Rolex and the art of gem setting From diamonds to colored gemstones, the high-end watch industry is resurging in hot stones.
Everything happens in the loop. In the post-World War II era, diamonds were the best friend of watches. The returning GI invested in diamond-encrusted watches and Cadillacs to show that they are climbing the social ladder. Even in the disco era, a frozen watch shows that you have done it.
At other times, in any case, in the North American market, gem-set dials and bezels are considered tacky and overdone. But Bling is back, baby! Just check the waiting list for the Rolex Day-Date Rainbow or the newer diamond-studded Oyster Perpetual Day-Date 36 to prove this.
There are many brands with a deep history in gem setting and jewelry making. But Rolex is interesting because although they do not have the same gemological background, the brand is really good at creating gem-set watches that make collectors crazy.
The history of gem-set timepieces can be traced back to the first diamond-set watch made by Abraham-Louis Breguet in 1810 for the Queen of Naples. It took another century before watches became the norm for men. Under the influence of celebrities such as Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. of Rat Pack, men began to look for timepieces with diamond-encrusted hour markers and pavé dials.
In the disco era, watch designers like Andrew Grima added other gems and semi-precious stones, such as crystal, moonstone, smoky crystal, rutile, aquamarine, citrine, peridot, and green and pink tourmaline. Tiger’s eye, malachite and lapis lazuli are also used to make colorful dials.
Although tastes will change over time, the demand for gem-set watches always exists in one market or another. For example, when manufacturers avoided dazzling timekeeping in the 1980s, hip-hop artists turned to jewelers to make after-sales modifications to their beloved timepieces. Inspired by the rapper, athletes began to look for personalized watches. Then Wall Street types seek to emulate their sports heroes, and so on.
What’s new now is that discount swiss watches with colored gemstones seem to have a place among watch lovers. Many of these sports can be attributed to Rolex.
Gems, they are really outrageous
When it comes to high-end watches, there is a big difference between factory-set gems and custom-set gems. Factory diamonds are placed in the watch by the respective manufacturers during the production process. Customized diamonds are installed by a third party after the watch is fully assembled and shipped from the factory.
Rolex is not the only brand that makes wrist candy. It’s not the first. But as the watchmaker with the highest brand awareness: Rolex has attracted worldwide attention.
That’s because, I don’t know if you noticed this, Rolex runs a very controlled ship. For buyers, this means consistency in quality, which not only convinces you that your watch will retain its value as a work tool, but also as an investment. If you are going to risk tailoring on “Tiger Eye” Daytona, you can also rest assured, because it is Daytona, you will not be called out.
A small clarification: even Rolex does not always maintain its value, after-sale modification can reduce the resale of the watch-especially if the jeweler doing the customization is not so skilled. Rolex knows this; this is why it has an in-house gem setter in the first place. Rolex wants to protect its heritage.
This is how they do it
Rolex gem setters do not always get the evaluation they deserve when their gem setting technology is absolutely amazing, but there is no denying the craftsmanship and quality of Rolex gem setting watches. Take a look at some of the most watched timepieces of the past five years: Rainbow Cosmograph Daytona.
Although the number of gem-set watches produced by Rolex each year is relatively small, the watches they make are made of the highest quality natural gemstones. I remember that when I first held the Rainbow Cosmograph Daytona in my hand at Baselworld 2018, its bezel was set with rainbow-colored sapphires. We have been told that sourcing a sufficient number of gemstones with matching colors is challenging enough. But to find the complete rainbow spectrum of quality sapphire? This requires a higher level of gemological expertise.
The lugs of the case and the crown guard are further inlaid with 56 brilliant-cut diamonds, and there are 11 rectangular-cut sapphire hour markers on the dial, each of which matches the color of the corresponding point on the bezel.
Sparkle your crazy diamond
In addition to matching colors, there is also a balance issue. In its long history, Rolex has produced some weird case shapes, but in modern times, the brand likes to stick to its iconic silhouette. Where it becomes interesting lies in the placement and use of materials.
The craftsmanship of a gem setter (please forgive the pun) is multifaceted. Before embellishing any cheap replica watches , the designers in the Rolex creative department will discuss several options, such as: cut (round and rectangular are the most popular choices), color, and how to arrange the gems so as not to spoil the iconic appearance of the case. They also negotiate with engineers to ensure that they do not confuse any technical requirements. The team must then decide on the material of the gemstone to determine the precise amount of metal required to hold the gemstone in place. This is a labor-intensive process.
Then place each gem individually in the best position to ensure maximum reflection. Considering that a snowflake dial can contain 3,000 tiny diamonds of various sizes, this work requires a lot of effort.
Rolex also mastered the art of hard stone dials. In fact, two recently released Internet-breaking versions use semi-precious stones to shape their faces: the 2021 Oyster Perpetual Day-Date 40, 18K white gold, inlaid with meteorite and diamond dials, and the 2019 Oyster Perpetual Day-Date. Type 36 18K yellow gold with turquoise dial, diamond-set bezel and diamond-set Roman numeral hour markers.
Cutting these rocks to the thickness required for the dial is also a skill level that can only be obtained after years of practice. Even so, every hole drilled to accommodate the hand, index, or aperture can break the piece like a cracker.
Several Rolex series offer diamonds, including Datejust, Day-Date, Daytona and Pearlmaster, as well as certain Submariner and GMT-Master II references. Although gems are most commonly found on the dials and bezels of fake Rolex watches, they can also be found on crown guards, lugs and bracelets.
But from the scarcity of high-quality natural gemstones to the exquisite gem cutting and setting craftsmanship, these sparkling timepieces are not easy to obtain. It’s ok. The enduring role of the gem-set Rolex is not the sparkle, but the exquisite craftsmanship.