It’s raining bling! Audemars Piguet CEO François-Henri Bennahmias isn’t holding back before his impending departure from the brand in 2023. Instead, true to his persona, he’s upping the ante for the Q4 celebrations of the Royal Oak’s 50th anniversary with a flashy lineup of 20 Royal Oak Selfwinding Rainbow pieces (10 in 41 mm and 10 in 37 mm) fully set—from the dial to the bezel to the case to the bracelet—in emeralds, rubies, tourmalines, tanzanites, tsavorites, chrysoberyls and spessartites. Unlike other “rainbow” watches, these are arranged in monochrome settings such as a fully yellow chrysoberyl-set version to one dressed in solid rubies.
Each 41 mm watch is outfitted in 861 stones (between 30 and 47 carats) and each 37 mm model is accented with 790 stones (between 21 to 37 carats)—an incredible feat when you consider how hard it is to find that many stones of matching color, clarity, quality and size. In fact, the process was such a challenge it took an entire year. The gem-setting was orchestrated by Pierre Salanitro, a longtime AP collaborator who is generally regarded as the master of his particular profession in Switzerland.
Adding to the difficulty in setting the variations of stones is that each watch had to be adjusted according to the typology, hardness and other specifics according to the makeup of each type of stone. The baguette stones were also cut in 179 different sizes for the 41 mm version and 153 different sizes for the 37 mm iteration before being hand-polished.
To make sure the stones covered as much surface as possible, Audemars Piguet and Salanitro arranged them in an invisible setting—a jewelry technique in which as little metal as possible is revealed around the gems to give the appearance that they are floating—on the dial and bracelet links. To achieve this, tiny grooves were cut into the 18-karat white gold cases with the stones attached inside via hidden rails mounted in the metal. This kind of setting is notoriously difficult and only 10 out of 80 artisans at Salanitro’s studio are able to complete the task. They worked for a month and a half on the setting alone for each set.
The AP’s Royal Oak Selfwinding Rainbows contain the caliber 4309 for the 41 mm version—the most recent self-winding hours, minutes and seconds movement in this diameter—and the Caliber 5909 for the 37 mm model. The 5909 is based on the Caliber 5900, which first appeared this year in other Royal Oaks of the same case size. Like other 50th anniversary editions, these will also come with a 22-carat pink gold oscillating rotor that spells out “50 years.” The Audemars Piguet logo and “Swiss Made” label have been cautiously printed on the sapphire crystal so as not to interfere with the gems.
Needless to say, however, these Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Self-Winding 41 watches are anything but discreet. You won’t need to see a logo to know that these are AP Royal Oaks from a distance and all of the added high-end adornment ensures they can be spotted quite easily from across a room. Consider hiring a bodyguard with your purchase.