A rare Rolex Milgauss steel sports watch in mint condition was sold for a record-shattering 2.2 million Swiss francs (about $2.5 million) at a Phillips auction on Saturday. It’s the highest amount paid at auction for the Swiss brand’s watch made for scientists. Reportedly, a bidding war between a US-based collector and the winning bidder helped escalate the final price to an unprecedented level, which is double the pre-auction estimate of around $1 million. Previously, a similar version from 1958 was sold at Christie’s for 317,000 francs in 2013, while another one managed to fetch just over 300,000 francs last year.
According to Bloomberg, the winning bidder bought the watch on behalf of Rolex; although, it has not been officially confirmed by the Swiss watchmaker. However, it’s not uncommon for high-end watch brands to buy rare and collectible examples of their own watches at auctions for their archive collections and museums. The Milgauss was originally launched in 1956 as a model specifically designed for scientists to withstand the high levels of electromagnetism in laboratories. This particular stainless steel example was produced in 1958 and features a black honeycomb dial, a rotating bezel, and a seconds hand that is shaped like a lightning bolt.
It is believed that the Milgauss was spawned from a request made in the early 1950s by scientists at Geneva’s Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire (CERN). The timepiece featured a soft iron cage surrounding the movement inside the case, which gave it the ability to withstand exposure to as much as 1,000 gausses or ‘mille gauss’ in French, hence the name. It never managed to match the popularity of Rolex’s other ‘Professional’ models made for deep-sea divers, pilots, or race car drivers. Also known as Rolex’s “mad scientist” watch, the Milgauss was quietly discontinued in March this year.