Who says the Milgauss gets no love?
A mint-condition Rolex Milgauss was just snapped up for a whopping $2.5 million (2.2 million Swiss francs) at Phillips on Saturday by a bidder representing the Crown itself, according to Bloomberg. The timepiece doubled the pre-auction high estimate of $1.1 million (1 million francs) due to a bidding war between a U.S. collector and Rolex, according to people familiar with the matter. Robb Report reached out to Rolex, but the watchmaker did not immediately respond.
Launched in 1956, the Milgauss was originally designed for scientists to withstand the high levels of electromagnetism in laboratories. Rolex was reportedly commissioned by scientists at Geneva’s Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire, a.k.a. CERN, to create a wristwatch that could tell the time accurately even in the presence of strong magnetic fields. The final product was equipped with a soft iron cage to protect the movement. The Milgauss can withstand as much as 1,000 gauss or mille gauss in French, hence the moniker.
Produced in 1958, this stainless-steel example is presented in pristine condition. It features a black honeycomb dial, a rotating bezel, and a seconds hand that is shaped like a lightning bolt. The flashy wrist candy was one of the priciest pieces sold during last weekend’s watch auctions in Geneva.
The model, which never achieved the popularity of its Submariner and Daytona siblings, was discontinued in March of this year. Demand has increased accordingly. “That puts a little frenzy in the marketplace because you can’t get them anywhere,” Paul Altieri, founder and CEO of Bob’s Watches, told Robb Report in April. “Secondhand prices typically jump 10 to 20 percent.”
“Exquisite and exceedingly rare, the present watch is not only indisputably a representative of one of the scarcest and finest Rolex models made, it is also probably the best preserved and complete example of a reference 6541 to ever grace the auction market,” Phillips said in a statement.
Vintage Milgausses have routinely attracted six figures at auction: A similar design from 1958 sold for $354,000 (317,000 francs) at Christie’s in 2013, while another hammered down for $335,000 (300,000 francs) at Phillips in 2022. The latest sale, however, sets a whole new bar for the model.