To celebrate the 50th anniversary of its iconic Royal Oak, Audemars Piguet reinvents the traditional rainbow with the launch of two unprecedented Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding sets in 37 and 41 mm, both illuminated by some of the most beautiful gemstones. The two sets are composed of ten white gold selfwinding hours, minutes and seconds timepieces, each entirely paved with a different baguette-cut gemstone so as to form a rainbow when all the pieces are put side by side.
The different watches adorn some 800 baguette-cut coloured stones of the exact same hue, all meticulously selected and custom-cut to offer intense and pure colours. The gemsetting was accomplished by long-time partner Salanitro, a company specialised in watch manufacturing and stone setting. A first in the watchmaking industry, the Royal Oak Selfwinding Rainbow sets build on Audemars Piguet’s long legacy of avant-garde high-jewellery timepieces, while pushing the art of gemsetting to new heights.
The two Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding sets reinterpret the “traditional” rainbow watch to celebrate 50 years of Royal Oak design innovation. Instead of playing with iridescent colours on one single watch, the Manufacture has reinvented the rainbow altogether with ten timepieces per set, each fully decorated with a distinctive gemstone in vivid red, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink or orange hue.
Finding the right stones, colours and contrasts, while responding to Audemars Piguet’s strict criteria of colour, clarity and quality, was a crucial step in the design of the rainbow sets and no easy task for timepieces covered with 861 identical gems (ranging between ~30 and ~47 carats per watch) for the 41 mm version and 790 stones (varying between ~21 and ~37 carats) for the 37 mm models. The sourcing of the perfect stones took approximately a year.
Each gemstone also went through an intensive quality control process. After a rigorous selection done by the supplier, an additional check was carried out at Audemars Piguet to ensure full homogeneity amongst the coloured gemstones selected per watch. Lastly, the purity and natural origin of each stone was then verified by an external laboratory.
The three “Queens” of gemstones – ruby, emerald and blue sapphire – set the tone for the colour gradation. To complement these intense colours, the Manufacture’s gemmologist and design team chose a selection of stones rarely seen in the Haute Horlogerie industry.
Tanzanites, yellow chrysoberyls, pink tourmalines, amethysts, blue topaz, orange spessartites and tsavorites were selected for their vivid colours and purity so as to achieve a harmonious and expressive rainbow when set side by side. Although evoking the colours of the rainbow when put together, these ten pieces also tell their own story linked to the unique property, colour and symbolism of the gemstone they each adorn.
BAGUETTES AND THE ART OF INVISIBLE GEMSETTING
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding and Salanitro worked hand in hand through all stages of production to push the gemsetting of the Royal Oak further, while retaining the collection’s aesthetic codes and ensuring water-resistance, reliability, robustness and repairability. Each gemstone being unique, the design, development, manufacturing and hand-setting of each one of the timepieces composing the two sets have been adjusted according to the typology, hardness and specific properties of the different stones.
To match the architecture of the Royal Oak case, bracelet and dial, the gemstones have been individually cut in baguettes of 179 different sizes for the 41 mm models, and 153 sizes for the 37 mm, before being polished by hand to present sharp and clear angles. The quality of the gemstones’ cut is as important as their inherent quality and clarity. The custom-cut baguettes not only need to be eye clean (i.e. no visible inclusion by the naked eye), their lines and stepped facets have to be perfectly symmetrical and aligned to let the light shine through and emphasise the stone’s purity and transparency.
To give pride of place to the gemstones and use as little material possible between them, the Manufacture chose the intricate technique of invisible gemsetting for the dial and bracelet links. Tiny grooves have been delicately incised in the baguette-cut stones, which are then carefully snapped one by one into a hidden rail mounted in the gold component, giving the impression that they are holding on their own.
The complexity also lies in reaching flawless alignment between the different stones once set – a painstaking task requiring extreme precision. Only ten artisans at Salanitro, out of 80, were trained to perform this meticulous gemsetting which amounted to a month and a half of work per artisan to realise one of the sets to be launched in 2022.
The gemsetting of the dial embodies the technical prowess behind these invisibly set watches as the very thin gold plate has been covered with 152 baguettes, cut in 30 different sizes for the 37 mm version and 28 sizes for the 41 mm models. To further highlight the stones, the hour-markers have been left out, while the “Audemars Piguet” signature and the “Swiss Made” indication have been discreetly printed in white or in black on the sapphire crystal.