Rolex is upfront about the market mission of its reborn Oyster Perpetual Milgauss. By the Geneva giant’s own account, the Milgauss is an “avant garde” luxury watch.
One glance at the current 116400 Milgauss’ orange “thunder bolt” hand is enough to confirm the watchmaker’s claim. But combine that day-glow zigzag with the iconic “GV” green crystal and the new “Z Blue” dial, and the Milgauss Z Blue becomes a true rogue: a Rolex for the iconoclast.
The new-for-2014 Z Blue dial was a watershed release that proved even haughty Rolex can crack a smile. This is a Rolex watch with élan, youthful energy, and zero pretense. In other words, this is the Rolex for watch fans who were reluctant to embrace Rolex.
To be fair, the Milgauss always has stood apart from the bulk of the Rolex professional watches. Even the original reference 6542 of 1956, a watch for stone-faced Cold War scientists, featured the whimsical “’bolt” seconds hand and quirky “honeycomb” dial. And the 2007 return of the Milgauss heralded the dawn of colored hands and tinted crystals at Rolex.
But even familiarity with the recent Milgauss line can’t prepare enthusiast eyes for the radiant spectacle of the Z Blue sunburst. A full metallic soleil that explodes from the cannon pinion, the Z Blue was designed expressly to evoke electrical arcing on a Nikola Tesla scale.
And the dial is dynamic. As light moves across its surface, the shifting reflection creates patterns of white-hot highlights, iridescent blues, and nearly-black navy tones. The movements of highlights and shadows is constant when the wrist is in motion.
Rolex’s Z Blue color dynamo drives the effect of the familiar green and orange elements to new heights. Already prominent on past 116400 Milgauss models, the playful supporting colors join with the blue dial to create a kaleidoscope effect that dazzles and captivates. The Rolex Milgauss Z Blue is equal parts luxury watch and performance art.
To be sure, the look isn’t for everyone, and that’s a wonderful thing. It’s a sign that Rolex knows how to get over itself when it sees an opportunity to take a chance on a love/hate design. Big Green understands that the Milgauss Z Blue is going to alienate the firm’s ROC/Bakelite Bezel/Lesson One purists.
But this year’s 40-mil’ Sea-Dweller 116600 was a love letter to the self-appointed guardians of propriety; the Z Blue is a Rolex for younger enthusiasts who respect but could never love the stolid five-point crown.
Beyond the generational jump (arc?) in style sensibility, the new Milgauss Z Blue retains all of the essential qualities that made the 2007 renaissance model a joy to own and wear.
The winning formula starts with the just-right proportions of the 40mm case. It wears with the robust wrist presence of a modern watch, but the size never becomes overbearing when shirt cuffs, formal wear, or smaller wrists enter the equation. With a high dial-to-bezel ratio, the Milgauss reads as a larger timepiece.
The dial disc appears to be and is, in fact, larger than that of a 42mm Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore; the absence of a rotating bezel strengthens the visual punch of the Z Blue dial. Like every modern Milgauss, the Z Blue boasts a clean visage with legibility that the cluttered “Cyclops Eye” Oyster models cannot touch. As a consequence of the Milgauss’ anti-magnetic architecture, a date window is absent by necessity.
And the anti-magnetic mission was the touchstone for the Milgauss design team. Since 1956, the Milgauss has been geared toward users in high-tech, high-energy, and highly magnetized environments where traditional mechanical watches tend to fail. The use of a full soft iron case-in-case (“Faraday Cage”) helps to bend magnetic field lines around the sensitive hairspring of the movement.
But the Faraday Cage is only the first line of defense. Rolex’s chronometer-grade Caliber 3131 employs a nickel-phosphorus escapement to resist induced magnetic error, and the company’s signature “Parachrom Bleu” Breguet hairspring is present to reinforce the Milgauss’ against the slings and arrows of subwoofers, desktop computers, and high-energy wiring assemblies.
What amounted to laboratory gear in 1956 has become household commonplace in 2014; now more than ever, the Rolex Milgauss is a luxury watch for the times.
As with all contemporary Rolex models, the finish of the case, dial, and bracelet on the Milgauss Z Blue is impeccable. Consider the bracelet and clasp. Each feels as though it were wrought from solid ingots of metal. Rolex’s in-house foundry produces the exceptional 904L steel that is employed in the Milgauss, and this super-steel’s ability to hold a polish is in evidence throughout the Milgauss.
While Rolex’s milled Oysterclasp is no longer brand-new, it still comes as a revelation to those who have not encountered a Rolex clasp since the dismal stamped units of the recent past. The milled clasp feels like a mini bank vault by comparison. It deploys with ease and closes with a reassuring “snick.” The handy Easylink system, which permits 5mm of tool-free adjustment, is the crumb on the cake.
The Milgauss Z Blue is a leap of faith for the coldly corporate Rolex monolith and an olive branch offering to Rolex cynics. Milgauss Z Blue is the counter-culture chronometer for luxury watch iconoclasts.