The Rolex Milgauss is the brand’s signature anti-magnetic watch. It boasts resistance to 1,000 gauss, thanks to a soft iron Faraday cage that envelopes the movement. It was certainly an innovation of its time. However, many argue there is room for improvement as Rolex hasn’t made any significant changes to the collection since 2014. With other brands offering better resistance to electromagnetic fields, that begs the question: does the Milgauss fall short? If not, does it need to change in the first place? Let’s explore the topic more.
Brief Rolex Milgauss History
Rolex released the “scientist’s” watch in the 1950s – the same era that saw the debut of other pillars of the Rolex professional series, such as the GMT Master, Submariner, and Explorer. The Big Crown developed each model with a niche profession in mind, including the Milgauss. The Submariner was designed for divers, the GMT Master for pilots, and the Milgauss for those who work around high electromagnetic fields, such as scientists, railroad workers, and medical professionals.
Photo credit: Rolex Passion Market
The name Milgauss is a combination of the French word “mille,” meaning “thousand,” and “gauss,” a unit of measurement to signify the strength of a magnetic field. The first official production model, ref. 6451, looks like the Submariner with a rotatable bezel and matching black dial. It also features dot hour markers and a charming lightning bolt seconds hand to acknowledge the watch’s impressive anti-magnetism. Ref. 1019 followed in the 1960s with a completely different aesthetic featuring a smooth bezel, a straight seconds hand, and stick hour markers. The Milgauss never quite caught on with customers, and it was ultimately discontinued after the 1980s.
Photo credit: Bob's Watches
Interestingly, that wasn’t the end of the line for the Milgauss, though, because it was revived a few decades later via ref. 116400 in the mid-2000s. It draws inspiration from each of its predecessors, with a striking orange lightning bolt seconds hand and a smooth bezel. Of course, the Milgauss also enjoys several modern upgrades afforded to the collection since it was discontinued, including a Paramagnetic blue Parachrom hairspring and a mesmerizing green sapphire crystal.
Photo credit: Chrono 24
Is the Milgauss Anti-Magnetic Enough?
But what about its anti-magnetic rating? Despite many advancements in the industry by other brands, the Milgauss adheres to its namesake resistance of up to 1,000 gauss, even within the current 6-digit generation. When the model came to market in the 1950s, anti-magnetism up to 1,000 gauss was a groundbreaking achievement. Today, some brands far outperform the Milgauss.
For example, Omega furnishes their watches with in-house Master Chronometer movements that boast resistance to an impressive 15,000 gauss, and for a much more affordable price. Omega watches are also thinner than the Milgauss because their movements use non-metallic parts instead of relying on a Faraday cage. This design element is also practical for Omega as it gives the wearer a glimpse of the movement through the exhibition case back, which would otherwise be hidden inside the soft iron cage. Why hasn’t Rolex upgraded the Milgauss caliber 3131 to offer many of the same benefits?
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The Everest Journal explored this topic in early 2022 and argued that Rolex might eventually discontinue the Milgauss altogether rather than overhaul the watch to keep up with other brands. Of course, some die-hard collectors say the Milgauss is perfect the way that it is and that its thicker case and colorful aesthetic are what make the collection a cult favorite. Also, Rolex has never been one to change their ways to compete with other brands in the first place. No matter which side of the argument you agree with, the Milgauss will likely be a hot item when and if Rolex makes any changes, whether it be an upgraded movement with better resistance to magnetic fields or finally retiring the collection for good.