Rolex does not tri­fle when it comes to gor­geous gems

Singapore Tatler Jewels & Time - - Contents - Text Ni­co­lette Wong

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.

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