‘CERN’ Dial 1019 Rolex Milgauss

A 1019 Milgauss with non-lumionus dial is more than rare, 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. This because, as the tale goes, it was built to accomplish a job. It’s known as the CERN dial 1019, a tool watch made at request of the European Organization for Nuclear Research with no tritium on its dial so as to not interfere with the extremely sensitive instruments along the Swiss/Franco border. Think of it as an Milsub, but issued instead for the advancement of scientific research.

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.

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 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 non-luminous 1019 Milgauss—since known as the CERN dial. The indices and handsets have black blanks in place of cream. There’s no guarantee that they all went to CERN, it’s collector lore. But they are definitely scarce, and it very likely may have.

Of the whole suite of mid-century anti-magnetic tool watches (Geophysic, 3417, Railmaster, etc), if the tale is true, the CERN dial 1019 probably has the closest ties to science of any watch then. If you’re working near a particle accelerator, look no further. I picture this Milgauss on the wrist of someone discovering the Higgs-Boson or light Neutrino families in the same way that I picture a Milsub on the wrist of a Royal Navy Commando. Science is sexy, case in point.


This 1019 is in strong overall condition. The case has its bevels still very proud, perhaps one very light polishing but not much if it wasn’t just a shirt sleeve. The dial has nothing to go wrong, no tritium. Its print is all very well-preserved, no visible damage. It also comes with its papers, fairly uncommon, from a well-regarded Californian retailer.