Sometimes Rolex does something weird, and that's when you really need to pay attention.
The first Milgauss was introduced in 1956 and was a very different watch from the one you see here. It had a lightening bolt-shaped hand, a textured black dial, and a big black bezel marked with numbers one through six around the edges. It might just be the strangest watch Rolex ever made. It was designed for scientists working at the CERN physics research lab in Geneva and so had anti-magnetic properties for accurate timekeeping around heavy magnets and machinery.
This is the Milgauss reference 1019 produced from 1960 until 1988, when the watch was discontinued (until its 2007 revival). There are a few variations on this archetype, including a variant with a black dial and even a few different styles of markers on the dial, but the important features are the same across the range.
The case is a larger 38-millimeter case, in the style of the 36mm case used for the Datejust and Day-Date. It doesn't have the beveled edges on the lugs, and the flat, smooth bezel gives the watch a distinct look. The hour and minute hands are wide and have slices of luminous paint in the middle, while the second hand is razor-thin with a bright red, arrow-shaped tip. The hour markers are stick-shaped with luminous dots on the outer edges, except for the markers at three, six, and nine o'clock, which are double-width with luminous fill in the middle. No other Rolex looks anything like the Milgauss.
But what makes the watch truly special is the anti-magnetic protection. Underneath the usual screw-down caseback is a secondary cover. This so-called "dust cover" is actually a Faraday Cage, protecting the movement from up to 1,000 Gauss of magnetism (hence Mil-Gauss for the name). Magnetism can destroy a watch's ability to keep accurate time by distorting the metal coil that beats out the seconds, exerting extra force on delicate components, and more. If you're a scientist working with particle accelerators, a little protection is a must.
Since 1970, when this was produced, magnets have proliferated in our daily lives. Everything from your computer to your phone to the bag you probably keep both in contains magnets of some kind. We're no longer stuck using mechanical timekeepers for critical tasks these days, but you'd still like your watch to be mostly accurate. The watch industry at large has invested heavily in developing ways to use such materials as silicium and non-ferrous metals in watches to eliminate altogether the dangers presented by magnets.
This Rolex Milgauss is available from HQ Milton and is priced at $19,800.
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