CERN 1019 Rolex Milgauss
The 1019 Milgauss is the sole watch where I prefer a non-luminous dial to tanned tritium, because it signifies something really rather special historically. It is said that science advances in irregular leaps and bounds rather than consistent steps. Perhaps not by coincidence, the same could be said about Rolex. This particular Milgauss, in my opinion, is one of the most attractive Rolexes ever produced. I hold it on equal footing with issued military Subs because, in one sense of the word, they were (not strictly but in ethos) issued. Not fight wars, but find Higgs Bosons. This is a Rolex that’s likely to have served science in the same way a Milsub served the Royal Navy. And it’s all in the dial.
Most of us know the tale of the Milgauss, a strange beast developed in the 1950s for scientists conducting operations in heavy magnetic fields. The iron Faraday cage of the original 6541 could famously withstand 1000 (mil meaning mille, French) Gauss and not lose a second. Without a hint of sarcasm, Rolex did not seem to realize just how niche a market that was. The original run of varied references ended in 1988 with little commercial success.
Just how the non-luminous or ‘CERN’ dial came to be is debated, but consensus seems to hold that, in an early effort to turn around sales, Rolex wrote a request to supply the newly founded CERN (The European Organization for Nuclear Research) Laboratory exclusively. CERN agreed, on one condition. They asked Rolex to remove the tritium lume plots on the dial and hands as it was believed the light radiation could interfere with their extremely sensitive instruments. Rolex obliged and produced, in very small quantities, a lumeless 1019 Milgauss—since known as the CERN dial. The indices and handsets have black sections in place of cream. There’s no guarantee that they all went to CERN, but they are scarce, and it very likely may have.
I like to imagine that this particular Milgauss was on the wrist of someone helping to discover the Higgs-Boson or light Neutrino families. The CERN 1019 probably has the strongest ties to science of any watch ever produced, Rolex or otherwise. If you’re working near a particle accelerator, look no further. I often wonder what a better world we might inhabit if physicists, biologists, or chemists were celebrated by younger generations with the same admiration Tiktok stars, T-Swift, and Kanye are. At least in watches, I’m here to do my part for CERN dials. Because science is sexy: case in point, this 1019.
This example is in strong overall condition. The case is full, possibly not touched and showing moderate level surface wear that I find very attractive. The dial is very strong, with all print visible and correct. One should note all these were still signed T SWISS T, that’s nothing to raise alarm. It would’ve been prohibitively complicated for Rolex to change the print just for this little run, it’s my understanding that in the manufacturing process around this time dial blanks were made with the signature under 6 printed first, then individual model prints were applied (there is one example from Davide Parmigiani from 72 that has a Swiss only signature, but I’ve never seen a second and believe it may have been a reprint, particularly as the dial and hands are luminous and look like they may have been relumed). Indices and black handset are correct. The seller notes that there’s a soft indentation between the 11 marker and crown at 12, but you have to look very very hard to even see it in the photos, wouldn’t let it be a dealer-breaker personally. These don’t come up often, and the last I saw was double this price. It comes from a well-regarded California retailer watch only.