- Rolex has quietly discontinued one of its professional watches, the magnetic field-resistant Milgauss.
- The move was quickly spotted by collectors, setting off a frenzy of interest in the model.
- Bob’s Watches CEO Paul Altieri told Insider he’s holding off selling until prices find a new steady state.
Monday’s splashy reveal of Rolex’s new watches for 2023 was complemented by the quiet discontinuation of one of the Swiss brand’s lesser-known models, the magnetic field-resistant Milgauss.
As all eyes were trained on the 60th anniversary Cosmograph Daytona, a titanium Yacht Master, the all-new 1908, and an emoji-packed, puzzle-faced Day-Date, the company removed all pages related to the Milgauss from its website.
Collectors quickly noticed, and Google search data shows a massive spike on Monday followed by elevated interest in “Milgauss.”
Originally introduced in 1953, the Milgauss was one of Rolex’s specialty timepieces for people who have interesting jobs, like pilots, sailors, divers, and other explorers.
The Milgauss was the watch for scientists and engineers, or anyone who didn’t want to miss lunch because the magnetic interference from their lab equipment threw off the timing of their mechanical wristwatch. The original version was worn by the scientists at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, in Geneva, Rolex says.
In spite of that pedigree, sales were relatively soft.
“It was always kind of a controversial watch, even from when it was first launched back in the ’50’s,” said Paul Altieri, CEO of leading Rolex reseller Bob’s Watches, in an interview with Insider. “It was large for its time — thick on your wrist — when back then watches were a lot smaller.”
That’s not to say the Milgauss didn’t have its devotees: actor and professional nerd Jeff Goldblum sported a customized blacked-out version in “Jurassic World: Dominion,” while actress Jennifer Aniston and rockstar Anthony Kiedis each flaunted theirs in public appearances over the years.
A 2007 refresh of the original design brought a distinctive turquoise dial and orange lightning bolt second hand, as well as a green sapphire crystal that Rolex says was a first for the industry.
The Milgauss has been largely overlooked on the secondary market, and is one of the only stainless steel Rolex models to trade below retail, according to a price analysis from WatchCharts. It even ranks near last place among the 16 Rolex models tracked on the site.
At the same time, its cult status has largely kept it out of the dramatic rise and fall that swept through more popular models — like the Daytona and the Submariner — over the past two years.
Some resellers are aiming to capitalize on a surge in popularity: a substantial number of dealer listings on Chrono24 are currently well above $13,000 (compared with a $9,300 retail price), while Altieri says he’s taking his Milgauss listings down for now.
“What usually happens is right after a model is discontinued, the price will jump, and we don’t know where it’s going to be. It may take a day or two to stabilize,” Altieri said. “We like to sell watches that are at market, even if it goes down. We don’t think it will — we think it will go up.”
Of course, Rolex could resurrect the Milgauss in a few years, but until it does, mad scientists will have to content themselves with a pre-owned model.