Rolex does not trifle when it comes to gorgeous gems
Rolex’s gem-setting skills take centre stage
“Now THAT is a baller watch!” So went the unrestrained exclamation from a fellow journalist at the Rolex presentation at Baselworld this past March. While a hoo-ha is not uncommon in the Rolex room (even from the most jaded of journalists), they’re usually not quite so animated. The subject of this particular interjection was the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona “Rainbow”, introduced this year in the brand’s proprietary 18K Everose gold. Previous versions of the “Rainbow” released in 2012 (and discontinued shortly after) were only available in 18K white or yellow gold. The “Rainbow” is technically an unofficial moniker (as is affectionately given to many of Rolex’s watches, such as the GMTMaster II “Pepsi” or the Submariner “Hulk”), but it’s a nickname that clearly distinguishes this particular Cosmograph Daytona from the less “baller” versions—which, to be fair, are no less popular.
The reason this watch is named the “Rainbow” is clear to see; the tachymetric scale so characteristic of the Cosmograph Daytona has been replaced with 36 baguettecut sapphires in gradated shades of the rainbow. Rainbow-hued sapphires are also used in place of the hour markers, with each marker corresponding perfectly with the shade of the gem it is placed next to on the bezel. On top of that, 56 brilliant-cut diamonds are set into the lugs and crown guard, and the chronograph counters are in pink gold crystals made using a special process developed by Rolex. This is not a watch for a shrinking violet.
And, given that this is a Rolex watch, you can be assured that its technical specifications are impeccable. The watch is equipped with Rolex’s signature Oyster case and its Triplock triple waterproofness system, which protect the precious selfwinding chronograph calibre 4130. The chronograph function on the movement utilises fewer components than a regular chronograph, thereby enhancing the calibre’s reliability, and also uses a column wheel and vertical clutch mechanism that gives the chronograph an instantaneous and extremely precise start. Plus, the movement also
applies a blue Parachrom hairspring, which is insensitive to magnetic fields and offers excellent stability even in great temperature variations and physical shocks.
The Cosmograph Daytona, originally created in 1963, is already an icon coveted by horolophiles and stylemeisters. Vintage iterations can now command prices up to six figures. In fact, the actual Cosmograph Daytona worn by Paul Newman went under the hammer last year for US$17.75 million. So begs the question—why the need to further embellish such a watch?
For one, it clearly demonstrates that Rolex, which is better known for serious watches with impeccably constructed mechanical movements, is just as serious about its gemmology and gem-setting. According to Rolex, all gemstones that enter the manufacture are rigorously vetted, with specially developed tools that enable gemmologists to determine the chemical composition of each gem. Diamonds, specifically, are tested using X-ray imaging to confirm their authenticity. And naturally, Rolex only uses diamonds that are graded Internally Flawless on the clarity grading scale, and only within D and G on the colour scale—both indicate the highest grades of diamonds. For the Cosmograph Daytona “Rainbow”, the greatest challenge lies in gathering sufficient numbers of sapphires in the exact shades required for the watch—no mean feat, especially given Rolex’s zeal for perfection and uniformity. We speculate that this is one of the many reasons why the original 2012 Cosmograph Daytona “Rainbow” watches were quickly discontinued, even though they were not intended to be limited editions.
Precision is a religion for all watchmakers, but Rolex takes it to another level. Even in the art of gem-setting, mechanical tolerances are within no more than two hundredths of a millimetre, which is approximately a quarter of the diameter of a human hair. This is particularly important when setting pavé gems, during which the lapidary must use their skill and precision to set innumerable tiny gems in soft precious metal by hand, over and over again. One slip, and they would have to start all over again, as metal that was removed from a surface or accidentally bent out of shape cannot be welded back on. In the case of the Cosmograph Daytona “Rainbow”, the sapphires in the bezel are set using a technique called “channel” setting, where the sapphires are all lined up in the shape of a bezel, and metal is then folded over the inner and outer edges to hold them in place.
Of course, gemmology and gem-setting are not skills unique to Rolex, but the attention to detail in these areas highlights the need for great skill and precision in all aspects of Rolex’s work.
Rolex is not a brand you think would create such a watch—collectors are more fascinated with the brand’s seemingly-infallible and innovative movements than with the gemstones on its watches. But for the right collector, the Cosmograph Daytona “Rainbow” can be a magnificent piece of arm candy indeed. Plus, given that the 2012 versions of the Cosmograph Daytona “Rainbow” now command over double the original retail price on the resale market, we can see why even people who don’t appreciate its aesthetics would want to take a gander at getting on the waitlist.
According to Rolex, “the art of gem-setting lies in revealing the full sparkle and beauty of each stone”—precisely what it did with the Cosmograph Daytona “Rainbow.