Rainbow Bow to the Rainbow
It has become a staple of high-end gem-set watches. Rainbow setting is now moving beyond mere gems and becoming a style in its own right
When it first showed up, all giddy and colorful, it didn't feel like a sure thing. Nor like it was going to last. Who would have imagined such a particular and complex thing as rainbow setting would endure. Namely, setting an entire bezel with multi-colored gems, in the same exact order as the one on a rainbow, with perfect transition between hues.
Rolex-Yacht Master 40 © David Chokron/WorldTempus
Why particular ? Because when an extended palette makes its way into a watch, it's as a choice between shades of dials and bracelets. Not ALL of them at once. Why complex ? Even though colored sapphires have never been so abundant, it's no easy thing to lay one's hands on 20, 30, 50 lots of 60 sapphires (that's the usual number) all of which form a perfect progression from blue to rose and everything else in between.
Serpenti Misteriosi Cleopatra © Bulgari
It's all the harder as, for some obscure reason, rainbow setting started and endures with baguette-cut gems. Which are more rare, require more matter to be cut away as round stones, and are more expensive. Plus this cut usually requires invisible or rail setting on a bezel, which are much more complicated to execute, let alone industrialize, as a simple brilliant setting.
Hublot Classic Fusion Takashi Murakami Sapphire Rainbow © David Chokron/WorldTempus
And yet, what a hit it is ! Although, a lot of stars have kept aligned since around 2017, which have created the perfect rain+sunshine conditions required for the chromatic explosion. High end gem-setting as become more popular (within limits...we're talking 6 figures here), so has the very high-end segment of the market, as well as iconic timepieces that beg for a heavy number of variations. Fashion is also at play here. The influence of streetwear, athleisure and a newly minted type of rakish style all rest on the hyperbolic use of colors that one would never have dared to match ten years ago. That surely had an influence on bezels going all chromatic on us.
Fleurs de Jardin Rainbow © Jacob & Co.
Rainbow setting has entered a new, more mature phase, which is shown by the way it's evolving. At Jacob&Co., it peaks in a classic setting, but on the very special bezel of Fleurs de Jardin...and inside its garden, while it starts with the rainbow-printed flange of the Epic X Producer Michael. Hublot has created a spinning flower above the dial of the Classic Fusion Takashi Murakami Sapphire Rainbow, whose every petal is set in a different color. Chanel's J12 Electro Rainbow first started with colored-gem bezels and then moved on to a more affordable interpretation where it's the indices that are colorful, and not even made of gems.
Chanel J12 Electro © David Chokron/WorldTempus
In this context, the Ulysse Nardin Blast Rainbow 45mm could have seemed conventional if only it hadn't been totally black and very graphic. Rolex even freed itself of the full rainbow effect to focus on a more limited spectrum, made of pink, blue and white baguette-cut gems on the Yacht-Master 40 ref.126679SABR. It felt allowed to do so after the Daytona and Yacht-Master 40 with actual rainbow bezels became so massive a success that the brand had to keep evolving and rethinking its color approach. As for Bulgari, which is the undisputed king of colored gems, it has long been playing with baroque color alliances, with evergreen talent. The most impressive of late has to be the Serpenti Misteriosi Cleopatra cuff, with its nine gems, amethyst, citrine, aqua-marine, rubellite, tourmaline, tanzanite and peridot, all hexagonal, all faceted.
Ulysse Nardin Blast Rainbow © David Chokron/WorldTempus
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