The legend of the replica rolex Milgauss watches began with the unique and rare lightning-shaped second hand, an unusual design that was one of the most recognizable and popular features of the early Rolex antimagnetic watches, strongly admired by the original target group, the scientific community, as well as attracting even more enthusiasts to the latest Milgauss collection.
The Milgauss was born with a lightning-shaped second hand, which it still retains today. However, in its second iteration, the Ref. 1019 adopted a straight hand design and consumer interest in the Milgauss waned, leading to Rolex’s decision to discontinue the watch. In the UK, retailers found it difficult to find buyers and used the Milgauss as a bargaining chip to sell other, more popular models. Yes, at some point, you could get your hands on a Rolex Milgauss for a fraction of the price.
The Milgauss Ref. 6541 was introduced in 1956 with a soft-iron inner case and was one of the first watches to keep accurate time even when exposed to strong magnetic fields. The Ref. 6541 was in fact the second Milgauss, the first being the Ref. 6543 (without the numbering), which was produced in very small numbers and bore little resemblance to its successor.
Initially, the design of the Milgauss was very similar to that of another Rolex professional model, the Submariner, which was known for its water resistance rather than its anti-magnetic properties. Like the Submariner, the Milgauss comes with a stainless steel Oyster case (technically sporty), a graduated bezel (rotatable), bubble hour markers (in specific positions) and, perhaps most importantly (in the eyes of collectors), a single row of red letters displaying the name of the model.
Like the early Rolex Submariner, most of the original Milgauss watches are worth a lot of money today. Not because the Milgauss was one of the first mainstream anti-magnetic watches, but because of its rarity. In fact, the proportions of the case and the overall design of the Milgauss have been perfected and have become more refined with age. It is, moreover, an important part of Rolex’s history.
The Milgauss was designed and built by Rolex and subjected to a magnetic field of 1,000 gauss a few miles from the factory. The participants are from the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) and have some of the brightest minds in Switzerland. The Milgauss watch is first and foremost theirs before it belongs to anyone else.
In the 20th century, Rolex only had one major iteration of the Milgauss, the introduction of the Ref. 1019 in the 1960s.The Milgauss Ref. 1019 underwent considerable improvements, most notably a smooth bezel, new hands and hour markers. The Ref. 1019 is available in two dial styles (not counting the test model without luminescent material), black or silver, both of which are no longer decorated with a honeycomb pattern. Despite its generous 38 mm diameter, the Ref. 1019 never really found its audience and was finally abandoned by Rolex in 1988.
Nearly 20 years after removing it from its catalogue, Rolex reintroduced the Milgauss in 2007, taking the brave decision (or perhaps having to) to do so. Rolex has long been known for its expertise in subtle improvements, and this time the brand chose one of its most modest products and brought it to life. The new Ref. 116400 reverts to the lightning-shaped seconds hand, with bright orange hands for a clean but slightly cold case, and the same colour decoration for the minute track and hour markers. Perhaps the most controversial change was the introduction of a green sapphire crystal. Rolex called it “Glace Verte” (green glass) and claimed that it was not patented because the material was so difficult to manufacture.
Then, in 2014, Rolex added a blue dial model, which made many people lose their minds. For the first time, Milgauss watches were not only available at retail, but also in higher channels. All this because of the blue dial, which Rolex called “Z-Blue”.
To be clear, there is no technical difference between this watch and the other Milgauss Ref. 116400. Equipped with a traditional 40mm Oyster case (polished) and a 904L stainless steel Oyster bracelet (a blend of brushed and polished finishes), it houses the in-house Caliber 3131 movement, tested by the Swiss Chronometer Testing Centre (COSC), with a Parachrom balance spring (made of niobium-zirconium) and a paramagnetic escapement wheel (made of nickel-phosphorus alloy) to ensure resistance to magnetic fields. The Caliber 3131, a self-winding movement with a power reserve of approximately 48 hours, powers all modern Milgauss watches (and the new Airmaster).
The changes to the dial configuration are also minimal. In fact, what Rolex has done is to improve slightly on a solid foundation. The stick hour markers, the Chromalight luminescence (which adds another subtle hue), the bright orange minute track and the “Milgauss” lettering have all been retained. The new models are very different from the vintage watches, but seem to be more popular.
The only real novelty of the Milgauss Z-Blue is the dial. Blue is a handy choice when watchmakers want a change of scenery. It’s more versatile and casual than the traditional black, white, and silver, without being paranoid and weird. But this blue is a bit unusual because it comes from Rolex, which sets and enforces its own code of conduct. In fact, it’s a metallic blue, and depending on the light and angle, the blue of the satin dial shifts towards green.