Is Black the New Gold in Customising Watches?

You’ve probably seen a JCB vehicle in your life before. If not, you may be aware of the manufacturer from the British band Nizlopi and their one-time chart-topping song. If you’ve not, or if you need your memory refreshing, allow me to introduce you to the brand started 72 years ago by Joseph Cyril Bamford and how it fits into the world of customising watches.

From Construction to Customising Watches

JCB is one of the biggest names in its own industry (the world’s third largest construction equipment manufacturer in fact), an industry far removed from the delicacy of watchmaking. However, the son of JCB’s chairman, George Bamford, turned his attention towards the seemingly limitless sector of customising luxury watches more than a decade ago, and he hasn’t looked back since. The question is, does heavily modifying your watch – even going as far as the change its colour and physical properties through the process of Diamond Like Carbon coating – positively or negatively affect its resale value?

Customizing Watches - Green Rolex
Image supplied, courtesy of Bamford Watch Department

Specialising in the coating, re-colouring, emblazoning, and engraving of Rolexes, the young Bamford has carved a new luxury niche that seems only to be growing, and inspiring newer kids on the block to do the same thing.

The quality of Bamford Watch Department’s work is outstanding, and the level of personalisation truly stunning. What, however, are Bamford, his team, and other companies like theirs doing to the value of the watches used as their canvas?

Provenance Versus Personalisation

Let’s start with the basics: If you’ve got an original reference 6241 Paul Newman Daytona, you should think very carefully about having it restored to ‘original’ condition, let alone slamming a novelty seconds hand on it and painting the dial bright green. Customising watches that are historically vintage or even superficially renovating them should be as sacrilegious as desecrating a vestry.

Customizing Watches - Popeye Rolex
Image supplied, courtesy of Bamford Watch Department

If, however, you’ve just bought a new Submariner, the value assassination is not in any way absolute. The crucial thing is exclusivity. As long as your watch is limited (and therefore will not be replicated by Bamford or any other such company) it should become quite collectible (assuming you’ve chosen an attractive design).

Modern Rolex references are, for many reasons, unlikely to become quite so collectible as their forerunners and are therefore modifiable. But think about relevance; think about buying in to something that has a wider appeal than aesthetics alone.

Sometimes Bamford and his peers produce licensed watches featuring classic characters like Snoopy, Pop-Eye, and Micky Mouse. These watches appeal to at least three groups: Rolex collectors, watch lovers, and fans of the characters in question. That kind of applicability makes the after market modification route quite attractive, but as long as you love your wrist candy you won’t ever feel hard done by.

About the Author

Fell Jensen is a Swiss-trained watchmaker working as an industry analyst.

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About the Author:

Fell Jensen is a Swiss-trained watchmaker working as an industry analyst.