Rolex Milgauss 116400GV

If the Daytona is the straight-A Ivy League overachiever of the Rolex family, the Milgauss, with its lightning bolt seconds hand, is the nuclear physicist with a septum piercing and penchant for body art.  How does this quirky kid acquit themself in a family of traditional values?

Photography by Ronald Chew

by The Balance Coq

  • November 6, 2023
photo 2023 03 28 17 09 43

Rolex customers can be hard to figure out; on the one hand they want everything harder, better, faster, stronger, but on the other, they want Rolex to keep every single element untouched by innovation.  This dichotomy could explain, in part, Rolex’s very careful and considered rate of product updates (and how sister brand Tudor’s been given much more leeway, as seen in their recent releases).

Now that brings us to the just-discontinued Milgauss reference 116400.  Otherwise known as the “most underrated modern Rolex” according to some (if memory serves correctly, ADs were not throwing these out in desperation), the reference 116400 was in production from 2007 to 2023.  It is not immediately clear if the Milgauss is deserving of that title.  After all, the Milgauss line shared many design elements with its sporty stablemates – 40mm diameter, Oyster case, 100M water resistance, 31XX movement family (the difference between its Calibre 3131 movement and the Calibre 3135 movement used in the Submariner, Sea-Dweller, DSSD, Yacht-Master and Datejust is the lack of the date complication).  The movement is shielded by a small Faraday cage, a layer of soft iron that diverts magnetism away from the heart of the watch. This shield alone provides protection from 1,000 Gauss, but the Calibre 3131 movement adds to the watch’s antimagnetic capabilities with a Parachrom hairspring.  And as a visual reminder of its capabilities (at the same time paying homage to the original Milgauss reference 6541), the seconds hand takes the shape of a lightning bolt painted in orange, no less.  This single element is peak design boldness for Rolex.

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At launch in 2007, there were three sober variants – a black dial with clear sapphire glass, a white dial with clear sapphire glass, and a black dial with green sapphire glass (or glace verte, everyone), orange applied baton indices at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock and orange numbered minute markers at each hour.  By 2014, the clear black dial version has been discontinued, and a “Z-Blue” dial version, replete with the glace verte, was introduced.  The clear white dial version would eventually also be discontinued in 2016.  All four variants feature the Milgauss hallmark – the lightning bolt seconds hand – the 116400/116400GV versions are painted a distinct shade of orange.  What TBC would like to draw your attention to is a fine bit of detail that is staring right back at you when you look at the Z-Blue Milgauss here.

In the 16 years since launch (folks, 2007 was that long ago), the 116400GVs are still the only watches with green sapphire glass.  Rolex watches have been exhaustively imitated by its competitors – from its business model to its trend-setting use of materials.  These days, there are even microbrands selling watches made in 906L steel.  And so the Crown does what every business charity would do – patent the fruits of their in-house hard graft.  Yet, they have not filed a patent for the green sapphire glass. Tell us you made a boss move without telling us you made a boss move.

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The colour Z-Blue is a sight to behold.  As you can probably imagine, the sunburst dial plays well in all light conditions.  In the flesh, the heady mix of sunburst turquoise, orange and white luminous material work surprisingly well together to provide an eye-catching high-visibility experience.  On the wrist, you can feel the slight increase in heft due to the Faraday cage, but in truth, it wears very much like a Submariner reference 116610.

With the Milgauss line being discontinued in early 2023, TBC hopes this would help raise the profile of the only antimagnetic watch Rolex has had in its catalogue – because we all know how collectors love discontinued watches.  Some of these said collectors are now eagerly awaiting the next iteration of the Milgauss, and it might just be closer to the form of the original Milgauss than the 116400/116400GVs.

As with all things related to the Crown, only time will tell.

Specifications

BrandRolex
ModelMilgauss
Reference116400GV Z-Blue
Case MaterialStainless steel
Case Width40mm
Case Height13.5mm
Lug Width20mm
Water Resistance100M / 330 feet
MovementCalibre 3131
ProductionDiscontinued
WearsTrue to size

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