The Rolex Milgauss has gained a reputation as a watch emblematic of science and technological progress. Now newly introduced from Rolex for Baselworld is an Oyster Perpetual Milgauss with an updated colour scheme. In 2007 the Milgauss was introduced with an unusual green sapphire crystal – a first in watchmaking- and now this has been combined with a new electric blue dial or “Z blue dial” as Rolex calls it. The electric blue colour of the dial is in reference to the signature lightning-bolt-shaped seconds hand according to Rolex as well as to it being aimed at engineers and scientists.
Originally introduced in 1956 the Milgauss was aimed at people working close to magnetic fields that might disrupt the correct functioning of a mechanical watch, so typically people working as engineers and technicians. It derives part of its name from the French word for 1000 (Mille) since it was designed to withstand magnetic interference of up to 1000 gauss while still preserving its accuracy as an officially certified chronometer.
The Milgauss became well known for its pioneering technical qualities in the area of magnetic resistance and was adopted by scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva. The technical innovations were several including its first line of defence: a shield surrounding the movement within the Oyster case made of ferromagnetic alloys, an invention patented by Rolex in 1954. A secondary defense system involves the construction of two of the movement’s key components: the oscillator and the escapement. They have been manufactured from special paramagnetic materials developed by Rolex in the early 21st century.
The escapement of the Milgauss features a paramagnetic escape wheel made of a nickel-phosphorus alloy which is produced entirely in-house using a micromanufacturing technology (UV-LiGA). Also manufactured entirely by Rolex is the blue Parachrom hairspring using an exclusive alloy of niobium and zirconium. The Parachrom hairspring offers great stability when exposed to temperature variations, is impervious to magnetic fields and up to 10 times more precise than a conventional hairsprings in the case of shocks.
The Air King made its debut in 1945 as a tribute to British air force pilots of the era. The Air King timepiece was typically regarded as an entry-level Rolex watch with its smaller 34mm size, minimalistic three-handed dial, and more accessible price point. As one of the longest running Rolex collections still in production today, there have been so many different Air King references throughout its history. But we’ll focus on a few of the most popular Air King references in the secondary market, as well as a quick look at the most current version.
Although Rolex is famous for constantly improving their watches, the timepieces tend to maintain the same overall aesthetic throughout the years. In fact, today’s Submariner, GMT Master, and Daytona watches look remarkably similar to those from the 1950s and 1960s. This is part and parcel of the Rolex magic—a signature style that is instantly recognizable. However, this no longer applies to the Air King. In fact, current iterations of the Rolex Air King models look absolutely nothing like preceding models.
If you’re looking for a straightforward and restrained take on the Rolex aesthetic, then the vintage and discontinued Air King models offer some fantastic options at easy-to-swallow prices. On the other hand, if fresh and different is more your pace, then the new Air King watch fits the bill. So, although the Air King may fly somewhat under the Rolex radar, it’s a collection that offers a little something for pretty much everyone.
The updated version of the 1950s’ Rolex Milgauss is a hit among Rolex fans. Is this re-engineered classic, with its improved protection against magnetism, worth the investment? Writer Jens Koch and photographer Nik Schölzel find out in this test feature from the WatchTime archives.
Magnetic fields are invisible and do not greatly affect the human body. Maybe that’s why we don’t think about them very much, even though our high-tech world is full of them, generated by all sorts of devices, from motors to loudspeakers. Unlike the people who wear them, however, mechanical watches are extremely susceptible to magnetic fields. When parts of a watch’s movement become magnetized, its rate accuracy is disturbed, causing frustration for its owner.
Rolex addressed this problem in the 1950s with the introduction of its Oyster Perpetual Milgauss model. The name comes from the French mille Gauss, referring to the watch’s protection from magnetic fields up to 1,000 gauss (named after physicist Karl Friedrich Gauss, a gauss is a unit for measuring the strength of a magnetic field). This level of magnetism, which corresponds to 0.1 Tesla or 80,000 vph, is 100 times higher than that of a typical horseshoe magnet. It would take levels such as those found in an MRI scanner to affect the watch’s functioning. After devoting considerable time and effort to the development of the recent reissue of the Milgauss, Rolex introduced it at the Baselworld watch fair in 2007. Its inner case, made of ferromagnetic material, shields the movement from magnetic fields and consists of only two parts: a container and another cover tightly screwed to it. The container encloses the movement laterally and on the dial side, while the back seals the movement side. To ensure that the movement would be shielded as much as possible, the designers allowed for only a bare minimum of openings in the dial and case. This is why there is no aperture for a date display, for example. There are only the necessary small openings for the winding stem and for the axles that anchor the hands. There are also two tiny holes for the screws that hold the dial. Most other watches with magnetic protection have an inner case with three parts, with the parts layered on top of one another rather than threaded together.
The rate results for the new Rolex Milgauss were good, though they were not as precise as other Rolex watches that have undergone the same tests. They showed an average deviation of only +1.5 seconds per day on the timing machine, and a stable amplitude with no strong deviation between the vertical and horizontal positions. However, the greatest deviation between the positions, at seven seconds, was a rather imperfect result. When worn on the wrist the watch gained three seconds per day.