• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 1413

    Rare Watches Including Important Private Collections

    16 May 2016, Geneva

  • Lot 91

    Rolex. An extremely rare and early rare stainless steel automatic amagnetic wristwatch with sweep centre seconds, tropical honeycomb dial and service invoice

    SIGNED ROLEX, OYSTER PERPETUAL, MILGAUSS, REF. 6543, CASE NO. 145'159, CIRCA 1955

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    Rolex. An extremely rare and early rare stainless steel automatic amagnetic wristwatch with sweep centre seconds, tropical honeycomb dial and service invoice
    Signed Rolex, Oyster Perpetual, Milgauss, ref. 6543, case no. 145'159, circa 1955
    Cal. 1065 automatic movement, 25 jewels, tropical dark chocolate honeycomb dial, dot and applied dagger numerals, luminous hands, sweep centre seconds, outer minute divisions, tonneau-shaped water-resistant-type case, black revolving bezel calibrated for 60 units, screw back, screw down crown, stainless steel Rolex buckle, case, dial and movement signed
    37.5 mm. diam.


    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    With Rolex original Service Invoice dated 21 December 1981.

    The present Milgauss is an exceedingly rare and early example of the famous reference 6543, impressing with the untouched honeycomb dial which over time has taken a dark chocolate brown colour, the original hands, the sharp lines of the full case and the crisp numbers between the lugs.

    Sold by its original owner in this saleroom on 12 November 2012 (lot 136) and purchased by the present owner, this much sought after "two owner since new" watch is a fine trophy for the collector of rare timepieces.

    Reference 6543
    In production during a very short period only, reference 6543, the very first Milgauss model ever made, was soon replaced by reference 6541, featuring the famous “thunderbolt” seconds hand.

    The other two elements differentiating reference 6543 from its successor are the width in between the lugs, 19 mm. versus 20 mm. of the later version. The case of reference 6543 consisted of a very thick screw back and by a soft iron ring around the movement whereas reference 6541 was fitted with the anti-magnetic “cage”, a two part soft iron container.

    Special Notice

    Prospective purchasers are advised that several countries prohibit the importation of property containing materials from endangered species, including but not limited to coral, ivory and tortoiseshell. Accordingly, prospective purchasers should familiarize themselves with relevant customs regulations prior to bidding if they intend to import this lot into another country.
    On lots marked with an + in the catalogue, VAT will be charged at 8% on both the premium as well as the hammer price.


    Pre-Lot Text

    Milgauss references 6543 and 6541 (lots 91 and 92)
    The “Milgauss”, Rolex first officially anti-magnetic wristwatch, was launched in 1954, designed for use in areas of high electro-magnetic radiation, such as power stations or research labs - namely the European Organization for Nuclear Research "CERN" (initially “Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire”, today “Organisation Européenne pour la Recherche Nucléaire”), said to have requested the production of such watch from Rolex. The thesis seems to be plausible since the brochure sold with the later Milgauss ref. 1019 featured the image of a scientist at work in a CERN laboratory, caption reading “View of the main control room at the CERN 25”.

    The name “Milgauss” is a fusion between the French word “mille” for 1000 and “Gauss”, the magnetism unite of measure, hence indication a resistance up to 1000 Oersted.

    At the time of its launch the “Milgauss” was regarded a marvel of horological engineering, functioning perfectly when subject to a magnetic field of 1000 Oersted, its guaranteed limit, but remaining accurate even at 5000 Oersted. The influence of radiation on the balance work causing a loss of accuracy was reduced by using the principles of a "Faraday Cage", e.g. by placing the movement in an iron inner case shielding the movement. The Faraday Cage is attributed to the physicist Michael Faraday who, in 1863, built a room coated with metal foil and allowed high-voltage discharges from an electrostatic generator to strike its outside. He then used an electroscope to show that there was no excess electric charge on the inside of the room's walls.

    The so-called “honeycomb” dials, consisting of two cross aluminium layers, protected the watches further against radiation.

    Due to a lack of popularity, reference 6541 was produced during four years only and was then replaced by reference 1019, featuring a blank bezel, straight sweep seconds hand and a calibre 1580 movement. The Milgauss ceased production altogether in 1988, taking almost a decade off before coming back to life in 2007 in the guise of ref. 116400.

    Today, the early "Milgauss" models, such as the two lots offered here for sale, enjoy enormous popularity amongst collectors.

    Ref. 6543 is illustrated in 100 Years of Rolex, 1908-2008 by Franca and Guido Mondani, p. 67, reference 6541 in 100 Superlative Rolex Watches by John Goldberger, pp. 224 & 225, and in I Cronografi Rolex - La Leggenda, Pucci Papaleo Editore, p. 33.