Deconstructed: Rolex Milgauss, Ref. 1019, circa 1980

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The Rolex name has become synonymous with functionality, remarkable durability, and excellent designs, which explains the brand’s popularity with both dedicated collectors and those not obsessed with watches, as well as the growing interest in more obscure vintage references.

Since the iconic Rolex models which we now know and love were initially produced with purely purpose-driven intentions, many possess rich histories. The Milgauss reference 1019 is no exception. For a period of time, this antimagnetic watch didn’t get the same level of exposure or attention as the Submariner or GMT-Master, which were produced in far greater quantities, but demand is now greater than ever for vintage Milgauss models, and with good reason.

A watch made for CERN

The original Milgauss story begins in the late 1950s, when CERN, the famed European nuclear research organization, began working with Rolex to develop a wristwatch that suited their needs. The watch in question needed to be able to keep time accurately while in the presence of strong magnetic forces. As a result of this request, the minds at Rolex came up with a clean, legible, and nicely sized piece, complete with a special Faraday cage surrounding the movement, which could protect the watch from magnetic fields as powerful as 1000 gauss. This of course is where the name Milgauss comes from. In order to accommodate the Faraday cage, the Milgauss reference 1019 was sized to 38 millimeters in diameter, making it larger and slightly more suitable to modern sensibilities than its more common Day-Date and Datejust siblings.