It’s not exactly a new phenomenon but modifying luxury assets to create something totally unique is definitely a growing trend amongst the super-rich, and super-suave.
Many consumers (and analysts for that matter) have a different interpretation of ‘luxury’, but it seems that emotional attachment to and investment in an item plays a big part in our desire for it. Whatever the nature of the reaction to the concept of luxury – which is a very variable thing – the reaction is usually strong. It means different things to different people, but one thing is for sure – most consumers of luxury like to be regarded as individuals. As a result, the increase in modifying luxury assets has grown and grown.
But by embellishing your wrist and immediate status, are you simultaneously diminishing the return you can expect from you investment?
Purchasing Motivations are Crucial
Modifying luxury assets aftermarket are no longer the fodder of back-alley chop shops. The quality and artisanship of the modern companies offering these services are undeniably awesome. By going through established modifiers like Bamford Watch Department, or MotorCity WatchWorks, or by working with world class engravers like Made Worn, Joanne Ryall, Sam Alfano or Jeff Parke, you can be confident in receiving an item that transcends its original design. But by pursuing this path you automatically remove the watch’s provenance (of course, with less storied luxury items that doesn’t matter so much as in the case of this engraved Apple Watch…).
A modified Rolex is no longer a Rolex. It’s something else entirely. It has the name power, sure, but it no longer sits within a catalogue of reference. It’s an outlier, a rogue, a vagabond creation that must be valued on its own merits. And crucially, those merits must submit to one thing alone: Taste.
To secure a positive return on your investment you really only need two willing bidders with deep pockets to step up to the plate. But what is the best way to achieve that kind of attention? The answer is simple: Quality trumps all.
Beauty is Steel Deep
It wasn’t so long ago that Panerai released a collection of Safari-themed watches, with expert case engravings from famed gun maker Purdey (also owned by the Richemont Group). Given their catalogued status, these limited models went for huge amounts – far more than you’d have to pay to take a regular Panerai and have it engraved yourself – but the end result was sublime.
Making an after-market modification of this quality is only possible if you work with a master engraver, but the rewards are potentially huge. The risks are there, but if your chosen artisan executes to their ability, there’ll be nothing else like it in the world. And that, after all, is what true luxury is all about.
About the Author: Fell Jensen is a Swiss-trained watchmaker working as an industry analyst.