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Rolex Milgauss Ref. 116400 With White Dial

The Rolex Milgauss, as a model line, dates all the way back to 1956 with the launch of the ref. 6541. At the time it was one of the first wristwatches capable of keeping time accurately when exposed to strong magnetic fields. In its development and original production, the Rolex Milgauss served a niche market segment of scientific experts needing a timepiece able to withstand high levels of electromagnetism. As a result, its name was drawn from the French word "mille," meaning thousand, and "gauss," for the unit of measurement for magnetic fields, the name Milgauss, then, indicating the watch was resistant to magnetic fields up to 1,000 gauss. While remarkable at the time and competitive in the market at large, it was made possible by way of a soft iron inner case, a technology appropriated from pilots' watches of the period.

From its launch, the Milgauss remained within Rolex’s catalog and saw steady design updates along the way for three decades before finally being discontinued in 1988. Fast forward to 2007, Rolex sensing a new opening in the market for scientific-inclined watches re-launched the collection, at the time introducing the original ref. 116400, which we see here.

The design features a 40mm stainless steel oyster style case complete with a smooth bezel, large crown, and matching stainless steel oyster bracelet. On the wrist, the watch wears similar to the slightly Rolex larger 41mm Datejust and Oyster Perpetual, yet with a distinct character signature only to the quirky Milgauss. In this regard, the watch is supremely comfortable while maintaining a sense that it’s ready for anything, whether that be sportier or occasionally formal wear, or, if conditions are right, even long days at the lab.

Notably, this is a mid-2010s white dial version of the reference, being dated to 2016 which was the last year of production for the colorway. The dial is a colorful and slightly playful combination of whites, oranges, and blacks, with the collection’s signature lightly bolt seconds hand accompanying a pair of baton hands for the hours and minutes and of course Rolex’s signature 12 o’clock crown. Importantly, the white dial edition was the last model within the Milgauss line to not include what has since become another signature of the collection, a specially developed green sapphire crystal, also known as "glace verte" in French, or ‘GV’ for short, with the two remaining production options in Rolex's current catalog, a black variation and a “Z-blue” style, both featuring the updated crystal.
Rolex has always taken on some of the toughest challenges and persevered, showing the world its prowess as one of the best Swiss watchmakers. After World War II, interest in nuclear energy and its potential in the world grew exponentially. As a result, a number of notable European nuclear physicists envisioned having a shared initiative for further research and studies in this field. In December 1951, UNESCO held a meeting to start the process of creating the European Council for Nuclear Research (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire, CERN) and finally, in March 1954, the organization was established in Geneva.

Throughout this period, Rolex had made a name for itself as a producer of tool watches for various specialized professions. They came out with the Submariner, which was intended for diving, and the Explorer, which was built to be the perfect watch for spelunkers. With growth in these new scientific research areas, it comes as no surprise that Rolex would create a watch to serve this community. It was undeniable that there was growing demand for accurate wristwatches designed for scientists and engineers that could withstand unusually strong magnetic fields. At the time, most wristwatches were designed to withstand up to about 50 to 100 gauss before they stopped working. Enter the Milgauss, a beautiful anomaly in Rolex's line of watches that's geared toward this very specific market of scientists and professionals who were regularly exposed to magnetic fields.

The first model, the ref. 6543, was produced from 1955 until 1957, which overlapped with the more widely known second generation, the ref. 6541 that launched in 1956. In the late 1950s, CERN became the first institution to test the Milgauss to confirm it could withstand 1,000 gauss, and it passed the test.

Rolex debuted the third generation, the ref. 1019, in the 1960s. From the outside, this reference was a very tightly designed tool watch: A time-only model with a sweeping seconds hand featuring a red tip. The brand only offered the Milgauss in a stainless steel case with either a silver or a black dial. The case resembled a large stainless steel Oyster with a smooth, polished bezel in a slightly larger 38mm size, which sat perfectly between the 36mm classic Datejust and a 39.5mm Submariner. This was one of the few models offered by the company in this size thanks to the soft iron cage developed following Michael Faraday's creation of the "Faraday cage" that shields the Milgauss' movement from magnetic disturbances.

Over the years, there were several dial configurations produced, most notably one referred to as the "CERN dial" by collectors, which is completely void of any luminous material in order not to interfere with radioactive readings. In 1988, Rolex phased out this reference along with the Milgauss collection, but eventually, the brand brought the model back in 2007 and still offers it in the collection today.

This example in overall excellent pre-owned condition, meaning there are very light signs of wear and some small scratches on the case and bracelet that come with being lived with. The case is crisp with strong lines and has been professionally refinished. The dial and bezel are stunning. The bracelet is tight with little stretch between the links. There are a few very faint scratches on the caseback and rear of the lugs. The inner rehaut is engraved beneath the six o'clock marker with the serial number "V113XXX." During our quality control check, any necessary adjustments are made to ensure the watch is functioning as intended.
In 1905, Hans Wilsdorf and his brother-in-law Alfred Davis set up shop as Wilsdorf and Davis in London. In 1908, this company would officially register the name Rolex, and by 1915, they had relocated the brand to Switzerland, where the headquarters remain to this day. Rolex has notched countless firsts in watchmaking, such as the chronometer-certified wristwatch and the first cased wristwatch with water resistance up to 100 meters. The brand also became a ubiquitous force in our culture on the wrist of countless celebrities and as the official timekeeper of numerous sporting events.

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