Rolex has always taken pride in its collection of diamond and precious gem watches, even hosting its own gemology department in-house where some of the best stones in the world are sourced and set into timepieces. While factory gem-set Rolex watches and off-catalog Rolex jewelry watches are certainly not new, what is relatively recent is the mainstream hype around them – particularly around diamond Rolex sports watches such as Daytonas, Submariners, GMTs, and the like. Given that we’re in full festive season, it’s the perfect time to dig into the top three factory gem-set Rolex watches for that extra-special sparkle.
1. Rainbow Daytona
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The modern hype around gem-set Rolex sports watches can be traced back to the Evererose gold Rainbow Daytona ref. 116595RBOW, released in 2018. Funny enough, Rolex already debuted two other Rainbow Daytona chronographs (the yellow gold ref. 116598RBOW and the white gold ref. 116599RBOW) five years earlier, but it was the Everose gold version that became the must-have luxury watch among celebrities and collectors.
Like all Daytona watches, the Rainbow sports a 40mm case but unlike the rest, this one trades the customary tachymeter bezel for a ring of multi-colored sapphires laid in a gradient. Adding to the sparkle are the diamond-set lugs and crown guards, in addition to the baguette-cut sapphires on the dial that serve as hour markers.
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Rolex makes a few versions of the Rainbow Daytona including a black dial version, a full diamond pavé dial version, and one with a diamond-set Oyster bracelet too. All spectacular.
2. Submariner SABR
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The Submariner SABR, or reference 116659SABR to be exact, is one of those elusive off-catalog Rolex watches that only a few in the world will ever get access to. The 40mm white gold watch, which was seen publicly on the wrist of mega factory gem-set Rolex collector Mark Wahlberg, replaces the traditional dive timing bezel for one set with blue sapphires and diamonds. The diamonds stand in for where the five-minute intervals would be on a dive scale, and a closer look at the precious gem bezel reveals lighter-colored sapphires where the first 15 minutes would be.
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The lugs and crown guards are also embellished with diamonds while there are two dial flavors the choose from. The first is a sportier blue dial with the traditional lume plots for hour markers whereas the latter is a full diamond pavé dial with eight round sapphire-set indexes. What’s more, Rolex offers the option of an unembellished Oyster bracelet or a diamond-set one. The SABR is a stunning gem-set interpretation of the world’s most famous dive watch.
Fun fact: SABR is short for saphir/brillant, which in French Rolex-speak translates to sapphires and diamonds.
3. GMT-Master II SARU
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The red and blue “Pepsi” is the most famous of all the GMT-Master bezels. How does a precious-gem execution of that bezel sound to you? If that sounds awesome (as it does to me), then say hello to the Rolex GMT SARU – or saphir/rubis.
That’s right, the blue portion of the bezel is composed of sapphires, the red of rubies, and where the white numerals would normally be, there are diamonds instead. There’s even a triangular-shaped diamond at the 0 position.
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Rolex has made a few SARUs over the years including a yellow gold 116758SARU, a white gold 116759SARU, and most recently, an Everose gold 126755SARU. The GMT-Master may have been developed for commercial pilots but the SARU watches are more geared towards the private-jet crowd.
The Collectibility of Factory Gem-Set Rolex Watches
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Clearly, factory gem-set Rolex sports watches aren’t to everyone’s taste; and they’re not meant to be. These are ultra-rare Rolex references developed for a niche audience.
Regardless, they’ve become exceedingly collectible in today’s market commanding eye-watering high prices. It’s not unusual to see an Everose Rainbow Daytona listed for $500,000 for the “plainer” version and over $1 million for the diamond pavé dial and bracelet. For context, the Rainbow Daytona retail price is around $125,000.
Whether or not these designs are to your liking, the quality of gems used and the flawless execution of these Rolex jewelry watches can’t be denied.