At the turn of the last century, Rolex began its first real transformation in terms of design. A new GMT-Master made its debut, introducing the world to the “Super Case” and the Cerachrom bezel, and in 2007, it was followed by a steel version. Needless to say, this was a considerable redesign of the Rolex staple. However, the crown wasn’t quite done shocking the audience.
Along with the steel GMT-Master, Rolex also revived an esoteric special watch from its archives. The Milgauss, a tool copy watch developed in the 1950s for scientists who needed a watch that could withstand magnetic fields, has always been an oddity. One of its main features is an unmistakable lightning-like second hand.
At the launch, Rolex unveiled three variations of this watch. The standard black dial with orange markers, a white dial with orange markers, a decidedly offbeat variant with alternating orange and white markers, and finally a green crystal. Each watch has a bright orange illuminated bolt-shaped seconds hand, a thick steel oyster case, and a steel oyster strap with alternating brushed and polished finishes.
What I’m saying is that hindsight is 20/20 and we never really appreciate what we have until it’s gone. The same idea can be applied to the modern Milgauss collection. The non-Green Crystal models had a somewhat short shelf life and were eventually discontinued in 2016. I remember the old days when you could actually find Rolex Sport replica watches and I popped into the watch store. The standard white and black variations seemed boring to me. They seemed somewhat inferior compared to the black dial that Nick considered aesthetically sacrosanct.
My particular bias, at least I think, is untainted, and I think the hive-mind of the cheap watch world has corrected what I consider to be the lesser Milgauss models – including the Marino white dials. White dial Rolex sports watches are, of course, rare birds of a feather. There is basically only one Explorer II on the market today. so maybe that’s the appeal, I don’t know.
Well, I’m here to tell you it’s not just the stained glass. Do a search of the patent office and you won’t find any application records for Rolex. That’s because the house in Wilsdorf knew how hard it was to create a green sapphire crystal, and it knew no one could replicate it, so it didn’t bother to file a patent for it. We’ve heard of the Oysterflex.
I’d also like to take a moment to address my esteemed boss’s displeasure with the black and orange color scheme. In a word, he hates it. I doubt Cal Ripken Jr. or the entire Halloween holiday season would be happy with those fighting words. Black and orange are the cornerstones of some of the most iconic and recognizable designs the brand has created in the past 40 years.