Rolex - The Geneva Watch Auction: XV Geneva Saturday, May 7, 2022 | Phillips

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  • Manufacturer: Rolex
    Year: Circa 1958
    Reference No: 6541
    Movement No: N872855
    Case No: 412'024
    Model Name: Milgauss
    Material: Stainless steel
    Calibre: Automatic, cal. 1066, 25 rubies, butterfly rotor
    Bracelet/Strap: Stainless steel Rolex Oyster riveted bracelet stamped "65" to the endlinks, max length 200mm
    Clasp/Buckle: Stainless steel Rolex deployant clasp stamped "2 59"
    Dimensions: 38mm Diameter
    Signed: Case, dial, movement and clasp signed

  • Catalogue Essay

    Exquisite and exceedingly rare — the present watch is indisputably a representative of one of the scarcest and finest Rolex models to ever grace the market. Released in 1956, reference 6541 represents the very first iteration of the Milgauss. The model targeted at a very specific - albeit at the time novel and growing - market: scientists, engineers and technicians working with high magnetic fields in electro-industrial environments or scientific facilities; indeed its iconic “lightning” seconds hand is an obvious nod to electromagnetism.

    Most impressively, the Milgauss was guaranteed to resist magnetic fields up to 1,000 oersted. The name Milgauss is derived from the Latin word mille, which means 1,000, and gauss, the unit of a magnetic field. The Milgauss overcomes the effects of magnetic fields by using anti-magnetic alloys and an iron movement cover to create a Faraday cage.

    It might well be one of the scarcest Rolex models as the intended market was indeed extremely restricted. Anecdotal evidence suggests that Rolex would not first produce the watches and then ship them to retailers, but rather the other way around: given demand for the watch was so low, Rolex would wait for retailers to place an appropriate amount of orders, and then would go on and produce the batch.

    The present example, created in 1958, is one of the earliest reference 6541 produced and is offered in simply spectacular condition. The most prominent feature of the watch is its unusual and awe-inspiring seconds hand in the shape of a lightning bolt. Giving the watch an unmistakable appearance, the present watch is fitted with a wondrously beautiful and exceedingly rare black “Honeycomb” dial, with circular hour markers and faceted triangular indexes at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock.

    Its case number 412’024 is consistent with other examples of the reference, as most appear to bear a 412’xxx serial number. An intriguing detail of the case can be found between the lugs at 6 o’clock: the hand-engraved number “27253”. While extremely unusual to find such a mark on the outside of the case (normally, watchmakers etch the inside of the caseback), other examples of the reference are known with such a peculiarity - sometimes with many such engravings to the back of the lugs. A possible explanation could lie in the fact that such a professional timepiece might have been serviced locally at the institution where the owner worked, with the number to the outside coding some service (or regulation) information for quick reference.

    Such a thesis is boosted by the fact that this is a non-luminous version of the model. Ref. 6541 is known with and - such as in this instance - without luminous hands/dial. Considered the intended operational environment of the piece (scientific laboratories and such) and the high radioactivity of radium-based luminous material of the time, it is speculated that no-lumes version were reserved for technicians which needed no outside source of radiation during their work - such as CERN technicians.

  • Artist Biography


    Swiss • 1905

    Founded in 1905 England by Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis as Wilsdorf & Davis, it soon became known as the Rolex Watch Company in 1915, moving its headquarters to Geneva in 1919. Like no other company, the success of the wristwatch can be attributed to many of Rolex's innovations that made them one of the most respected and well-known of all luxury brands. These innovations include their famous "Oyster" case — the world's first water resistant and dustproof watch case, invented in 1926 — and their "Perpetual" — the first reliable self-winding movement for wristwatches launched in 1933. They would form the foundation for Rolex's Datejust and Day-Date, respectively introduced in 1945 and 1956, but also importantly for their sports watches, such as the Explorer, Submariner and GMT-Master launched in the mid-1950s.

    One of its most famous models is the Cosmograph Daytona. Launched in 1963, these chronographs are without any doubt amongst the most iconic and coveted of all collectible wristwatches. Other key collectible models include their most complicated vintage watches, including references 8171 and 6062 with triple calendar and moon phase, "Jean Claude Killy" triple date chronograph models and the Submariner, including early "big-crown" models and military-issued variants.

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Ref. 6541
An extremely well preserved and highly scarce amagnetic automatic stainless steel wristwatch with honeycomb dial, "lightning" hand and bracelet

Circa 1958
38mm Diameter
Case, dial, movement and clasp signed

CHF200,000 - 400,000 

Sold for CHF302,400

Contact Specialist

Alexandre Ghotbi
Head of Watches, Continental Europe and the Middle East

+41 22 317 81 81

Tiffany To
Head of Sale, Geneva

+41 22 317 96 63

The Geneva Watch Auction: XV

Geneva Auction 7 - 8 May 2022