Watch Candy: A Rolex Milgauss 1019 from 1968

Watch Candy: A Rolex Milgauss 1019 from 1968

Rolex, Milgauss. Two names that don’t need any introduction, and that many associate with the “lightning bolt” seconds hand, an emblem of the reference since 1956. Born out of a collaboration between Rolex and the CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research), the Rolex Milgauss has its place within leading functional watches, and the very purpose of its existence is to combat the worst enemy of mechanical calibers: magnetism.

Basically, when one works daily with the largest and most powerful particle accelerators in the world, it really is a real battle, a fight between the invisible forces of good and evil. Am I exaggerating? Not in the slightest.


We’re all familiar with the 116400 reference, with its green and orange accents, rereleased by Rolex in 2007 after almost 20 years of absence in their catalogues. The younger lads among us may not be very well acquainted with the two previous references, although considered by many to be Holy Grail material…

Let’s take a hop back in time and get everyone caught up, just for fun!

Rolex Milgauss 6541: the first generation

Released in 1956 with an oversized case and looks that remind us of the submariner 6536 (think James Bond, small crown), dauphine watch hands, a bee’s nest watch dial and the famous “lightning bolt” central seconds hand, this first Milgauss has everything to make us fall for it. The ultimate design of our favorite submariners, the riveted oyster bracelet, the absence of any shouldering of course, and some extra added details thrown in. With a pretty big bonus, this watch is graced with a superpower: it withstands magnetic fields with intensities of up to 1000 gauss… Hence the name.

For those of you just discovering all of this and falling in love with the pictures, don’t get too carried away. I don’t mean to burst your bubble, but the piece in those photos was sold for 170,000 Swiss francs during a watch auction in Geneva last March… It is indeed Holy Grail material…

Which brings us to the second Milgauss generation, with the piece that we were lucky enough to have in our own hands today: the 1019 reference.

Rolex Milgauss 1019: anti-magnetism without the lightning bolt


In 1960, Rolex presents the second generation of its anti-magnetic watch with a Faraday cage casing, protecting it this time from magnetic fields and electrical fields. Esthetically, the graduated rotating bezel is gone, along with the “lightning bolt” central seconds hand, the dauphine watch hands and the submariner bubble indexes. Those indexes are replaced by long, flat, stick-like indexes which will define the emblematic Milgauss look that we’ve come to know and recognize today.

The piece in our hands today is from 1968 and was owned by an engineer who had worked for many years in a nuclear power plant in the Vaucluse region in France. It’s a functional piece, bought for a specific reason: a tool able to withstand the magnetic fields that he was exposed to on a daily basis.


Produced in much lesser quantity than its cousins the Submariner, Explorer and GMT Master, the 1019 reference is highly sought-after today for its rarity but also for the “MILGAUSS” inscription and the red tip of the seconds hand, a rare and prized detail in the history of the production of Rolex watches. One only needs to note the exuberant prices of the Submariners or Seadwellers with one or two lines of red text on the dial…


This watch has a pretty large 38mm diameter case (in order to accommodate the cage), lined on this version with a light silver dial which gives it a lot of character and presence. Don’t confuse this with the 34mm vintage Oyster-date (also very beautiful).

Gentlemen, what we have here really is quite unique: It’s quite simply the largest case diameter produced by Rolex for a three-handed vintage watch, and it hasn’t aged a bit.

The folded-link oyster bracelet is of course among the details that we particularly appreciate. You’ll note that this one is polished on the edges, a detail that gives the bracelet more of a “city-dweller” look than a folded-link submariner bracelet for example.

Our thoughts:

To reiterate, this is Holy Grail material. An ultimate tool watch ready to take on any challenge and to accompany you on your quest to understand matter, beyond the nuclear reactor. Good luck, we’re supporting you wholeheartedly.


In any case, if you don’t find the answer to your questions tomorrow, Rolex has made sure that it will never be their fault. Your watch will still be there at your side, keeping the right time…

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