Rolex Milgauss

Borro Benchmarks: The Collectability of Rolex Milgauss

The Backstory

The subject of this iteration of Borro Benchmarks, the Rolex Milgauss is unusual in that it does not have much of a history. Debuting in the productive 1950s, the Anti-magnetic technology that defines the family today was not initially treated as a defining characteristic in its own right, rather it was simply a feature added to the Oyster Perpetual range.

In light of that, the absence of the now-iconic lightning bolt seconds hand in the earliest models makes sense – when Rolex announced their new ‘scientists’ watch’ they weren’t announcing a new family, merely a feature.

As a result, the early examples are a really interesting, hotchpotch bunch of curiosities that are ideally nuanced enough to whet any aspiring collector’s appetite.

Add to that the fact the Rolex Milgauss family was ignominiously dumped from the Rolex catalogue in 1988, and remained a forgotten friend until its 2007 revival, you have a pot-holed, fascinating, and instantly absorbing backstory.

Rolex Milgauss

Which Models to Watch

The Milgauss has some pretty obvious design elements that mark it as different (and, in my opinion, eminently superior), to the standard Oyster Perpetual range.

Firstly, the Milgauss does not have a date window, thanks to the solid, soft-iron dial being an essential component of the Faraday cage that encapsulates the beating heart of the watch, protecting it from disruptive magnetic fields. It’s also a touch thicker because of this, but wears exceptionally well at 40mm diameter.

Yes, the lightning bolt is now ubiquitous and essential to all modern Rolexes bearing the Milgauss mark, but the most notable element beyond this, is the green-tinted sapphire of reference 116400GV Originally designed to be an anniversary celebration, the green glass hung around longer than anyone intended and now defines the most significant model in the collection.

For that reason, I would choose the 116400GV with the black dial over all others, as I believe it to be the quintessential model. For those looking to add a bit of flare to their collection, however, a ‘Z-Blue’ (kind of a teal sunburst) dial is also available. I don’t believe it will age as well as the black, but it’s a handsome, and far rarer piece and also boasts the ‘Glace Verte’ (green crystal).

Rolex Milgauss

Under the Hammer

Nice as those two modern pieces are in terms of value and investment potential, the real treasure in the family can be found in the archives.

Ref 6543 was the first watch to bear the Milgauss name and it is truly exceptional. Were it not for the fact the lightning bolt seconds hand does not appear on this watch, I believe it would be my favourite Rolex of all time. As it is, it stands at the top table, but dithers before taking a seat. It’s incredibly rare but did make an appearance at Christie’s in 2016, blasting its top estimate of CHF60,000 out of the water and realising a very tasty CHF137,000.

This auction confirmed the Milgauss as a collector’s dream: Appreciation to get your motor going, with a niche following that will appeal to those who like to be different.

About the Author:

Fell Jensen is a Swiss-trained watchmaker working as an industry analyst.