The vintage Rolex Milgauss 1019 may not hold a place on your collector’s bucket list….yet. It flew under the radar until recently, when Phillips sold a rare ‘Black Swan’ Milgauss 1019 for $170,000 in 2017.
The Milgauss was designed with a specific audience in mind– the scientist. In fact, a group of scientists actually requested this watch from Rolex back in the day. Racers, pilots, divers, and adventurers all had their own Rolex watch; why didn’t data crunchers in the lab have a watch to withstand the elements as well?
‘What elements’ you may be asking? Oh, just your everyday radioactive, deadly chemical, dangerously magnetic conditions. Rolex answered the call in 1956 and debuted the first ever Rolex Milgauss.
HISTORY OF THE VINTAGE ROLEX MILGAUSS 1019
Early scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) facility outside of Geneva faced a time sensitive issue (pun intended). A typical watch couldn’t withstand increased magnetic fields, so Rolex was approached to help find a solution. A highly magnetized environment would easily destroy the mechanical function of a watch.
The first Milgauss was released in the 1950’s, and could withstand up to 1,000 gauss of magnetism. Mil equals 1,000 on the metric scale, hence the name ‘Mil’gauss. This allowed scientists, engineers, and other medical professionals to keep time in their magnetic prone fields.
The early Rolex Milgauss models featured a rotating black bezel, a honeycomb pattern dial, and a signature lightning bolt seconds hand. An updated 1019 version saw several distinct changes.
KEY FEATURES OF THE VINTAGE ROLEX MILGAUSS 1019
Rolex introduced the Milgauss 1019 in 1960. This no frills version was perfect for CERN scientists. Reliable. Efficient. Easy to read.
Case: The 38mm Oyster case was large enough to accommodate the anti-magnetic faraday cage which surrounded the movement.
Dial: Original dials were either black or silver, however the earliest CERN dials were always silver. Those early dials also displayed very rare 1/5 second tick-marks, but most just had the half-hash markers.
Lastly, the original CERN dials had no lume at all to prevent any interference with radioactive testing. Lume later became an option as watches were produced both ways.
Seconds Hand: The first Milgauss models featured the signature orange lightning bolt seconds hand, which is what we see on current models. Rolex instead opted for a straight seconds hand with a small red arrow tip for the 1019 version.
These ‘all work and no play’ designs lacked the sales to justify production, therefore Rolex discontinued it in 1988. However, Rolex decided to bring back the Milgauss in 2008 with features akin to the pre-1019 models.
Collectors are intrigued by the unique style and design of the vintage Rolex Milgauss 1019. It looks and feels completely different than the earliest and current Milgauss releases.
The vintage style Milgauss 1019 would be a solid investment for any collection. Do your office vibes include a lab, an operating room, or the science expiration field? This one’s definitely for you!
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