BY ERIK SLAVEN
If there’s one thing Royal Oaks are known for, it’s consistency. There have been many variants and complications since the original was introduced by Gérald Genta in 1972, but even with tourbillons and perpetual calendars, the series has generally remained traditional and familiar. There are always exceptions, of course, like the somewhat radical Perpetual Calendar Openworked Ceramic, but for the most part, an unchanged shape with classic tapisserie dials rules the collection. Italian Jewelry designer Carolina Bucci bucks the trend with a futuristic take on that traditional dial, creating a Tron-like interpretation of the tapisserie pattern with a rainbow effect. Set against a black ceramic case and bracelet, the design is eye-catching for sure.
2022 marks the 50th anniversary of the Royal Oak, so interesting collaborations like this are to be expected. The brand has already released some special variants like a new Jumbo and the first Jumbo with an automatic flying tourbillon. This latest model is modestly sized at 34mm in diameter and only 8.8mm in height, but it’s the third partnership with Bucci who introduced her frosted gold technique in 2016 (40th anniversary of the women’s Royal Oak) and a mirror dial in 2018. The new rainbow dial is added to a ceramic Royal Oak from 2021 with a satin black finish and polished chamfers, and the eight screws on the bezel are contrasting pink gold. The ceramic crown also has a signed pink gold insert. The integrated bracelet is a matching black ceramic and the pins are concealed for a seamless look. There are sapphire crystals front and back, and the case back is titanium with eight pink gold screws matching the bezel. Water resistance is rated at the Royal Oak standard of 50 meters.
So far, this is a classic Royal Oak with a blacked-out aesthetic, but the dial is positively futuristic. For starters, the tapisserie pattern is engraved on a sapphire disc and covered with a thin gold film (metallization technique). This disc has a special treatment for the rainbow effect and sits over a black brass base with a mirror polish. Like a prism, light is refracted into multiple colors, but the dial appears completely black from the underlying base at certain angles. The design itself was inspired by colors seen when oil mixes with a puddle on the street. As Ms. Bucci puts it, “So here you have every color of the spectrum on a canvas that is completely black, which is itself the absence of color.” The overall aesthetic mimics a hologram and is a world away from the traditional tapisserie dial, although the general concept remains with the checkerboard-like engraving. The applied indices and hands are pink gold with Super-LumiNova inserts, and a date window sits at 3 o’clock.
Flip the case over and you’ll see the automatic Caliber 5800, which isn’t an in-house movement, but is supplied by Vaucher (sister company of Parmigiani). It first appeared as an exclusive for Audemars Piguet in 2020. It has 28 jewels, beats at 4Hz and sports a respectable 50-hour power reserve. The rotor is partially open-worked and made from 22k pink gold. Decorations are limited, but very well executed with Côtes de Genève.
The Royal oak 34mm “Rainbow” in black ceramic (Ref. 77350CE.OO.1266CE.02) is limited to 300 pieces with a retail price of USD 54,200/EUR 52,500. Expensive as expected, but it’s the Bentley of watchmakers, so to speak. Carolina Bucci also designed the presentation box and her name is engraved on the watch’s case back.
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