Rolex Milgauss 6541

Museum Piece
One of the most elusive references in Rolex tool watch history; and in New Old Stock condition.

One of the most elusive references in Rolex tool watch history; and in New Old Stock condition.

In the 1950s Rolex released a quartet of toolwatches, sturdy and purpose built for the working men and women. These models forever changed the trajectory of watchmaking and have become a quintessential part of the Rolex DNA. After all, who hasn’t heard of the Submariner, the Explorer, and the GMT-Master. The fourth sibling, the Milgauss, is much less known though.

After the Genevan giant introduced a dedicated diver’s watch (the Submariner), a field watch (the Explorer), and a pilot’s watch (the GMT-Master), it turned its attention to the needs of engineers and scientists. These men and women often worked in environments with intense magnetic fields, such as power plants, hospitals, and labs. As strong magnetic fields have an adverse effect on the accuracy of watches, people working in such environments either had to accept a malfunctioning watch or forgo wearing one in the first place. Rolex found a solution to this problem by incorporating a soft iron inner case that protected the movement from harmful magnetism.

The references 6543 and 6541 were introduced in the second half of the 1950s. The name of the watch, Milgauss, was derived from the French word ‘mille’ (meaning thousand) and ‘Gauss’ (the scientific unit for magnetism). Tests by the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) in the late 1950s showed that the Milgauss was indeed able to withstand strong magnetic fields; an amazing technical accomplishment!

Nevertheless, sales of the ref. 6543 and 6541 were lackluster as few people had an actual need for the model’s anti-magnetic capabilities. All in all, it is estimated that fewer than 200 were ever produced between these two references, making them exceedingly rare and collectible. In fact, the two references are among the rarest regular production watches ever made by Rolex. Interestingly enough they also used quite some different configurations in regards to the dial, bezel and hand-set.

This ref. 6541 from 1958 is the most pristine one we’ve ever had the pleasure of laying eyes on. First auctioned by Phillips in May 2019 in Hong Kong, the watch was purchased by a renowned Patek collector who, in turn, allowed us the honor of purchasing the watch from him since he preferred to stick to the aforementioned brand.

Believe us when we say that the pictures do not do this watch justice. Handling it in the flesh is like being transported back to the 1950s. The watch is in absolutely impeccable condition, as if it just left the Rolex factory. The 38 mm stainless steel case is the definition of untouched, remaining clean lines and beautiful chamfered edges. The stainless steel rotating bezel, meanwhile, contains the original black bezel inlay with the vibrant red triangle at the 12 o’clock position. Connected to the case, we find the watch’s original stainless steel riveted, expandable Oyster bracelet. The "Big Logo" clasp has the year stamped and the '6636' reference, matching with the original '80' end-links.

While the condition of the exterior parts is nothing short of perfect, the most exhilarating part of the watch is the impeccable dial. The beautiful black dial features an outstanding honeycomb pattern, gilt text, and gilt closed minute track. The luminous indices have aged to a wonderful custardy color and are interspersed with lovely applied stainless claw markers at the quarter positions. This dial lay-out also displays small lume-plots at the quarters, not unique but certainly aesthetically one of the most pleasing varieties. And, leaving the best for last, the watch sports a lovely mid-century dauphine handset with the gorgeous lightning bolt shaped seconds hand that is characteristic to the 6541.