Are you’re looking for the precision and reliability that only a Rolex can offer but without the ubiquity of a Datejust 41? The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Milgauss may be the solution. Described by the brand as an “avant garde” luxury watch – by Rolex standards at least – this distinctive model is sure to make an impression wherever you wear it. Just one glance at the orange “thunder bolt” hand on the 116400GV Milgauss should be enough to convince you of that. Paired with the iconic “GV” green crystal and the striking “Z Blue” dial, the Milgauss Z Blue is a true rogue: a Rolex for the iconoclast.
The Original Rolex Milgauss
The Milgauss always stood apart from the bulk of the Rolex professional watches. It made its debut in 1956 as the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Milgauss, Ref 6451. Designed for scientists working in research labs, power plants, medical facilities, and other fun, windowless places, this antimagnetic watch solved an annoying problem. Prior to its arrival, anyone working in an environment with an electromagnetic field greater than 50 to 100 gauss would find the functioning of their mechanical watch significantly impacted. The Rolex Milgauss Ref 6451, however, could resist magnetic fields up to 1,000 gauss. A feat that was tested and confirmed by the the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).
Offered with an oversized case and bezel, complete with the patented Twinlock crown, and worn on a riveted Oyster bracelet, the Rolex Milgauss was very much a tool watch. The original Ref 6451 even featured the orange lightning bolt shaped second hand, which has become synonymous with the model.
To say the Rolex Milgauss was a runaway success, however, would probably be overstating things just a tad. Despite its impressive performance in magnetised environments, it never quite achieved the same status as the brand’s other tool watches, like the Submariner and GMT-Master. The updated Ref 1019 was introduced in the 1960’s before the line was discontinued altogether in 1988.
The Rolex Milgauss 116400GV
In 2007, Rolex dusted off the old Milgauss plans and brought this now cult model back to life. This also heralded the dawn of colored hands and tinted crystals at Rolex. Several years later, the Z Blue dial would become 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.
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. That’s ok though, because 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 Rolex Milgauss, the Z Blue boasts a clean visage with legibility as the top priority. 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 defence. Rolex’s Superlative 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 commonplace in households everywhere. 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.
Worn on the Oyster bracelet, first introduced in the late 1930s, this particularly robust and comfortable metal bracelet with its broad, flat three-piece links remains the most universal bracelet in the Oyster collection. It deploys with ease and closes with a reassuring “snick.” The handy Easylink system, which permits 5mm of tool-free adjustment, is ideal for those long hot days in the lab.
Available from authorised Rolex retailers, the price of the Rolex Milgauss Z Blue 116400GV is GBP 6,050.
For more information please visit www.rolex.com.
Technical Specifications: Rolex Milgauss Z Blue 116400GV
- Case: Oyster – 40 mm – Oystersteel – monobloc middle case, screw-down case back and winding crown – smooth bezel – waterproof to 100 metres / 330 feet.
- Dial: Z-blue – 18ct gold hour markers – green sapphire crystal – Chromalight display with longlasting luminescence on hour markers and hands.
- Movement: Calibre 3131 – bidirectional self-winding via Perpetual rotor – magnetic shield to protect the movement – paramagnetic blue Parachrom hairspring – centre hour, minute and seconds hands –Superlative chronometer.
- Price: GBP 6,050.