Rolex - The Geneva Watch Auction: XIX featuring the Guido Mondani Collection Geneva Saturday, May 11, 2024 | Phillips
  • Manufacturer: Rolex
    Year: Circa 1958
    Reference No: 6541
    Movement No: N699139
    Case No: 412'424
    Model Name: Milgauss
    Material: Stainless steel
    Calibre: Automatic, cal. 1055, 25 jewels, soft iron antimagnetic inner back, butterfly rotor
    Bracelet/Strap: Stainless steel Rolex Oyster riveted bracelet stamped "455B" to the endlink, max length 220mm
    Clasp/Buckle: Stainless steel Rolex deployant clasp stamped "3 66"
    Dimensions: 38mm Diameter
    Signed: Case, dial, movement and clasp signed
    Accessories: Accompanied by Rolex wooden presentation box and additional suede strap with stainless steel Rolex pin buckle

  • Catalogue Essay

    The present watch is representative of one of the unarguably scarcest and most sought-after Rolex models to ever grace the market. Released in 1956, reference 6541 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 gauss. 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, with caseback stamped IV.1958 indicating it was produced in the fourth quarter of 1958, is one of the earliest examples reference 6541 produced and presents a compendium of traits which will delight the collector. Any 6541’s dial - with its surprising honeycomb texture - is fascinating, but the present example well exceeds expectations. Not only it is perfectly preserved without marks or scratches to the surface, but it furthermore achieved an outstanding dark chocolate tropicalisation. Furthermore, even the few ultra-small oxidation dots that occurred over the years have somehow tropicalised and, instead of being dark as it usually happen, they sport a metallic coppery finish granting the dial, when viewed under the loupe, a hardly ever seen “copper stardust” effect.

    Its case number 412’424 is consistent with other examples of the reference, as most appear to bear a 412’xxx serial number. An additional intriguing detail of this specimen can be found behind the lugs: five service marks have been hand-engraved behind both top lugs and the bottom left lug, and all apparently done by the same watchmaker given the similarity in their code: 28060VA, 41414VA, 1805VA, 8844VA, 15651VA

    While extremely unusual to find such a mark on the outside of the case (normally, watchmakers etch the inside of the caseback - and indeed the present piece features two service marks to the back, but not sharing the same “style” of those behind the lugs), other examples of the reference are known with such peculiar engraving to the outside of their cases - see lot 112 in the Geneva Watch Auction XV in May 2022. 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 numbers to the outside coding some service (or regulation) information for quick reference.

    Such a thesis is boosted by the fact that this watch 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 versions 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 rare, well-preserved and important amagnetic wristwatch with "lightning" center seconds, "no lumes" chocolate tropical honeycomb dial and presentation box

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

CHF100,000 - 200,000 

Sold for CHF203,200

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The Geneva Watch Auction: XIX featuring the Guido Mondani Collection

Geneva Auction 11 - 12 May 2024