For this article we go and compare two different watches that have been designed to have antimagnetic features from their first design. Starting off with the Rolex Milgauss watch and secondly the IWC Schaffhausen Ingenieur. Let’s explain a bit about what antimagnetic means for a mechanical watch.
Magnetic fields can influence mechanical watches if strong enough and thus affecting the accuracy of it. As magnetism affects metals it can have an influence on your mechanical watch by making the balance spring, which is mostly made from metal, stick together. This results effectively in a shorter spring resulting in a watch that can run crazily fast. Many watchmakers have a standard tool to easily de-magnetise a watch to fix this issue.
To resolve this matter watchmakers have been working on watches with anti-magnetic features which is especially useful for people who work with high magnetic fields. Although nowadays many watch brands use techniques to make their watches resistant for it this wasn’t always the case in the past. Either the use of special alloys help to prevent a watch being magnetised or the movement being protected by a cage made of a special magnetically conductive material such as soft-iron.
Vacheron Constantin was the first to produce an anti-magnetic pocket watch and Tissot is said to have made the first anti-magnetic wrist watch. However there was the need for watches that could withstand higher magnetic fields for people active in specific trades.
Rolex developed a specific watch for these reasons and it was first brought to the market in 1956. Presented as the Oyster Perpetual Milgauss which was designed as a dedicated antimagnetic watch for people who worked in power plants, research and medical facilities. The name Milgauss is derived from Mille which stands for 1.000 and Gauss which are the units for magnetic fields. The watches are able to withstand at least 1.000 gauss without affecting it’s accuracy.
As all Rolex sports models the first Milgauss resembles great similarities with the Submariner looking at the case design and Oyster bracelet. However there are clear differences which are the bezel and especially the seconds hand which is shaped like a lightning bolt. Later models featured a straight second hand and smooth bezel. After being discontinued in 1988, Rolex re-launched the Milgauss in 2007, featuring the same smooth bezel yet re-introducing the lightning bolt shaped second hand. Later new dial variations have been released under the same model name. All the models featured an inner shield covering the movement from any interferences.
As the name already mentions, the IWC Ingenieur was designed with this specific target group in mind. With modernisation in full progress, more and more magnetic fields arose due to the ever increasing industrialisation. Especially in technical professions watches would greatly benefit from being shielded against these influences. So just like the Rolex Milgauss, the IWC Ingenieur 666 that was launched around the same time was able to withstand influences of up to 80,000 A/m which is roughly the same as 1.000 gauss.
Compared to the Rolex sports models the design of the IWC Ingenieur has changed significantly trough the years and especially in the 70’s as the legendary Gerald Genta worked his magic. Genta, who’s known for his timeless and iconic designs changed the look of the Ingenieur is his remarkable way.
At the time of the latest Rolex Milgauss models that have been on the market since 2007, IWC produced the Ingenieur with reference 3239. Both watches feature a 40mm steel case. Where the Rolex Milgauss was derived from, and stayed true to the other sports models in their collection, the Ingenieur was one of many iconic watches that has changed it’s design by the legendary Gerald Genta. Biggest difference is that the Rolex has an in-house movement where the IWC is powered by an modified ETA 2892 derived from the Sellita SW200.
However this movement is reliable, it might pull your attention to the Rolex when comparing both. On the other hand the timeless Genta design might work better for you. Both watches have a combination of polished and satin brushed parts. Some might not like the orange dial accents, the lightning bolt shaped seconds hand or the lack of a date on the Rolex. On IWC you will find crown-guards which are missing on the Milgauss.
In the end the choice for a specific watch is always a personal one and in the case of choosing between these two models especially. One thing is clear, both the Milgauss and the Ingenieur are truly special pieces and quite different from the usual suspects like the Submariner, Seamaster and the likes.