For true watch purists, hearing the words 'Bamford Watch Department' in the same sentence along with Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe or Rolex, simply makes their skin crawl. Originally launched by George Bamford in 2003 and headquartered in the heart of Mayfair in London, Bamford Watch Department —BWD— offers some of the most unique luxury watch customizations in the industry. A watch category of its own, started by Pro Hunter while offering PVD blackened Rolexes, this watch customization business has rapidly grown thanks to around half a dozen very reliable firms —mainly British based— that specialize in this field. Names like Project X Designs, Titan Black, Blaken, Pro Hunter, Tempus Machina or Hillary Tenzig Edition are some of the most popular.
Bamford Watch Department is the biggest and most renowned of all these companies with a total of 39 points of sale around the world and offices in cities like London, New York, Kuala Lumpur, Moscow, Mumbai and Dubai. Their 5-story headquarters nicknamed 'The Hive' in London, offers three special rooms for clients and a full in-house service facility where their customizations go through their transformation process. A company that takes pride in comparing themselves to Brabus —a little bit of a stretch in our opinion—, BWD will do the unimaginable to Rolexes, Panerais, AP Royal Oaks and Patek Philippe Nautilus watches.
A perfect example of how far BWD will go is this Rolex Cosmograph Daytona we are featuring here and that has been turned into a Bamford Heritage Daytona. This Rolex ref. 116520 had its crown guards removed, its dial refinished with a Paul Newman-style design and its traditional stainless steel bezel replaced with BWD's own custom-made 200 uph tachymetric bezel. And just as if all of the above wasn't enough, the watch was coated in BWD's signature light grey Military Grade Titanium Coating —MGTC— finish. With a slogan that reads: "If you can imagine it, we can create it.", Bamford Watch Department offers 60+ already conceived limited editions including the Heritage Collection, the Rolex Milgauss Polar Edition, the Rolex Deepsea 'SuperMatte', the Rolex Datejust II 'I Love You', Rolex Submariner 'Snowtropper' and the Commando line in three different colors just to name a few. All of these are priced anywhere between $17,000 to $30,000+ USD.
While we praise the creative eye and inspiration behind some of these customizations, as the purists we are, we need to ask the following question: Should these watches still be considered real Rolexes or simply 'franken watches' with aftermarket parts and their originality fully violated?
We often ask ourselves, how was the customization work done? Under a loupe or our macro lens, the work is kind of rough around the edges and not what you would expect from a $26,000 USD watch. Simply look at the second picture at the beginning of this article and see how rough the case looks around where the crown guards were removed.
Now, if you really want to be surprised, you might want to take a very close look at the macro below and see how sloppy the paint job is on some of the numerals, around the borders of the subdials, on the 30-minute chrono hand and where the Rolex coronet was placed. Additionally, the custom bezel is missing some black paint on its scale between the 130 and 170 units.
Do you think that the future value of this watch was drastically affected? We think so. Now, for those of you wondering if the original warranty is still in effect after getting a brand new Rolex from BWD, we are sorry to communicate that the original warranty is completely voided once the watch is tampered with and that the Rolex Service Center won't be performing any work on any customized watch of this kind. Now, on a positive note, Bamford does offer a 5-year warranty on their customized watches.
For us, the jury is still out with respect to these types of customizations. On one hand, they offer a completely unique look that is sure to be a conversation starter and a one-off type of watch. On the other hand, the amount of money you pay for that level of uniqueness isn't as sound with the potential loses at the time of resale and the suspect quality of some of these customizations. Now, are these customizations for you? The debate continues but what do you think?
Sticker Price $26,000 USD. For more info on Bamford Watch Department click here.