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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.