Rolex Customizations by Bamford Watch Department

4:48 PM

Nothing provokes the ire of die hard Rolex fans more than the customized Rolex watches popularized by Bamford Watch Department. The bespoke luxury timepieces offered by Bamford and other customization companies are often panned in forums and seen as an assault on the brand and its design aesthetic by purists. The polarizing effect of these watches have on people is similar to the effect that street art had on the art world a decade ago, before it was embraced by the masses and featured during international art events like Art Basel. While many will always object to the practice based on principle, customizing luxury watches requires a combination of manufacturing know-how, creativity and confidence. What results are truly unique timepieces for those with deep pockets and a sense of individuality that is not satisfied by mass-produced luxury wristwatches. 

Bamford Watch Department (photo: bamfordwatchdepartment.com)
Aside from the ideological arguments against bespoke Rolex watches that are rooted in admiration for the watchmaker, there are other reasons people thumb their noses at them. One of the most common is the fact that, according to the Legal Notices page on rolex.com, any modifications or substitution of parts will result in an automatic cancelation of the manufacturer's warranty on a Rolex watch. It goes on to state that these modifications are harmful to the integrity of the piece - a sentiment often echoed by BWD's critics. Bamford addresses this issue in the FAQ section of their website, offering a 5 year warranty on their watches that supersedes any manufacturing warranty. The FAQ also answers another question many people have about the company: will they customize a watch that you already own? (The answer is no, they supply the watches.)

The other issue people have with customized Rolex watches is resale value. Swiss made luxury timepieces tend to retain their value and some rare vintage models even increase in value over time. However, when it comes to the recent trend of customizing these watches, there isn't a precedent for valuing them over time, leaving many to assume they are worthless on the secondary market. The markup for the customization seems like an insurmountable hurdle for the watch to gain anymore value and the market is much smaller for a customized luxury watch than for a more common and coveted model like the ceramic Daytona, for example. This issue would bother someone who flips their watches for different models over the years, but generally speaking, watches shouldn't be considered an investment in the first place. Someone who is willing to pay the premium for a customized watch should look at it in an investment in their wrist game, not their financial portfolio.

Submariner CS08: Desert from Bamford's Commando Range (photo: bamfordwatchdepartment.com)
In addition to offering bespoke designs to individual clients, Bamford also has a few collections of modified Rolex designs, including their Commando range, which features military-style designs in desert, combat and forrest color schemes. The Submariner shown in the photo above is a desert Commando design. The Graphite Particle Coating used is guaranteed for life and advertised as a protective coating, free from scratching and fading over time. In addition to the Commando line, they also offer models coated with all black and all white. In their Heritage range, they offer Daytonas with colorful dials and collaborations that include dials featuring Popeye, Snoopy, planes, cars and more. They also teamed up with Feld & Volk to create a range of Rolexes with carbon fiber dials.

It is the newest addition to their Heritage range, the Bamford Heritage MilSub, that had watch collectors fired up in watch forums and subreddits this week. A highly sought after military issued Submariner, the MilSub fetches over $100,000 US at auction. Hodinkee covered the release of Bamford's Heritage MilSub, designed to resemble the vintage classic with a price tag just under $20,000 US, much to the chagrin of some commenters, who needed to be reminded by moderators about their zero tolerance for trolling policy.
Bamford Heritage MilSub (photo: bamfordwatchdepartment.com)
While the debate about customized luxury watches will go on for years to come, it should be noted that the market for these pieces has grown since Bamford Watch Department opened its doors. There are now several companies that offer similar customized timepieces, including Project X and Titan Black. Engraved Rolex watches are also gaining popularity, with companies like MadeWorn and Huckleberry Ltd offering Rolexes hand-engraved with old world style motifs. Customization will never be for everybody, as the practice caters to wealthy people with a large budget for watches and a strong sense of person style. However, it does offer a fresh design perspective in the luxury watch industry that is guided by individualism and creativity and for that innovative companies like Bamford Watch Department deserve credit. For more information on Bamford, including where to find their watches around the world, visit bamfordwatchdepartment.com.

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