Rolex Rainbow – Complete Guide

116595rbow Daytona

Rolex Rainbow – Complete Guide

Rolex rainbow gem-set watches are amongst the most spectacular timepieces that Rolex has ever created. But what does Rolex rainbow mean exactly? And which watches are “Rolex rainbows”?

The answer is that Rolex rainbow relates to a particular type of gem-setting technique used by Rolex. To achieve the rainbow look, Rolex uses gemstones in different colors and places them around the watch. Rolex carefully selects the colors of the gemstones to create a seamless transition between red, yellow, green, blue, and purple. The result is a colorful effect that reminds of a rainbow, hence its name.

So far, the only “true” rainbow watch that Rolex has is the “Rainbow Daytona”. Rolex also has a few models that have a rainbow-style gem-set dial and we’ll talk about these further on. But to this date, the only true Rainbow watch is the Rainbow Daytona.

The reference number of this model ends with “RBOW” which obviously refers to “Rainbow”. With this said, this isn’t some unofficial name that collectors and the watch community have come up with. It’s an official name from Rolex.

Whilst Rolex is a brand that is most known for its sporty and robust tool watches, Rolex is an expert at gem-setting. The company takes gem-setting very seriously and has its very own gemologists and gem-setters in-house. Rolex only satisfies with the most perfect and flawless gemstones and cuts them to perfection.

The release of the Rainbow Daytona is a testament to Rolex’s gem-setting expertise and an opportunity for Rolex to show what they are capable of. Sourcing the gemstones required to create the rainbow Daytona isn’t easy. And nor is the identification process of selecting the perfect color gemstones to create a gradation rainbow effect that is consistent on all models that leave the factory.

Rolex Rainbow Daytona

The Rolex Rainbow Daytona was first launched at Baselworld in 2018. With its gem-set case, dial, bezel, and bright colors, this is one of the most flamboyant and striking gem-set creations that Rolex has created.

Rolex has gem-set the bezel of the Rainbow Daytona with 36 colored baguette-cut sapphires in rainbow gradation. On the dial, 11 additional sapphires are set to replace the hour markers and have the same rainbow gradation to match the bezel.

The Rainbow Daytona is available in three different metals. Yellow gold, rose gold, and white gold. We will look closer at each model further on. The yellow gold version, however, was only in production for one year in 2012. 

The rose gold version, reference 116595RBOW is the only one of the three that is available with a full pavé dial. And even on this one, Rolex has retained the rainbow-set hour markers. The catch is that for the pavé dial, Rolex has added gemstones on the center links throughout the whole bracelet. The result is a watch that truly screams and is, to a lot of people, over the top. As if the Rainbow Daytona isn’t over the top already. But that’s exactly what it is meant to be.

The sub-dials on the dial appear to be made from meteorite, but Rolex has actually treated them with a crystallization process that gives them this look.

Apart from the gemstones, the Rainbow Daytona is exactly the same as any Daytona. It is powered by the same in-house caliber 4130, is presented on an Oyster bracelet, and has the exact same dial layout, albeit with a different design. What is perhaps most impressive (apart from the complicated process of the gem setting) is that the water resistance remains the same at 100m. In other words, the extensive gem setting does not compromise the watch’s function.

Now, a lot of people have barely ever seen a rainbow Daytona or doesn’t even know it exists. And it’s important to point out that the Rainbow Daytona is not a standard-production watch. Instead, it is part of Rolex’s “off-catalog” watches, meaning it is nowhere to be found on Rolex’s website nor in their standard product catalogs.

Rolex has plenty of gem-set watches in their off-catalog line. And these creations can be explained as special edition watches. They are not limited edition, but their production is extremely limited. Part of the reason is the immense resources that are required to create them and the work that goes into that. The second is that because Rolex is so proud of these watches and because they are so special, Rolex wants to keep them that way.

Therefore, the Rainbow Daytona is only sent to official Rolex retailers on request. And Rolex retailers only offer these watches to their very best clients. And we’re generally not just talking about clients who have bought a few watches per year. Perhaps you have seen Mark Wahlberg or Post Malone wear the Rainbow Daytona. Those are amongst some of those prominent people that ultimately, the Rainbow Daytona is for.

And frankly, due to their extremely low production numbers, Rolex doesn’t need more customers. Even if a good customer orders it, it may take months, even years before the watch is completed and shipped to the retailer.

Via sources close to Rolex that we have spoken to, VIP customers that are not as recognized and well-known as some of these celebrities may have to go through a vetting process to order one. Before they are able to get one, Rolex may interview the client to learn more about them and to decide whether they are “worthy” of being allocated one. This explains a bit about just how special the Rainbow Daytona is, and the prestige that Rolex puts in this watch.

As a result of the scarcity and the difficulty, the vast majority of people will never be able to buy one from a Rolex retailer for the retail price. And as a result, the prices on the secondhand market are absolutely exorbitant. Expect to pay about 750-800k USD for the 116595RBOW and if you want the pavé dial with diamond-set bracelet, you’re generally looking at a price of more than 1 million dollars!

This is with a retail price of just over 100K USD.

The prices for the Rainbow Daytona demonstrate just how special and rare these watches really are. As a matter of fact, the Rainbow Daytona is considered the rarest modern Rolex watch today. For many Rolex collectors, it is the ultimate collector’s watch for this reason.

Rolex Day-Date Rainbow dials

As mentioned, the only true Rainbow Rolex is the Rainbow Daytona with a gem-set bezel. But Rolex has also taken inspiration from this watch and applied it to Day-Date 36. The Day-Date 36 didn’t get the rainbow gradation bezel, but what it did get was rainbow-style dials where the baguettes have been selected according to their colors to create a rainbow effect. Exactly the same as on the rainbow Daytona.

So if you’re a fan of the Rainbow look but don’t want to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars, the Day-Date with rainbow dial can be a suitable, more conservative choice.

List of Rolex Rainbow models

Daytona 116595RBOW (2018-)

Daytona 116595RBOW pavé dial (2018-)

Daytona 116598RBOW (2012-2021)

Daytona 116599RBOW (2012-)

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Day-Date 36 128235

Day-Date 36 128239

Day-Date 36 128238


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