The Rolex Milgauss is often considered the “Rolex for people who don’t like Rolex”, and that was generally true for most of this timepiece’s history. Introduced in 1956 by Rolex as a tool watch for owners with a very specific workplace hazard – powerful magnetic fields that can negatively affect a watch’s ability to keep accurate time – it received very little attention in the Rolex lineup. Utilizing a faraday cage inside the case to protect the movement from magnetic fields, it was able to withstand 1,000 gauss (hence the model name), a first of its kind when originally introduced. It wasn’t until the third generation Ref. 1019 Milgauss that the watch was turned into the stainless-steel sports watch it is today and remained that way until 1988 when Rolex ceased production, with many thinking the model would never be seen (or needed) again.
In 2007, Rolex shocked the horological world by reintroducing the Milgauss. A clear descendant of the previous generation, it has a slightly larger diameter at 40mm (versus 38mm of the previous generation) and returned the lightning bolt second hand and orange markers from older generations. This was also the first time Rolex utilized their propriety green tinted sapphire crystal. But it wasn’t until 2014, when Rolex introduced a blue dial “Z-Blue” variant with green sapphire crystal, that the Milgauss became the highly sought-after timepiece it is today.
To say consumers loved the Z-Blue dial would be an understatement. While we don’t know how much better the Z-Blue dial sells in comparison to the other offerings (Rolex keeps sales figures close their vest), second-hand markets have put a significant premium on the blue dial variant, reflecting the increased demand for this model. But anecdotal evidence (read: the Internets) points a level of interest well beyond the original releases that ultimately led to the Milgauss’ demise, and something that is sure to keep the series around for the foreseeable future.
And that is why the Milgauss, should be retired once again.
As a tool watch, the Milgauss has been rendered obsolete by competitors that are able to best the watches antimagnetic properties through use of special metal alloys and silicon in their movements. The Omega Aqua Terra, for example, is certified to be resistant up to 15,000 gauss, and it achieves this feet without the need for a faraday cage that adds unnecessary heft and size to the case. Rolex needs to come to terms that the Milgauss is a stainless-steel sports watch with antimagnetic properties, and not the tool watch that was initially intended. Using the same antimagnetic methods as Omega, they could easily achieve a higher antimagnetic rating of the movement and achieve a sportier case profile.
On the wrist, the bubble-back case of the Milgauss gives the perception that the watch is much larger than its 40mm diameter would suggest, and the excess weight makes it feel almost sloppy on the wrist. In contrast, the Omega Speedmaster comes in a slightly larger case, but melts into the wrist, providing a much more comfortable wearing experience. And it does so with the addition of a chronograph and same 15,000 gauss rating as the Aqua Terra. Owners of large dive watches may feel comfortable with the Milgauss, but as a stainless-steel sport watch, it feels out of place and time.
The true appeal of the Milgauss is the Z-blue dial, which, if we’re being honest, would look equally magnificent in an Oyster case. The current Rolex buying craze aside, one must wonder if the Milgauss would even be considered a coveted watch if it wasn’t for that blue dial. And if that dial is the most compelling part of the watch, there is no need for it to carry an entire model range on its shoulders.
There is some discussion, persistent for several years, that Rolex will introduce a new version of the Milgauss in 2022. Instead, they should consider ending the Milgauss line (again) and let the name fade into history. I would much rather see Rolex add the Z-blue dial option to the Oyster Perpetual line (preferably in a re-introduced 39mm size) with the same Z-blue dial and have a fantastic stainless-steel sports watch and wears as nicely as it looks.
Would you like to see the Milgauss retired once again? If the Milgauss remained, how would you like to see Rolex change this (now) iconic timepiece? Leave your comments below. And if you like what I’m posting, please follow.