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The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Milgauss, A Scientists Chronometer

The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Milgauss is a rather obscure model that remains somewhat below the radar. 

In recent years, it has gained more traction with collectors and prices for vintage references in any condition are rising.

The earliest examples are easily mistaken for an Oyster Perpetual. Contemporary examples are less prone to this thanks to some unique design cues.

In 1956, Rolex introduced the Oyster Perpetual Milgauss, ref. 6451, intended for scientists and engineers working in power plants, medical facilities, and research labs.

The name comes from the Latin mille, meaning one-thousand, and gauss, the unit of measure for magnetism.

The watch was developed and tested in the 1950s by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the world’s preeminent particle physics laboratory. The design was a technological breakthrough solving a real problem for timekeeping in these electrically and magnetically polluted environments.

Reference 6541 was very similar in appearance to the Rolex Submariner, which had proved to be a winning design. The movement was enclosed in a Faraday cage of ferromagnetic alloy, making it resistant to magnetism up to 1000 gauss.

The original Milgauss sold in modest volume, presumably because this was a small professional niche in the 1950s. Today they are rare and sought after by collectors.

In stainless steel only, the Milgauss is discreet and low-key, yet instantly recognizable by vintage enthusiasts.

The Milgauss has a short history compared to other Professional models. Only two updates were released, ref.6541 and a modified 1019, in the 1960s and 1970s. The updates introduced a silver dial option. Some 1019s were also released without the unique lightning-bolt second hand, though many had it added later during service.

For 20 years consumers largely ignored the Milgauss. Then in 2007, Rolex revived their scientist’s watch releasing three new references starting with model ref. 116400.

Due to the internal magnetic shield, the Milgauss is thicker than other Professional watches, including the similarly designed Submariner. As with all Rolex Oyster cases, the Milgauss is waterproof up to 100 meters (330 feet).

A 50th-anniversary model features a black dial with a distinctive green-tinted sapphire crystal. This Glace Verte (GV) model is named for its tinted glass and is the only Rolex to feature it. The GV is also the only sapphire crystal without a Laser Etched Coronet (LEC), as the green tint makes it too hard to see, even under magnification.

If you'd like to learn more about the Milgauss and other obscure references, consult the acclaimed Vintage Rolex Field Guide.