Rolex Milgauss (Ref.6541) sold for CHF 134,500/ US$141,647, Sotheby’s Geneva, lot 40, 13 November 2012.

GENEVA - The importance of timekeeping for scientists and engineers has long provided challenges for the watchmaker, not least due to the high magnetic fields to which these professions are often subjected. Magnets and watches don't mix well - a magnetised movement will produce alarmingly erratic timekeeping. The increasing use of highly magnetic machinery meant that, by the mid-20th century, there was a scramble to manufacture a wristwatch with exceptional magnetic resistance.

In 1954, Rolex launched their Milgauss model, specifically aimed at the scientific and engineering community. The watch was guaranteed to resist magnetic fields up to 1,000 oersted. Magnetic fields can severely impact a watch’s accuracy at just 60 oersted and, at 100 oersted, a standard watch will no longer work. The original Milgauss (Ref.6541) featured a lightning flash centre seconds hand, and the finest examples can fetch over US$100,000. The Milgauss was given a dramatic redesign in the 1960s, taking on a bolder, more angular look. This new model (Ref.1019) whilst unmistakeably Rolex in character, is unique in appearance. The model seamlessly mixes physical strength with visual clarity, the perfect fit for its intention as the precision watch of an engineer. You’ll find an example in the Sotheby’s Important Watches auction to be held in Geneva on 11 May 2013.

Rolex Milgauss (Ref.1019), Sotheby’s Geneva, 11 May 2013, Estimate CHF 15,000-20,000/ US$15,900-21,200.

The International Watch Company (IWC) was also at the forefront in the development of super anti-magnetic watches for the scientific and engineering community. In 1955 they launched their famous Ingenieur model which, in various guises, has been one of the company’s signature models for almost 60 years, the dials emblazoned with the famous flash symbol. In Geneva, on 11 May, Sotheby’s will offer for sale a fascinating group of historic and contemporary Ingenieur models with estimates starting from CHF 3,000/ US$3,200.

Sotheby’s Geneva, Important Watches Catalogue, 11 May 2013