Rainbow setting—That is, adorning a watch with a colorful array of gemstones — has emerged as one of the most collectible pieces in high-end watchmaking. Rolex has a rainbow-tinged history that dates back to the ’80s when they adorned elegant Cellini models, even though it was the bezel of the 2012 Cosmograph Daytona — including 36 trapezoid-cut sapphires in a variety of colors. different — has really ignited the collector’s passion for color. Since then, rainbow colors have adorned a range of Rolexes, up to this year’s Yacht-Master, set with cool blue and purple stones, and the new Daytona with rainbow set, a landmark Brand of the 2020s watch collection.
Christie’s watch expert Remy Julia said: “For any serious modern Daytona collector, the rainbow is a must-have. “Ideally have a trio of yellow, white and pink. Six years ago when I was constantly selling separately on these, the price was $240,000, and that was the moon. Now it has doubled and is still growing.”
What was once a novel way for the wealthiest watch enthusiasts to flex their luxury taste (and budget) has become a mainstay in the industry. Manufactures including Hublot and Audemars Piguet have harnessed the visual power of the rainbow to reference the creation of artistic and cultural movements outside the watch world.
Hublot started the trend early, with the launch of the Big Bang Unico Sapphire Rainbow in 2017. This watch turned heads at last year’s Met Gala on the wrist of celebrity stylist Law Roach, whose client including Zendaya and Lewis Hamilton. “Part of the inspiration [for the Big Bang Unico] stemming from Hublot’s tribute to Pop art and its use of bold, bold colors to reinterpret haute horlogerie,“Hublot CEO Ricardo Guadalupe explains. “It was a huge success, so we decided to extend the rainbow setting to the rest of our collection.”
When I first saw Audemars Piguet’s new Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Music Edition, Wassily Kandinsky’s pioneering artwork immediately came to mind. One of the most influential artists of the 20th century, Kandinsky may have undergone anaesthesia – a neurological condition that reorients the five senses; in his case, it allowed him to see sound in color.
Kandinsky never got a chance to watch pop hitmaker Mark Ronson’s tunes. But Ronson was a Royal Oak loyalist long before he signed up to be an ambassador for Audemars Piguet earlier this year. The DJ-producer joined the AP team just in time to launch these new Offshores, inspired by the hardware and fixtures found inside a studio. The dial’s signature Tapisserie texture has been printed to resemble the polychromatic pixels of a VU watch — the technical equivalent of a volume knob. The knurled textured studs evoke jack pins and crown guards that rest on the plane of a mixing console. To experience the reversed Kandinsky (listen to music by looking at a colorful watch) you will need to upgrade to the gemset version, which has an equalizer – the stones of the appropriate color on the dial and The color-graded bezel is decorated with rubies, tsavorites, and sapphires in yellow, orange, green, and blue.
Last summer, Chanel showed symptoms of fascination with the J12 Electro collection – which featured watches in matte black steel and white gold in matte black ceramic with rainbow sapphire bezels – that seemed to be inspired by the brand’s love of the brand’s watchmaking creative director Arnaud Chastaingt for a ’90s music scene in Paris.
Whether it’s Chanel looking for inspiration in the flickering lights of electronic culture or AP quoting its 10 equalizer colors, these stunning creations are rainbow watchmaking at its most inspired. .
Furthermore, the rainbow setting is a style that favors jewelers – watchmakers who can combine the power of craftsmanship with their expertise in sourcing stones. I gained insight into what it looks like when I see a rainbow – booked a tourbillon at Chopard. It does not have too many extinguished rainbows, a display of vibrant colors and techniques with every surface of the watch — the case, dial, crown, lugs and pin — adorned with stones. precious shimmering in a symphony of colors. If only Kandinsky could see it.
A version of this story originally appeared in GQ magazine in September 2022 under the title “Rainbow Set”.