Why are there so many watches with rainbows? And what’s on the other side? In a trend that is seemingly 2020 specific, a slew of watch brands have released collections centered around singular models – in a variety of colorful options. I am talking brands from almost every segment of the horological landscape. This trend appeared seemingly out of nowhere, and it was not until we wrote two different articles (on two different colorful watch collections) in the span of a week that I really took notice of it. I was looking at the HODINKEE Instagram when I thought that maybe the same post had been published twice. Each image displayed a colorful, dare I say rainbow-like, array of watches. But of course, on closer and more attentive inspection, they were entirely different. Since that time, my antenna has been up for every subsequent brightly colored release that has followed.
Kermit (yes, the frog) put it best in encapsulating the appeal of the rainbow when he sang that, “Rainbows have nothing to hide.” In terms of this year’s releases, that rings true. With the introduction of watches in so many colorways, there is no color missing, and no variant to hide. I thought it might be worthwhile to round up some this year’s more brightly colored offerings, revisit what makes them interesting from that vantage point, and see if there’s a rainbow connection to be made amongst them all.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual 36 & 41
When I think of the Oyster Perpetual, it strikes me as the most stripped-down synthesis of a Rolex watch. Heck, nearly every Rolex model has the words printed right on the dial. In many ways, it is the foundational watch, the one to rule them all. As such, it has historically given off the complete opposite of a playful tone. It is the kind of watch that speaks only when spoken to, and that will laugh at your jokes only because it has to – out of fear of being returned to the watch box or, worse yet, sold.
In recent years, there has been a slow push to make the watch more “fun.” Think of the since-discontinued OP 39 range: plum dial with pink accents; blue dial with green accents; and rhodium dial with blue accents. But even those still seemed a bit reserved. In the fictional yearly convention of Rolex watches (an event only the watches themselves may attend), the Submariner and Explorer have the same conversation with the OP, year after year:
“OP, you need to cut loose and relax,” says the Explorer, mulled wine in hand.
“Yes, live a little … dive into life,” muses the Sub, still dripping wet – and also not wearing any shoes.
They motion over to Milgauss – life of the party – passed out, beer in hand, sombrero over face.
Well, years of prodding finally did the trick, with the new Oyster Perpetual in 36 and 41mm now sporting coral, yellow, light pink, dark green, and powder blue dials. This is a new year, new Oyster, and it has an entirely new personality to boot. It sports double baton markers (because it’s rebellious, and knows you prefer the single batons), and the dial colors give off an assuredness not often seen in this line. Gone are the days when you get to the call the Oyster Perpetual “under the radar.”
I happen to think the coral and yellow dials are big winners. They boast deep, rich, and bold shades of each respective color and are most reminiscent of the famed (and oft-copied) Stella dial Rolex watches of the ’70s. Because they have lost their conservative effect, I think the 41mm sizing suits the watches overall, and since the 36mm wears larger given the modern Rolex case design, it is also a great look. Aside from the colors, the inclusion of the Rolex Easylink extension system makes these “entry-level” watches even more capable, and a lot closer to Rolex’s professional models. Although Rolex didn’t intend to take part in any colorful watch trend this year, the OP certainly fits in swimmingly.
Doxa Sub 300
Speaking of Rolex, Doxa is a brand that, at one time, stood shoulder to shoulder with the “Crown” in the dive watch pantheon (and many argue still does). To be honest, I almost didn’t add these watches to this list because, in some ways, they aren’t new. In other ways, they are entirely new. In a third way, they are some mixture of old and new. No matter, here they are. The reason for my reticence is that Doxa’s colored dials are a known quantity, and the colorways have not changed with the release of this updated Doxa Sub 300 line.
It was upon seeing the colorful array of Doxa’s rubber straps, color-matched with the equally colorful dials, that I made the decision that these watches were worthy of inclusion here. The Doxa Sub 300 represents a modern upgrade over the 300T, more specifically, a return to the proportions of vintage Doxa divers. Like I said, part old, part new. The one thing I have always appreciated about the Sub 300 line from Doxa is that it has remained, for the most part, unchanged. These aren’t pretty watches, and for the people who wear them, that’s a good thing. These are chunks of metal that tell the time, and having that extra bit of color is a way to keep things light in the deep heavy waters.
Sometimes, I hear a voice in my head telling me to buy an orange Doxa – that I need one – in a soft whisper. Everywhere I see a Doxa, I see an orange dial. To be honest – and I know this is a silly thing to say in an article about colorful watches – I am partial to the black dial Sharkhunter. While I could see myself enjoying the blue of the Caribbean or the even lighter blue of the Aquamarine (for some reason, the yellow-dial Divingstar just isn’t my bag), I just have a sentimental attachment to the Sharkhunter, even though I don’t own one. Just watch how good Robert Redford makes that watch look, on a bund strap no less, in Three Days of the Condor, and you might see where I am coming from.
Cool Hunting + NOMOS Club Campus 38 Limited Edition Pride Models
I remember seeing the press photos for these watches and just immediately jiving with the aesthetic. Similar to the Rolex OP line, these colors are really specific and very attractive. It was actually these watches, and the aforementioned Doxas, that had me seeing double on Instagram, as I referenced in the opening paragraph. This collection, as a whole, supports the broader LGBTQI+ community at large with proceeds from each sale going to The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ young people. This limited edition collection is not jumping on a design trend but rather utilizing the symbolism of the rainbow to illustrate the meaning behind the watches themselves.
The Club Campus aesthetic and California dial – already a great design – arguably work better against this backdrop of colors. The only issue with these watches is that I would want to buy them all. Maybe I would wear three watches to a wrist (or forearm), and set each watch to a different time-zone. You see, that is the kind of versatility that a multicolored collection of watches offers – six time-zone functionality. The mere idea of buying six watches is bolstered by the fact that, with this release, NOMOS kept the price to an extremely approachable $ 1,650, so it would not be inconceivable to pick up all six variants in one go. The only bad news (or good news really, given the charitable aspect), is that all of these watches have since sold out.
Breitling Endurance Pro
These are a divisive bunch of watches, let me tell you – but, they are nonetheless colorful. I’ve already highlighted these as my favorite 2020 release at or under $ 3,000 (much to the chagrin of many readers), but I found the mix of professional sport capability, and the playfulness of the colors, to make something of a great watch for this day and age. We often yearn for tool watches – which, in many ways, these are. These are light, chronometer-rated timepieces, and while they may sport a quartz movement, at least it is SuperQuartz.
What makes these watches all the more endearing is the implementation of the color scheme. It is different from the other collections present on this list in that regard. On the Endurance Pro, the strap is where you really first see the color. In all, there is blue, white, yellow, red, and orange. Each watch has a corresponding, and color-matched, signed Breitling strap. The color matching is not necessarily to the dial either, but rather various nooks and crannies on the case and flange, which bring out the color in a more nuanced sort of way (if you can even call a dial design this complex nuanced). The black dial keeps things professional, and the splashes of color on the pulsation scale, crown, and pusher keeps things fun. Oh, it also doesn’t hurt that the most recent winner of the Tour de France – Tadej Pogacar – had one on wrist when he crossed the finish line.
Carl F. Bucherer Patravi TravelTec Color Edition Four Seasons
Here is a brand I, admittedly, do not follow too closely, but with my colorful watch spidey sense on hyperdrive, this collection came across my radar. This is a release that seems to have been – much unlike Rolex – devised in response to the current pandemic, as an effort to bring some color, and positivity, into the lives of the watch-loving public. Sascha Moeri, CEO of Carl F. Bucherer, said of the watches: “After the past couple of challenging months, we felt it was time to bring some bright colors onto the wrists of watch aficionados around the world.” In addition, this colorful array of watches, four in all, is meant to represent the four seasons.
This is not the kind of watch I see myself wearing, but I appreciate the utilization and implementation of some very cool complications – notably the ability to track three time-zones. I also like the idea of raising people’s spirits during such a down time. Do I think these watches will do that? I don’t know – probably not, but, as they say, it’s the thought that counts. Much like Rolex, this is another recent entrant into the colorful watch release slate, and while it may not excite like some of the other releases, its nice to see such a wide spectrum of brands, and watches, existing in the multicolored space this year.
I was tempted to insert one other watch on this list, although, it didn’t technically fit the qualifications. That was the Breitling SuperOcean ’57 Capsule Rainbow Edition: a single, limited edition watch (actually released twice this year – one with a black dial and the other with a blue dial) with a rainbow graduation on the hour markers and hands. This is a watch I have long wanted to see in the metal, and though it didn’t get released as a rainbow collection of watches per se, the dial design at least deserved mention here.
I recall once reading a quote from Alan Moore – author of the now-classic graphic novel Watchmen – about how his own creation somewhat got away from him once it was released into the world. As he put it, “It was never my intention to start a trend for darkness. I’m not a particularly dark individual.” Such is the way of trends. We don’t often know where they begin (though we can do our best to surmise), and we likewise don’t know why they begin. In the watch world, there are trends aplenty. They aren’t always obvious right away, but they become more evident with time.
In the case of the rainbow watch, we can sort of trace the trend to the 2018 release of the Rolex Daytona. Although Rolex had been making the Rainbow Daytona for years prior that, it was the 2018 version that really permeated both the watch enthusiast community, as well as celebrity culture. You can also check out noted Rolex collector John Mayer’s words on that watch in his second Talking Watches appearance – and let’s just say, he likes it a lot. In 2019, brands like AP, Hublot, and Parmigiani Fleurier joined the fray. Rolex was back again that year with the Rainbow Day-Date.
This year, however, the definition of “rainbow” has shifted. Instead of diamond-encrusted high-end watches, we have seen brands release pieces at lower price segments. The aforementioned Breitling Superocean ’57 is testament to that idea. But taking it a step further, we see the rainbow idea has turned, rather, to shaping entire collections into a rainbow, or multi-colored array, rather than confining this concept to a single piece. That trend, in particular, seems to be tied pretty exclusively to this year as we have seen from the list.
The interesting thing is how many brands released these multicolored collections, seemingly unbeknownst to one another. Maybe it was just one massive coincidence. On the other hand, maybe it was the product of a secret meeting held in Geneva (the kind that requires an even more secret handshake for entry) wherein it was decided, unequivocally, that this would be the year of colorful watches. Anyone not in compliance would be summarily dismissed and excommunicated from the group. Okay, I think coincidence is a cleaner explanation here, given the two options, though it leaves the “why” out of things. So while it looks like we won’t know the rainbow connection between all of these releases after all, maybe someday we’ll find it.