The Rainbow Daytona Ref. 116599 and Ref. 116598
Famed for their typically restrained designs, utilitarian robustness, and methodical approach to updating their collections, Rolex has long been considered as a relatively conservative watchmaker. However, with that said, Rolex does sometimes release variants of their designs that can be opulent, luxurious, and a general departure from what they know best. These timepieces quickly become some of the Genevan Giants' most sought-after pieces, and the Rolex 'Rainbow' Daytona is undoubtedly the poster child of these bejeweled beauties, with demand emphatically outstripping demand.
While it certainly isn't the first time diamonds donned the Daytona, that would be in the early 1980s with the ref. 6269 and 6290, the ref. 116598RBOW and 116599RBOW were launched in tandem at Baselworld in 2012 to a rather impressed public. Fitted with a tachymeter-negating gem-set bezel and dial and a diamond-encrusted case, these two references imbue the idea of luxury in the most vivid manner possible. With only a handful produced every year, these timepieces have become icons in their own right, with collectors used to getting what they want placed on lengthy waiting lists - if they are lucky and market values far exceeding the retail price of either variant.
While the craftsmanship across the two references' 18kt white and yellow gold cases is undoubtedly incredible, and their dials and cases are diamond-set with the utmost precision, their rainbow bezels are what truly steal the show, as their reference numbers suggest. Featuring 36 baguette-cut graduated sapphires that range across the entire color spectrum with minor changes from shade to shade, these two timepieces are mesmerizing to cast your eye over. In watchmaking, we are typically spoiled with some incredibly luxurious designs, but the ref. 116598 and ref. 116599 push these boundaries to new heights.
With an impeccable level of uniformity across their size, color, cut, and clarity, each example's stones are hand-picked and color-matched using machines usually found only in gemological laboratories. This is so that the stones on each bezel seamlessly blend into their neighboring stone and thus makes it impossible to define where one color starts and the next ends - just like a rainbow, as luck may have it. Furthermore, in a type of homogeneity that only watchmakers like Rolex can produce, each 'Rainbow' Daytona's bezel sports the same colors as the other examples within the collection. As a result, production is laborious, slow, and incredibly tedious, thus naturally creating an excessively rare timepiece - just as watch collectors like it.
Both offered with black lacquered dials; each of our examples offer diamond-set indices with construction-matching subdials, as was the standard for early examples like ours. While the collection has evolved to include an 18kt rose gold model and feature variants with bezel-matching rainbow sapphire-set dials, gem-set bracelets, and even a pavé dial too, both of our examples offer a more understated and sophisticated aesthetic. Thus, our examples manage to tone down the 'Rainbow' Daytona's gem-set design while still offering the truly exceptional level of unadulterated luxury that Rolex has so clearly demonstrated that they can produce to the highest standard possible.
An unprecedented watch in terms of its history, design, and standing amongst the horological purists, the Daytona has long been one of watchmaking's best-known watches. With variants like the "Rainbow' Daytona, the Daytona has escaped its automotive-inspired tool watch distinction and become a watch that offers both a spectacular level of luxury along with Rolex's masterful watchmaking. Powered by the very same automatic cal. 4130 movement as all of its post-2000 siblings, the 'Rainbow' Daytona is as functionally competent as any other variant, in keeping with Rolex's desire to produce timepieces that are functionally robust in every way feasible. As stunning as they are reliable, the 'Rainbow' Daytona is one of the most sought-after Rolex models for a reason, and we can't get enough of them here at The Keystone.