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Milgauss: The Anti-Magnetic Watch

The Milgauss watch by Rolex was specifically designed to withstand magnetic fields. However, thanks to its streamlined design and orange lightning bolt second hand, it appeals to more than just researchers and engineers.

Highlights

  • Shielding system against magnet fields
  • Distinctive second hand shaped like a lightning bolt
  • 904L stainless steel, 40-mm case
  • COSC-certified, in-house automatic caliber
  • Waterproof to 100 m (10 bar)

Shielding Against Magnetism Since 1956

The Milgauss stands out due to its anti-magnetic properties. A special balance spring and a soft iron cage around the movement protect the watch from any magnetic fields. It premiered in 1956 with reference number 6541. Today, these original models are extremely rare and sell for very high prices. The Milgauss was originally designed for scientists and other professionals who often work near strong magnetic fields. Rolex didn't need to look very far from their own backyard: The nuclear research center CERN, where such conditions are the norm, was founded in 1954 with its headquarters in Geneva. The first Milgauss was meant to withstand 1,000 gauss, giving the watch its name. The strength of magnetic fields is measured in gauss, named after the mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss. Production of the model stopped in 1988, but began again in 2007.

Buying Advice

Are you looking for a Rolex with a special extra quality? The Milgauss is a simple, sporty stainless steel watch with a lot going on inside: This unique watch features a soft iron cage to shield it from magnetic fields. With its mid-size diameter of 40 mm, Rolex quality, and conservative, timeless design, it easily proves its worth.
You have the choice between a white, black, or blue dial. All newer Milgauss models have the iconic lightning bolt second hand.
A new Milgauss costs around 6,500 euros. A pre-owned Milgauss, however, is not necessarily less expensive. Well-maintained watches with reference number 1019 from the 1960s sell for around 20,000 euros. This price appreciation demonstrates that a newer Milgauss could very well be a solid investment.

Buying Tips

  • Around 6,500 euros for new models with reference number 116400GV
  • Rare vintage watches with reference number 1019 and 6541 run in the five-figure range
  • Some vintage models feature a straight second hand (no lightning bolt form)
  • Significant increases in value are expected for newer models

Magnetism Affects Precision

Magnetic fields pose a serious danger for watches' accuracy. Most of all, the balance spring is susceptible to deviation. This doesn't only apply to a certain work environment, either; even everyday use can cause deviations. The German watch manufacturer Sinn tested around 1,000 of their watches and determined almost 60% were magnetized. Half of them had serious errors due to the magnetic fields. Everyday items such as speakers and garage door closers contain strong magnets and could cause these issues. The same applies to electric motors, which is why locomotives and trams also experience this problem.

Non-Magnetic Balance Spring and a Soft Iron Cage

One of the most important anti-magnetic measures Rolex has taken in the modern Milgauss models is the Parachrom balance spring. The manufacturer introduced it in 2005 after a five-year development period. The blue spiral is made of a zirconium-niobium alloy with an oxide coat and is not influenced by magnetic fields. A soft iron cage is another defense against magnetism. It fully surrounds and protects the movement following the principles of a Faraday cage. This cage is made of a special mixture of alloys kept secret by Rolex. The anti-magnetic inner cage of the Milgauss is made up of two parts, which the watchmaker screws together after placing the movement within it. There are openings for the hands and the crown.
According to international standards set by ISO, a non-magnetic watch may only deviate by +/- 30 seconds per day after being exposed to a magnetic field of 60 gauss. With resistance up to 1,000 gauss, Rolex's watch easily fulfills this requirement. Its precision is far more exact than demanded by the ISO standard, as it only deviates by +/- 2 seconds a day. Thanks to its incredible accuracy, the Milgauss is also certified by the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC).

Automatic In-House Caliber

The in-house movement 3131 powers the Milgauss. The automatic caliber has a 48-hour power reserve and vibrates at 28,800 alternations per hour (4 Hz). The 3131 premiered together with the new version of the Milgauss in 2007. The central second hand can be stopped so the watch can be set to an exact reference time. The 3131 is closely related to caliber 3135, which powers the Sea-Dweller with a date display. A date display would create a hole in the Milgauss' shielded movement and damage the cage. Therefore, this feature was purposefully not included.

Waterproof to 100 m

The Milgauss has a mid-size diameter of 40 mm and is therefore a good companion for thin or larger wrists. The case is made of 904L stainless steel. Rolex considers this type of steel to be particularly tough and noncorrosive. There's no need to fear being near the water when wearing a Milgauss either, as it's waterproof to 10 bar (100 m, 328 ft). It can be worn while swimming and snorkeling. Its Twinlock crown system uses two rubber gaskets to keep water from seeping into the watch.
A polished bezel surrounds both the green sapphire glass and dial, which is available in either black, white, or blue. All of the hour indices on the white dial are in orange. Only three, six, and nine are colored orange on the black dial, while the rest are white. The blue dial features entirely white indices. A characteristic mark of the Milgauss is its orange lightning bolt second hand. This extra unmistakable touch stands out on the otherwise streamlined watch.
Similar to its case, the Milgauss' three-piece link bracelet is also made of 904L stainless steel. The band is a so-called Oyster bracelet, named after the Oyster Perpetual. Rolex introduced this bracelet in the late 1930s for various collections. It features a polished center link with brushed outer links. The bracelet can easily be extended 5 mm by the Easylink system and adjusted to fit your wrist.

Anti-Magnetic Alternatives

Other brands have tackled the challenge of creating anti-magnetic watches. Omega has succeeded particularly well, especially with their Aqua Terra > 15,000 Gauss from the Seamaster collection. Together with the Swiss Federal Office of Metrology (METAS), Omega introduced a new certification in 2014. Every watch that could withstand magnetic fields of 15,000 gauss was labeled as "Officially Certified" by METAS. IWC developed the Ingenieur Automatic watch, which can withstand magnetic fields up to 1,000 gauss thanks to its soft iron cage. Sinn's 756 series, on the other hand, can only withstand fields up to 756 gauss. Today, brands are using more and more non-magnetic components to build their anti-magnetic watches.

Comparable Watches from Omega, IWC, and Sinn

From Specialized to Everyday

Rolex's Milgauss was originally designed in the 1950s for a small group of specialized users. Today, it's one of the most sought-after, expensive, and rare vintage watches on account of its small production run. You should expect to pay a five-figure sum for well-maintained watches from this time. Newer Milgauss models run in the four figure range. Deviations caused by magnetic fields aren't uncommon. The Milgauss combats this problem with its non-magnetic Parachrom hairspring and soft iron cage around the movement. With its stainless steel case, reserved design, and lightning bolt second hand, it's perfect for everyone looking for a subtle, yet exceptional, Rolex.

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