As a disclaimer before going into a bit of a rant, I was not too convinced of the Rolex Rainbow Daytona myself when I first saw it, and I cannot dream up a scenario where I myself would ever buy it. But when I read the comment section on a well-known watch website starting with H it did not sit right with me. Words like ghastly, vulgar, and hideous where thrown around. People said it made them vomit, that it would be the watch of choice for pimps, and that Hans Wilsdorf would be spinning in his grave at the sight of it.
Now as entertaining as this outrage is, and with the risk of sounding like a psychologist, it made me ask myself “Where is the anger coming from?”. Sure, on the one side this is an expected result of the rather intense design. No one knows their customer base better than Rolex, and I am sure that they aware that this will speak only to a very small fragment of customers who are probably not particularly bothered with horological history and mechanical mastery.
So, the design isn’t for everybody, but it really is not that ugly either to justify the outrage. It is based after all on one of the most popular modern Rolex, sharing movement and dimensions with all other Daytonas. Complementing the rose gold case there are matching gold flaked subdials in the same tone as the hands and text on the black dial. The highlight and centre of the controversy are the gemstones. 56 brilliant cut diamonds which are placed rather tastefully on the outskirts of the case. These would usually be enough to make any other watch stand out, but are completely overshadowed by the 56 baguette-cut sapphires. Name-giving is their arrangement in a perfect rainbow spectrum on the bezel as well and for the hour markers.
Sacrifices had to be made for all this sparkle though as the tachymeter was dropped to make place for the rainbow bezel. And I think this comes a bit closer to the source of the anger. A lot of people who are invested in the culture and history of watchmaking look at the Rainbow Daytona and see what used to be a traditional tool watch selling itself out for people who have too much money. I see something else though. I see what could just be the most honest watch of the 2018 Baselworld.
Why honest? Because it does not try to feed into the disillusionment that is all too present in our industry. After all, let’s not kid ourselves, Rolex is a luxury brand first and foremost. The entire oyster range tries to sell itself off as tool watches, and they probably were initially, but somewhere along the line following the quartz crisis that changed. At 5,000 euro for their most basic models, and 10,000 for a steel Daytona these are luxury items and anyone telling themselves otherwise should get a reality check.
The Daytona Rainbow then is the epitome of that shift. It does not try to hide that it is a luxury watch but flaunts and wears it with pride, and there is nothing wrong with that. Sure some people will get offended, but it is in the nature of people to get offended and Rolex will never change that, and shouldn’t start trying.
Those then who are giving the Rainbow Daytona a hard time have probably never seen it in real life, and the biggest thing standing in the way of their enjoyment of it is probably the price tag. This is not to say that this is the best Rolex one can buy, but anyone who has had the chance to handle some of the modern diamond Rolex models will attest that they are an absolute joy to behold.
The Rolex Daytona Rainbow is a refreshing delight. It does not take itself too seriously and shows a surprising amount of self-awareness. This is a watch for those who are bored with confining themselves to watches that others consider sensible. This is a watch for dreamers who recognise the long way the brand has come, how it developed to survive and thrive, and that Rolex’s luxury phase belongs to the brand in just the same way that their tool phase does. This is a watch, that I think the visionary entrepreneur Hans Wilsdorf himself would be proud of.