In the mid-1950s, Rolex released the very first Milgauss – references 6541 & 6543. In Milgauss terms, these two are the rock stars of the reference. Produced in such small quantities, the attrition of time has led to these being seen as almost historic monuments. I have seen just one, and I know of only two collectors who own them. These are very rare watches. I would feel very uncomfortable wearing something of such irreplaceable value. Since I won’t own a watch unless I am prepared to wear it, my search for a Milgauss was driven to a more modern variant.
The very first Milgauss Reference 1019 appeared in Rolex literature in August 1960. It is possible that there are earlier mentions, but that is as early as I could find. Designed specifically for the scientist or professional working in close proximity to any electromagnetic fields. Such electromagnetic fields could potentially impair the performance of a watch’s accuracy and for many professionals this was something that needed to be avoided. By using anti-magnetic alloys and casing the movement in a protective iron shield, the detrimental effects of the magnetic fields could be overcome.
It is fair to say that by the 1960s, Rolex had established itself as the manufacturer of iconic sports watches. Each of its references had overt targetted audiences. The Submariner, perhaps more than any other, typified the genre. With Rolex came a spirit of adventure. But the Milgauss was very much the antithesis of this. The buyer of the Milgauss was not a deep sea diver. Nor did they jump out of planes or climb mountains. No, the buyer of the Milgauss most likely was a very different animal.
In a previous review of this watch, I described the Milgauss Reference 1019 as the “taking care of business” watch. What did I mean by that? I think I see the 1019 as a watch that has nothing superfluous about it. It is the epitome of function. And its purpose is reliability in the face of obstacles. In this sense, it definitely has that Rolex signature. Yet, the message that the 1019 Milgauss sends is one of cerebral durability. It represents a different type of Rolex than the typical genre.
Despite the fact that the 1019 was produced between 1960 and 1989, it has a real feel of the 1970s about it. Coming in two dial versions; black or brushed steel, with the word “Milgauss” printed just below the Rolex legend. As was often the case with Rolex, over the 30 years that the watch was in production, subtle variations were introduced to the dial. Later production saw the hands as flat and unpolished whereas earlier renditions saw the hands as polished with a central ridge. Similarly, Rolex brochures offered early versions of the watch with or without lume.
Purity and simplicity of the 1019 – the Scientist’s toolwatch
Using the Caliber 1580, beating at 19,800 per hour, this 38mm self-winding chronometer was technically insulated to withstand a magnetic force of 1000 Gauss as well as water-resistant to 50mm.
Deciding on what dial one prefers for the 1019 is very much a matter of taste. For me, the black dial is more sporty, while the brushed steel dial is more in-tune with the original scientific theme of the watch. In the end, if you buy a 1019, the watch ends up picking the owner. Over the last 10 years I came close to buying a 1019 on at least three occasions. Twice on a steel dial version and once on a black dial version. I took the black dial. My 1019 was almost certainly one of the very last 1019s ever made.
The Milgauss 1019 is very much an under-the-radar Rolex. It has that distinct 1970s feel about it. It is perfectly comfortable with a suit or with a pair of jeans. The touches of red type contrast against the black dial in a way that adds a touch of extra interest to the dial. It was designed to do a job. It is my ‘taking care of business” watch.