning-shaped second hand. Thereby, the Rolex Milgauss had lost its most distinctive feature. And it sold worse than hoped anyway – presumably too few buyers had interest or a need for its exclusive functionality. That was the end of the Milgauss. In 1988 the production was stopped – provisionally …
20 years later: the Milgauss returns
At Baselworld 2007, Rolex officially unveiled the new version and thus the return of the Oyster Perpetual Milgauss. And to the delight of many Rolex fans, it now again has the characteristic second hand in the shape of a lightning bolt. In addition, it offers another unique selling point: the green sapphire crystal developed exclusively for the Milgauss (of which Rolex says it has not patented, since the manufacturing process is so complex that no one would even attempt it).
But, of course, the great advances that Rolex has made over the past 20 years in terms of materials have also given the 2007 Milgauss technical innovations. Its main function, the high resistance to magnetic interference, has been improved further. An important role is played by the Parachrom hairspring, introduced by Rolex in 2000. Very shockproof and absolutely impervious to magnetic interference, the newly developed coil spring ensured that the regularity of the oscillator’s vibrations and thus the precision of the wristwatch could be significantly improved.
At Baselworld 2014, Rolex presented the latest version of the Milgauss with a Z-Blue dial. In combination with the green sapphire crystal, the intensity of this “electro blue” dial is enhanced, in addition to the contrast of the orange lightning hand and the minute indices. The Milgauss is powered by the Rolex automatic Caliber 3131, which has a 48-hour power reserve and is certified as a superlative chronometer.
Its 40-millimeter Oyster case offers guaranteed water-resistance down to 100 meters, and thanks to the robust and highly functional oyster strap with the comfortable 5-mm Easylink extension, the watch is also quickly and safely adapted to different applications. Rolex currently offers the Oyster Perpetual Milgauss in two versions: with z-blue or with black dial, each for the price of € 7,550. Incidentally, in 2007 the newly presented watch was around 5,000Euros.
The Milgauss References
Although the Reference 6541 is often mentioned as the first Milgauss, the 6543 actually preceded it by two years. Their production was then stopped immediately, only about 100-200 pieces are said to have been produced.
Above all she brought along the characteristic lightning hand. Usually equipped with a black rotating ring, but there was also a quite rare version with a cambered bezel. In principle, the watch was a modified version of the Rolex Turn-O-Graph.
With the Reference 6019, Rolex turned away from the previous Milgauss design and the flash pointer disappeared from the screen for the first time. The watch was available with both a black and silver dial, at the special request of “CERN” a special model was produced without the radioactive luminous material tritium.
- 116400GV (Glace Verte)
Watch the official Rolex Milgauss video here:
Constantly updated article, originally posted in May 2017.