The Rolex Milgauss was born from necessity.
In the 1950s, the world stood on the brink of a scientific revolution. Major breakthroughs were being made in fields such as aeronautics, electricity, and nuclear physics, including at the CERN Nuclear Research Facility in Geneva. As a consequence, many scientists, doctors, and researchers were regularly exposed to strong electromagnetic fields, which have a tendency to disrupt the balance of mechanical watches—making them too fast, too slow, or stopping them altogether. When your work demands precision, accurate timekeeping is essential.
By the 1950s, Rolex had developed something of a reputation as a manufacturer of ‘tool watches’ – timepieces designed specifically for people working in certain professions, be they deep-sea divers, motor-racers, or pilots. There was an obvious need for an antimagnetic watch that would be reliable when subjected to high levels of electricity. The Rolex Milgauss–so named because it could withstand up to 1000 gauss–rose to the challenge.
First launched in 1956, the watch had an oversized case for the time (38mm) to accommodate an inbuilt Faraday cage which protected the movement by keeping electromagnetic forces at bay. Early models had silver dials with no luminosity to prevent any interference with radioactive experiments, though luminosity was an option in later versions.
Over the following years, several configurations involved changes in the size and shape of the watch, yet its essential function, keeping accurate time under strong magnetic conditions, remained unchanged. In 1988, the Rolex Milgauss was discontinued. But almost 20 years later in 2007, Rolex released the 116640. In keeping with the original’s distinctive appearance, the Milgauss’ no-nonsense design is immediately recognizable and incorporates a case made from 904L stainless steel, valued for its resistant properties and anti-corrosiveness.
Even among other Rolex models, the Rolex Milgauss feels comfortably heavy and solid on the wrist. The 116400, like its predecessors, is considered a true scientist’s watch.
Only four Milgauss models have ever been produced, and below we discuss those you’re likely to find, along with the key features that are of interest to collectors regarding the Rolex Milgauss’ price in the secondhand market.
Rolex Milgauss 116400
First released: 2007
Price Range: $5000-$6000 Pre-Owned
The re-introduced Rolex Milgauss safely houses a characteristically reliable Caliber 3131 movement, protected from electromagnetic fields by a shield manufactured from ferromagnetic alloys. Orange hour markers stand out vividly against the face, with an eye-catching second hand shaped like a lightning bolt which echoes the original watch. Whether you choose the white or a black dial version, the Milgauss’ price remains the same.
Rolex Milgauss 116400GV – Green Crystal, Black Dial
First released: 2014
Price Range: $5900-$6900 Pre-Owned
On its release in 2014, the Rolex Milgauss 116400GV (referred to interchangeably as the 116400V) made an instant impression on the marketplace. While it retains the character and function of earlier models, as well as the lightning bolt second hand, this is the only Rolex ever produced with its sapphire crystal tinted green (GV referring to ‘Glace Verte’). That distinction makes the watch especially collectable.
Rolex Milgauss 116400GV – Green Crystal, Blue Dial
First released: 2014
Price Range: $6700-$7500 Pre-Owned
The latest Milgauss couples the transparent green sapphire crystal with a striking electric blue dial. It retains the sturdy, aesthetically pleasing Oyster bracelet with an Easy Link system, allowing it to be quickly adjusted to suit the wearer’s wrist. As far as the market goes, this Rolex Milgauss’ price is still leveling off, given it’s still a relatively new release.
The Rolex Milgauss, with its historical pedigree and distinctive design, has always stood out from the Rolex range. Under-appreciated during the 1960s and 1970s, it generated relatively low sales, which means it’s rare to see them on the vintage watch market.
But recent opinion has shifted, and the Rolex Milgauss’ price now firmly reflects both its rarity and desirability, as well as an appreciation for its unique design. Combining handsome looks with functionality, the Rolex Milgauss will continue to grow in reputation (and will always be a Crown & Caliber staff favorite).