The Milgauss was designed as an antimagnetic watch specifically for those who worked in power plants, medical facilities, and research labs. Before Rolex released the Milgauss, scientists and other like professionals had a serious problem; an electromagnetic field greater than 50 to 100 gauss would greatly disrupt the timing of a watch. Therefore, they either had to deal with a dysfunctional timepiece, or simply not wear a watch. However, the release of the Milgauss changed that. Tested in the 1950s by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the world’s pre-eminent particle physics laboratory, it was determined that the Milgauss resisted magnetic fields up to 1,000 gauss. This was a huge technological advancement, not only for Rolex, but for the scientific community. CERN was one of the first scientific institutions to test the Milgauss, however other scientists and institutions soon followed.
The original Milgauss was very similar in appearance to the Rolex Submariner, a very popular style for the brand. The original Milgauss features an oversized case and bezel, complete with the patented Twinlock crown, and a riveted Oyster bracelet. A special orange lightning bolt second hand has come to be one of the most recognizable features of the Milgauss. Combined with the watch’s bezel, the second hand can be stopped when setting time to ensure precise time setting. It is still featured on current models.
The reliability and precision of an ordinary mechanical watch can be affected by a magnetic field of 50 to 100 gauss. But many scientists are exposed to much higher magnetic fields during the course of their work. Rolex’s solution was the Milgauss, created in 1956, the first watch of its kind. Hence the name of the watch, mille being French for thousand.