Audemars Piguet Celebrates the 50th Anniversary of Its Iconic Royal Oak

Lindsay Judge   |   07-11-2022

Audemars Piguet combines high jewellery with watchmaking for a celebration collection.


Audemars Piguet is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its iconic Royal Oak watch with a reinvention of the traditional rainbow in the form of two Royal Oak Selfwinding sets in 37 and 41 mm. Instead of playing with iridescent colours on one single watch, these two new watches are illuminated by an array of colourful gemstones, giving personality and audacity to the pieces. The two sets are composed of ten white gold self-winding 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.



Each watch features over 800 baguette-cut coloured stones of the exact same hue, all meticulously selected and custom-cut to offer intense and pure colours. The gem-setting was accomplished by long-time partner of the brand 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 gem-setting to new heights.



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. 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 stones featured in this exclusive collection include rubies, emeralds, blue sapphires, as well as Tanzanites, yellow chrysoberyls, pink tourmalines, amethysts, blue topaz, orange spessartites and tsavorites. These particular stones were selected for the colour and vibrancy that will glow on the wrist of their own. 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 custom-cut baguettes not only need to be clean to 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.


“With these sets available in two sizes, we went off the beaten track to create an unprecedented rainbow with ten bold timepieces, each decorated with a different gemstone. We selected some of the world’s purest and most vivid stones, including emeralds, rubies, tourmalines, tanzanites, tsavorites, chrysoberyls and spessartites. A challenge as we had to find some 800 gemstones per watch, all with the exact same colour and the highest level of quality.” Said Nathalie Barzilay, Audemars Piguet’s Head Gemmologist.



To give pride of place to the gemstones and use as little material possible between them, the Manufacture chose the intricate technique of invisible gem-setting 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. This painstaking process can only be done by a few artisans in the world and took over a month and a half per artist.


“The invisible gem-setting has influenced the entire fabrication process of the dial and bracelet links, from their construction and manufacturing, which has to be extremely precise, to their finishing. The aesthetic advantage of invisible gem-setting is that we do not see the material holding the custom-cut stones, as they are fixed from beneath thanks to metal rails.” Said Pierre Salanitro Founder of Salanitro.



Building on the Manufacture’s long legacy of high-jewellery watches, the two new Royal Oak Selfwinding sets present a new generation of rainbow watches exploring and reinterpreting the colours of the rainbow collectively. Yet, each timepiece also tells its own story based on the flamboyant gemstones it adorns. Blending age-old techniques with ever-more contemporary design, the gem-setting of these Royal Oak timepieces ultimately accentuates the collection’s multifaceted architecture, while offering unprecedented plays of light.