6541 Rolex Milgauss
Rolex’s storied professional line conjures images of Pan-Am, Comex, Hillary, the Daytona 500, and, if you like 5s on your dial, the British RAF (Air-King). Yet there is one professional’s tool which often received little or no mention. Many Rolexes today a marketed under the heading ‘rare’. The 6541 Milgauss, an antimagnetic scientist’s chronometer, was so unwanted in its time that production lasted only two years. Frequent readers will know where this is heading; today, the 6541 is one of the most desirable, valuable, scarce, and alternative steel sports references to wear a coronet.
Rarity itself breeds desirability but that’s not what’s going on here. The Milgauss is so much more interesting than that. Technically, the first Milgauss was the ref 6543, a vanishingly rare reference, but the pair are nearly identical, only changing out a thunderbolt seconds hand in this second run and minor case tweaks. Both used an iron Faraday cage and unique alloys to resist magnetism. Famously developed to withstand 1000 Gauss, the 6541 was marketed by, with, and through Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaireor (CERN). Pre-eminent particle physics researchers, the lab verified Rolex’s 1000 Gauss claim to success in independent testing. I imagine that was child’s play for that lot.
Moreover, its dial displays the coveted honeycomb texture only seen on a few Rolex models of this era, a nearly-woven effect so slight one must study closely to observe. And while the 6543 used five minute increment hashes only in its bezel, the 6541 sports fully demarcated increments and stylized bezel indices. Now, if you already knew everything I just stated, allow me to give go deeper on two fronts. First, Richard Petty of Nascar fame purchased a 6541 brand new in 1958. That story makes no sense at all but is, I promise, true. Rolex certainly didn’t intend for that Milgauss to wind up on wrist of Nascar’s most successful driver, but I’m glad it did. Second, this example sports a non-luminous dial, often referred to as a CERN dial as some have speculated that technicians of CERN placed an order with Rolex sans-radium to avoid interfering with equipment. Concrete evidence there is yet to be delivered.
This example sports an honest and beautiful patina. The dial is non-lumionous, often known as a CERN dial. This means a clean handset and no degradation to be see in the dial. A lovely sight. Its bezel and case sport even and consistent wear, with one dent at the five-minute mark on its bezel. The case bevels are proud and I suspect this watch has simply lived a long healthy life on wrist. It comes as a naked watch as part of Phillips coming auction.
Find this 6541 here as part of Phillips 2022 Geneva Auction XV set to hammer 7 May 2022 (estimated 213,000-426,000 USD).