With the recent discontinuation of the Rolex Milgauss, we thought it would be cool to dive in the story of this watch, which might have one of the most fascinating stories in all Rolex toolwatch line. We’ll take a deeper look at the earlier references, especially the reference 6541 to get a good point of view of its history.
The 1950s saw a rapid growth in technology and science, exposing people to magnetic fields at work and causing damage to watches. At the time, most watches would be affected at an electromagnetic field greater than 50 gauss, which is about the strength of the refrigerator magnet you brought back from vacations.
With that in mind, Rolex worked to develop a watch that would be able to withstand a little bit more interference and developed a magnetic shield in soft iron which would redirect the magnetic enegery, a "Faraday cage", to protect the movement.
In 1954 was founded what would become one of the most influential and ambitious scientific organization in Switzerland : The CERN. This organization had the purpose to build and operate the world’s largest particle physics laboratory, which was effectively built and made operational in 1956.
How is it related to our watch ? Well, at the same time, the CERN sealed a partnership with Rolex and equipped all of their scientists with Milgauss watches. More importantly, according to Rolex themselves, “the CERN was the first institution to confirm that the Milgauss would indeed resist magnetic fields of 1,000 gauss.”
THE FIRST-GEN MILGAUSS WATCHES
The first Rolex Milgauss was made in 1954 with the reference 6543. This model was produced in very small amounts, and is to be considered as a non-production, prototype model.
Then, in 1956, reference 6541 - The watch we’re showing you today - came in production. Weirdly, this watch was proposed with both smooth and graduated bezel, with the smooth bezel believed to be meant for the US market. You’ll notice the arrival of the famous signature “blitz” second hand, which equipped every Milgauss until their last model in 2023.
The 6541 design
The 6541 is definitely the most interesting, quirkiest Milgauss of the whole line. Made for people working with electromagnetic fields, the movement was surrounded by a Faraday Cage which could withstand, as said earlier, 1000 gauss.
The dial features for the first time a second hand made in the shape of a lightning bolt as an elegant reminder of the purpose of the watch. The dial is spectacular and shows a beautiful honeycomb pattern with gilt text and gilt closed minute track, featuring Dauphine hands and sharp pyramid indexes on 3, 6 and 9 : A beautiful and timeless lesson of Art-Deco style, which can be even found on the bezel displaying pyramid markers.
The beauty and craziness of this watch was, however, not enough to drive sales up, as actually few people “really” needed an anti-magnetic watch at that time, even if all the advertising was directed towards professionals. In fact, most Rolex ads for the 6541 were found in scientific magazines and newspapers !
However, funnily enough, you’ll read here and there that Rolex gave 6543 and 6541 Milgauss watches to Daytona and Nascar drivers until the mid-sixties…
As a consequence, it is estimated that less than 200 pieces came out of the factory including both reference 6543 and reference 6541, which made them extremely rare and collectible.
Well, “extremely rare” is an euphemism, as the ref. 6541 Milgauss might be the rarest production watch ever made by Rolex. Easy to see why they regularly beat records on auction sales, and why they're so coveted by collectors now !
The watch featured in this article is in excellent condition, and for sale on our website.