Rolex is almost a victim of its own success. So many love them that it might get annoying to see your watch on a lot of wrists. While some might enjoy the camaraderie of comparing notes with those who wear the same watch, others might feel too much a part of the herd and want something different to discuss during cocktail hour. Particularly popular models are the Submariners and the GMT Master, which I discuss here. But what to do if you adore Rolex yet want to be different than your cohorts? Several companies, including Bamford and Sons, Pro Hunter, Project X and Kindler and Thorpe offer modifications to your watch so that you can claim the mantle of unique watch in your circle.
Bamford and Sons is a posh London shop that caters to those who appreciate British lifestyle and heritage. They have everything from sleek women’s wear to luxurious leather goods as well as a fresh garden shop. Expanding their purview, Bamford and Sons opened up a watch department. They were the first company to realize people would dig a customized Rolex and started their business back in 2004 with iconic Rolex models but now include other models including Rolex’s baby brother Tudor. Bamford and Sons allows you a lot of latitude to tailor your watch, including dial color and PVD treatment. You can choose the color of the indices, luminesce, date, second hand, logo and even have up to 8 characters of your own personal text. There’s a really cool Watch Customizer on their site, where you can play around to see what the watch will really look like before you purchase it. However, you can’t send in one of your own watches for special treatment; you have to work with their stock.
Pro Hunter has picked a niche, tricking out brand new Rolexes with PVD coating, their inspiration vintage Rolex sport models from the 1950’s and 1960’s. The Diamond-Like Carbon comes in “original”, “matte”, or “stealth” finishes and the glass is treated with anti-reflective coating on both sides. The name Pro Hunter originated because clients wanted to wear their sport watches while on the hunt. It wouldn’t very well do to attract a snarling tiger through the glint of case or watch crystal now would it? Only working in limited editions for exclusivity, they engrave a number on the back of the case and print their name on the dial. Pro Hunter compares themselves to AMG, the company that upgrades Mercedes Benz. Perhaps for legitimacy, they list some of their customers on the website. They include actor Orlando Bloom and President Bill Clinton.
Project X approaches customization from a similar perspective, but will treat any watch. Their patients include Patek Philippe, Rolex, and Audemars Piguet. They have three different routes to go, depending upon what you want. The Bespoke Editions give you the opportunity to customize an original watch and the service is by private consultation only. The Black-Out Editions are a collection featuring new watches that have been treated with Military Grade Black Coating, while the Limited Editions sport in-house designed customizations, again taking inspiration from sports watches from the past, such as the James Bond / Military Submariners and manual wind Daytonas. In addition, these editions are limited in number to just 24 or 28 pieces. Project X boasts clients such as actor Mark Wahlberg, singer 50 Cent and racecar driver Stefan Johansson, who also has his own line of watches, which I discuss here.
Instead of applying a coating or tailoring dials, Kindler and Thorpe provide engraving services to enhance the case. They employ master engravers, those who have an award-winning reputation working on firearms. Each watch is conceived as a whole, with a theme driving the design. Because the work is hand done, by nature each piece is unique. It can take up to 100 hours to complete one watch. Kindler and Thorpe work on brands such as IWC, Patek Philippe, Panerai and Audemars Piguet. You can read about a tricked out Kindler and Thorpe in more depth here.
It’s important to note that none of the above mentioned companies are associated with the brands and therefore any original warranty would be void due to the modification. However, all provide their own warranties if something should go wrong with your watch.
Caveat: From a legal perspective, changing a watch from its original manufacture condition is a slippery slope. While you can privately do whatever you want to your personal property, certain dealers have gotten in trouble for selling modified goods, with lawsuits brought against them. A case in point is Cartier watches enhanced with after-market diamond bezels.
Still, if you want to go off the beaten path, customization may be the way to go.