Struck by lightning

The Milgauss is one of the more interesting watches in the Rolex line-up, and also one of the most underestimated. It’s history goes back some 60 years, when (according to some sources) Rolex was commissioned by CERN to produce a watch that could be safely worn by scientists that were working in the field of electromagnetic technology (see what I did there?) – something that was becoming increasingly commonplace. Now, the problem was that mechanical watches are regulated by a balance wheel and hairspring, and magnetic fields don’t do them any favours. In fact, a watch that’s been subjected to a magnetic field will often run too fast or too slow; in fact, if the force is strong enough, it’ll likely stop running altogether.

Rolex’s answer to this problem was the original Milgauss, released in 1954 at much the same time as IWC released the first Ingenieur – another watch designed with antimagnetic properties. Both utilised a Faraday Cage to enclose the movement, the idea being that it would divert a magnetic field and protect the environment inside it (which included the balance wheel and hairspring). In fact, the name “Milgauss” is derived from the French word mille (meaning 1,000) and gauss (the unit of meaurement for the strength of magnetic fields), and the Milgauss was able to withstand fields of up to 1000 gauss.

The early models were not particularly popular, and production actually ceased in 1988. However, the line-up included one watch that is now a vintage classic – the 1019, which these days can go for upwards of £20k in decent condition…

As well as the original 6451 (check out the lightning-bolt second hand… look familiar?)

So, fast forward a few decades and we come to the current line-up – three models of quite different appearance but all featuring the same technology. Inside is a calibre 3131 movement that’s unique to this model (and which is essentially a thinner version of the 3130); a Blu Parachrom hairspring which is completely resilient to magnetic interference; and a Faraday Cage/inner case back – just to make absolutely sure of it’s antimagnetic capabilities. Aside from that, though, it really is a quite beautifully engineered watch, with a fit and finish that puts some of the other models to shame. It’s heavy too – heavier even than the Sea dweller, whilst still being supremely comfortable on the wrist.

The reason that I’m wittering on about the Milgauss is actually because I picked one up today; not quite on impulse as I’ve been looking at them for a while now (and made a couple of unsuccessful attempts to buy one previously). It somehow manages to be both sporty and dressy at the same time, and the GV (with a green-tinted crystal) as also unusual enough that you won’t see anything else even vaguely similar. I’m really happy with it, especially as this one came unworn and fully-stickered as genuine NOS. Anyway, here’s a few shots taken very quickly when I got home this afternoon, and before I popped out again for dinner. I’ll take some more at some point with a little more care and attention to lighting, but I think these give a pretty good impression of just how nice a watch it is. Oh, and you’ll see that it also has an engraved case back – the only Rolex aside from the Sea Dweller to do so.

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