The Rise of the Rainbow Watch

Rainbow setting—that’s, adorning a timepiece with a bevy of colourful gems—has emerged as one of the collectible tropes in excessive watchmaking. Rolex has a rainbow-tinted historical past that traces again to the ’80s when it embellished the elegant Cellini fashions, although it was the bezel of the 2012 Cosmograph Daytona—comprising 36 trapezium-cut sapphires of various colours—that basically ignited the multicolored ardour of collectors. Since then, rainbow hues have adorned a variety of Rolexes, proper as much as this 12 months’s Yacht-Grasp, set with cool blue and violet stones, and the brand new rainbow-set Daytona, a trophy of 2020s watch accumulating.

“For any severe trendy Daytona collector, a rainbow is a must have,” says Christie’s watch specialist Remy Julia. “The perfect is to have the trilogy of the yellow, white, and rose. Six years again after I was continually doing personal gross sales on these, the value was $240,000, and that was already the moon. Now it’s doubled and nonetheless rising.”

What was as soon as a novel manner for essentially the most prosperous watch fanatics to flex their opulent style (and budgets) has turn out to be a mainstay within the business. Makers together with Hublot and Audemars Piguet have harnessed the visible energy of the rainbow to reference the creativity of artwork and cultural actions past the watch world.

Hublot was early on the pattern, with the launch of the Massive Bang Unico Sapphire Rainbow in 2017. The watch turned heads on the Met Gala final 12 months on the wrist of famous stylist Regulation Roach, whose shoppers embody Zendaya and Lewis Hamilton. “A part of the inspiration [for the Big Bang Unico] comes from Hublot’s tribute to Pop artwork and the usage of flashy, daring colours to reinterpret haute horlogerie,” explains Hublot CEO Ricardo Guadalupe. “It was an incredible success, so we determined to increase rainbow setting to the remainder of our collections.”

Once I first noticed Audemars Piguet’s new Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Music Version, the pioneering paintings of Wassily Kandinsky instantly sprang to thoughts. One of the vital influential artists of the twentieth century, Kandinsky might have skilled synesthesia—a neurological situation that reroutes the 5 senses; in his case, it allowed him to see sound in shade.

Kandinsky by no means had the prospect to see the tunes of pop hitmaker Mark Ronson. However Ronson was a loyal wearer of a Royal Oak lengthy earlier than he signed as much as be an envoy for Audemars Piguet earlier this 12 months. The DJ-producer joined the A.P. squad in time for the launch of those new Offshores, which take inspiration from the {hardware} and fixtures discovered inside a recording studio. The signature Tapisserie construction of the dial has been printed to resemble the polychromatic pixelation of a V.U. meter—the audio-engineering equal of a quantity knob. Knurled-textured studs evoke jack plugs, and the crown guards riff on the fader of a mixing console. With a view to expertise the reverse Kandinsky (listening to music by a colourful watch), you’ll need to improve to the gem-set model, which options equalizer–appropriate coloured stones on the dial and a color-graded bezel arrayed with rubies, tsavorites, and sapphires of yellow, orange, inexperienced, and blue.

Final summer season, Chanel confirmed synesthetic signs with its J12 Electro assortment—which featured matte black metal and white gold ceramic watches busted down with rainbow sapphire bezels—apparently impressed by the model’s watchmaking inventive director Arnaud Chastaingt’s love for a sure ’90s music scene in Paris.

Whether or not it’s Chanel discovering inspiration within the flashing lights of electro tradition, or A.P. citing the ten colours of the equalizer, these exuberant creations are rainbow-set watchmaking at its most impressed.

Furthermore, rainbow setting is a method that favors jeweler–watchmakers who can merge the ability of their craftsmanship with their experience in stone sourcing. I gained perception into what that appears like after I noticed a rainbow–set tourbillon at Chopard. It was not a lot rainbow set as smothered, a bravura show of shade and approach with each floor of the watch—case, dial, winding crown, lugs, and clasp—adorned by gems shimmering in a symphony of colours. If solely Kandinsky might have seen it.

A model of this story initially appeared within the September 2022 problem of GQ with the title “The Rainbow Set”.

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