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Then and Now: Rihanna Isn’t the Only Superstar Tied to a Yellow Gold Customized King Midas Rolex

Her vintage 70s style version just might start a trend.




Then and Now: Rihanna Isn’t the Only Superstar Tied to a Yellow Gold Customized King Midas Rolex

WHAT DO THE King of Rock and Roll and the Bad Girl of Pop have in common? Elvis Presley and Rihanna both topped the charts as singers and are recognized as superstars. Presley was followed like royalty, and Rihanna still is. And both are known for distinctive styles that are imitated widely. The King owned a customized King Midas Rolex watch, while RiRi owns a vintage one now.

The watch, which was first released in 1962 in solid yellow 18K gold, was named after another king in Greek mythology, Midas, because everything he touched turned to gold.

“Only 1,000 watches were made each with a number engraved on the underside of the bracelet, and the name of the watch engraved into the side of the case,” says watch expert, author and Faber Gallery co-owner Edward Faber.

Then and Now: Rihanna Isn’t the Only Superstar Tied to a Yellow Gold Customized King Midas Rolex

Rihanna’s customized vintage King Midas Rolex. Credit:

Presley, an avid watch collector, was gifted one of the original King Midas watches at the Houston Astrodome with the inscription, “To Elvis Presley from the Houston Livestock Show Officers 1970.” It was redesigned for him, as he was a southpaw and the watch was created for righties.

Rihanna’s Rolex is truly bespoke; it was re-imagined with intricate hand engraving and transformed from a mechanical into a self-winding watch. When I first saw it on her wrist, I learned that it was customized by Thai designer Patcharavipa. I became obsessed with finding out more about the history of this timepiece, which has become one of the star’s go-to pieces like her Briony Raymond signet ring and her link chain necklace with diamonds also designed by Patcharavipa.

Rihanna’s watch was made in the 70s, when the style became part of the Cellini collection. The King Midas is the is the heaviest gold watch ever made. It is straight on one side and angled on the other, and the dial is so thin that it is integrated into the bracelet. If you looked at it from far away, you might not even know it was a watch. It was also designed as manual winding when Rolex was known for its automatics. Faber explains, “Piaget, once a supplier of movements in the 1940s, developed another movement in 1957 — an ultra-thin hand-wound movement of 2mm height, which allowed for the design aesthetic of the Midas and other dress watches.”

Rihanna’s King Midas has been spotted numerous times but has been overlooked by some due to the way she’s been announcing her pregnancy — with bejeweled long necklaces and belts that show off her baby bump. But let’s get back to the vintage watch. Like Presley, RiRi is known for her trendsetting looks: chokers, layered necklaces, stacks of rings, high jewelry with sneakers — the list goes on. She is now starting a trend for longer necklaces, possibly bringing back crosses, and is definitely a yellow gold girl.

So will she bring back yellow gold bracelet watches? Faber says, “There was definitely a celebrity component when the King Midas Rolex made a comeback in the ’70s after Elvis wore his.” He also notes that the 70s was perhaps the last time when people wanted to wear yellow gold bracelet-style timepieces.” But jewelry is cyclical and we have already seen a comeback of 70s-style rectangular chains in necklaces and bracelet and hoop earrings in yellow gold. If anyone can launch a return of yellow gold bracelet watches, Rihanna can.


Beth Bernstein is a published author of three books and jewelry and fashion expert with 18+ years experience. A broad knowledge of the history of jewelry and fashion coupled with a background in "the story", writing, trends, design concepts has earned Beth a proven track record.



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