Bamford Abandons Rolex, Instead Focuses On LVMH Watch Division Brands

Bamford Abandons Rolex, Instead Focuses On LVMH Watch Division Brands

Bamford Abandons Rolex, Instead Focuses On LVMH Watch Division Brands Watch Industry News

I recently ran into George Bamford – of Bamford Watch Department – who shared with me that he will soon entirely stop customizing Rolex watches for customers. This news is sort of a big deal given that Bamford put his name on the horological map by being the world’s premier aftermarket customizer of Rolex timepieces. Anyone in the know always thinks of Bamford when it comes to serious Rolex watch customization, and any time someone sees a black-colored Rolex, chances are the Bamford name comes to mind. While Bamford still has some Rolex watch orders to fill, one of the world’s most famous modern-day Rolex collectors is putting “the crown” behind him.

Bamford Abandons Rolex, Instead Focuses On LVMH Watch Division Brands Watch Industry News

George Bamford will instead focus the majority of his time to working with Jean-Claude Biver and the LVMH Watch Division that's under Mr. Biver’s leadership. Biver oversees Hublot and Zenith, while currently serving as the CEO of TAG Heuer. Bamford quietly debuted this relationship recently when introducing a few limited edition Zenith watches customized by the London-based timepiece modifier. It now turns out that this is just the beginning, and that Bamford will be working closely with Zenith and TAG Heuer, as well as possibly Hublot for future models.

Bamford Abandons Rolex, Instead Focuses On LVMH Watch Division Brands Watch Industry News

Bamford Abandons Rolex, Instead Focuses On LVMH Watch Division Brands Watch Industry News

Is this what Jean-Claude Biver means when he regularly talks about the importance of love? It certainly seems this way if you interpret “love” as also meaning “cooperation.” While Rolex is often called “the crown” (given their logo), Jean-Claude Biver is often referred to as the “king” of the watch industry. He is certainly among the most powerful. Mr. Biver’s success is often linked to his ability to cleverly create synergies where they are available. Effective cooperation is a cornerstone of Jean-Claude’s management style, which is perhaps why he was able to make such a compelling argument to George Bamford about working together. According to Jean-Claude Biver, "George (Bamford) has proven that he knows how to "tune" a watch and also that he is able to make a very classic watch into a trendy watch."

Bamford Abandons Rolex, Instead Focuses On LVMH Watch Division Brands Watch Industry News

Bamford, who was clearly excited to work more closely with Mr. Biver and his teams, shared with me the incredibly pragmatic argument presented to him by Jean-Claude Biver. It isn’t a secret that Bamford’s relationship with Rolex was tenuous at best. Bamford was not an official Rolex dealer, and in order to do business needed to purchase Rolex watches in the market, and then later modify them. Rather than support the practices of an interesting modifier, Rolex took the stance that Bamford, like all watch customizers was removing the “authenticity” of a Rolex rendering them (among other things) not eligible to be serviced by Rolex service centers. That means even though Bamford never touched the mechanics of any Rolex watch, the company itself refused to repair or service Bamford-modified Rolex watches. The move prompted Bamford to create his own service department.

Bamford Abandons Rolex, Instead Focuses On LVMH Watch Division Brands Watch Industry News

If you know George Bamford, then you know just how much of a Rolex mega-fan he is. The entire concept of modifying Rolex timepieces began when he wanted to change the look of a Daytona model he had. Soon Bamford became the go-to name for high-street shoppers looking for a familiar, albeit more exclusive timepiece shopping experience. Getting a totally personalized, or otherwise uncommon modified Rolex watch proved to be a winning formula for many luxury consumers seeking enhanced personality in their choice of watch.

Bamford Abandons Rolex, Instead Focuses On LVMH Watch Division Brands Watch Industry News

Bamford Abandons Rolex, Instead Focuses On LVMH Watch Division Brands Watch Industry News

Bamford is no stranger to working with watches other than those produced by Rolex. Bamford Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, and Panerai watches have all been made in the past. With that said, the archetypal Bamford creation was always a Rolex – until now. So what did Jean-Claude Biver tell George Bamford in order to have him switch sides? The argument was simple. Biver presented Bamford with the question of whether it was better to focus so much of his energy and passion to a brand that didn’t support what he did, or to instead do the same thing with a supporting and encouraging partner. When put that way, Bamford made what he felt was the obvious choice. Biver has long since been a Bamford fan, known for sometimes even using the maverick’s customized watches as examples to his own design teams of colorways or styles that he liked. Taking the step of bringing George Bamford under his wing represents a new phase in their relationship – as well as a broadening of Jean-Claude’s influence over the cutting edge of high-end watch style and taste.

Bamford Abandons Rolex, Instead Focuses On LVMH Watch Division Brands Watch Industry News

It appears that Bamford will be both a sort of supplier to the LVMH Watch Division, as well as a retailer of customized watches from Zenith and TAG Heuer. According to Mr. Biver, Bamford will mostly be involved in limited edition, versus main production watches. More so, Bamford will be able to sell some of the resultant watches via his own sales channels, while in other cases the watches he works with brands like Zenith or TAG Heuer on might also be available through their own sales channels. Bamford also isn't under any exclusivity agreements, and as Biver makes a point to remark to me, he is a "believer" in "open concepts" in general.

Bamford Abandons Rolex, Instead Focuses On LVMH Watch Division Brands Watch Industry News

Bamford Abandons Rolex, Instead Focuses On LVMH Watch Division Brands Watch Industry News

Such non-traditional working relationships are uncommon in the typically conservative watch industry. Under Jean-Claude Biver, such conventions don't matter much. For him, what appears to be of primary importance is that the LVMH Watch Division and Bamford are a good fit, and should be able to benefit one another continuously. It's no secret that Jean-Claude Biver routinely enlists help and advice from people around the world he sees as being tastemakers and trendsetters. Bringing George Bamford under his umbrella further demonstrates the importance of artistic creativity (as well as performance and value) in the promotion and sale of luxury watches today.

Bamford Abandons Rolex, Instead Focuses On LVMH Watch Division Brands Watch Industry News

Bamford Abandons Rolex, Instead Focuses On LVMH Watch Division Brands Watch Industry News

Time will show exactly how the relationship between Bamford Watch Department and the LVMH Watch Division will develop itself. Will Rolex learn to miss him? What I also find interesting is that Bamford is confident enough to abandon his reliance on the popularity of Rolex in order to continue growing his brand. My guess is that while there is a loss in having your products associated with the Rolex name, the supportive connection and promotional help of the LVMH Watch Division more than makes up for any loss. We will keep an eye out for what the LVMH Watch Division and Bamford work on modifying as a limited edition next. bamfordwatchdepartment.com

  • Ross Diljohn

    Turning a classic watch into a trendy watch?….FML.

  • Berndt Norten

    A tragic turn of events. To think I’ll never get to improve a Rolex with Bamford’s help! Wait, there’s still KRAVITZ!

    Thanks, ABTW, for providing this invaluable news. It really is ‘big news’!!

    • Sheez Gagoo

      In the world of watches, not that big by the way, it is, indeed.

    • TrevorXM

      This is gigantic news for phonies and poseurs and tasteless idiots with money they never earned. Enormously important.

    • It is watch industry news. Much as I’m critical of some things JCB does (or how he does them), he is one of the few players who is willing to shake up the stodgy Swiss watch industry. Can you imagine other watch groups (Swatch, Richemont, Kering) doing this sort of thing? I’m not saying it is, or is not, a good move, but it stirs things up a bit. So it’s news worthy even if you don’t like it. Cheers.

  • BNABOD

    So maybe I missed this but bamford was buying Rolex from ads then modified them. Ok so what is the difference in me buying from an AD then handing the watch over to Bamford to customize it? Why would you stop this (aside that the BRs are ugly to me)?
    Wasn’t there a threat that the ADs that sold direct to Bamford could close their Rolex license? However if u get the guys /gals interested in customization to hand over their goods I see no reason to stop unless directly threatened by rolex.

    • At the point (in some cases) where they re-printed the Rolex name or crown logo they were probably in violation of trademark laws (well, in some countries). But you are right, you have a right to modify you property as you see fit. It’s just that when reselling things with non-authorized trademarks you step over the line legally (Bamford steps over the line of taste and quality all of the time IMO).

      • BNABOD

        Good not agree more with your statement in parenthesis

  • Didn’t Rolex flat out tell them to stop ruining their watches? I seem to remember reading something of the sort on a German watch blog.

    • commentator bob

      That is most likely the truth. You can make a tacky, ugly, poor quality watch that looks like a Rolex, but you cannot print “Rolex” on the dial. Bamford learned what Invicta already knew.

      • Berndt Norten

        Exactly

    • Sheez Gagoo

      I posted a link a few days ago.

      • Yup, that was it. I knew I read it somewhere. My German amounts to ordering another round of beer, but I think I got the basic message of the blog post, yes?

        • Sheez Gagoo

          ??

      • commentator bob

        Can you repost it?

  • commentator bob

    I am very confused about who is in charge of vandalizing LVMH watches, Alec Monopoly or Bamford.

    Rolex should thank their lawyers, the cease and desist letter worked.

  • Pistol Pete

    As far as I am concerned, a Bamford-customized Rolex is akin to painting a transformers logo on a classic Mustang. To each his own, but I think they look ridiculous.

  • Sam Soul

    I like that vintage looking Zenith…

    • Until you look closely – then you see how rough it really is.

      • Sam Soul

        The 45mm case will not fit my delicate wrist anyway…

  • Radium head

    today is a good day not because of this stuff about Biv & Bam. I think I’m going to go out in the yard pic some apples and bake 3 or 4 apple pies .Berndt if anything truly interesting comes up let me know

    • Berndt Norten

      Before you’ve baked dem pies
      You told us what you was baking out
      And baking in

      • Radium head

        Apple walnut done in the convection oven at the cottage

  • Berndt Norten

    Was Bamford ‘confident enough’ to leave Rolex or did Rolex send a lawyer’s letter? Is this the Sean Spicer Syndrome at play?

    • TrevorXM

      Well, you know the real reason why Bamford gave up on customizing Rolex watches, right? There’s a new game in town. See my post above…

      edit: I just looked down below and you’re already there!

  • Raymond Wilkie

    That Bamford PP is criminal !

    • Berndt Norten

      Everything about Bamford is farcical and perhaps Rolex thought it was criminal too.

      • Tempvs Mortvvs

        That’s why they are a good match for Biver. They share the same values or lack of them.

  • BrJean

    This is the beginning of the end for Rolex.

    • TrevorXM

      The writing is on the wall. The Great Man has walked away from elevating the brand. It’s all over but the crying.

  • Berndt Norten

    Est-ce naïveté ou complicité

    • WINKS

      Ni l’un, ni l’autre. De la stupidité, pure et simple.

  • TrevorXM
  • TrevorXM

    Wow, look how horrible that row of Bamford butchered Daytona’s look!

  • cluedog12

    When life gives you lemons, made lemonade.

    • Tea Hound

      And when life gives you s**t, make a McFlurry.

    • Berndt Norten

      When life turns on the heat, Degree

  • David Williams

    It would be interesting to see how Rolex themselves might approach black versions of the Explorer, Explorer II, GMT-Master and Cosmograph Daytona – though for Submariner, Yachtmaster and others, maybe black wouldn’t be seen as appropriate and many would agree. Given Rolex’s legendary caution and glacial pace of evolution, they would presumably have no interest in doing something so adventurous!

    • Gokart Mozart

      Exactly. That that is why you have Bamford.

      Maybe give Rolex about 15 years.

  • Hands90

    Anyone else realize that the chrono hand is not center on the petek. Seems like these guys need to try a little harder.

    • I think that’s the parallax effect (the shot is not precisely head-on).

      • Hands90

        I think it might be the poor craftsmen effect.

  • WolverBilly

    “Anyone in the know always thinks of Bamford when it comes to serious Rolex watch customization.” That’s some serious douche commentary about a serious douche watch mauler. Oh, if only I was in the know. Is there a secret handshake? I think it must involve talking with you butt, somehow.

    • Kuroji

      Can you name another outfit that does Rolex customization? Bamford was the only one *I* could think of.
      Perhaps “in the know” in this case literally means, people who know the name of at least one Rolex customization company.

      • Sheez Gagoo

        KRAVITZ!

        • Kuroji

          You’re in the know!

      • Gokart Mozart

        Tudor…..

        • Kuroji

          Lol!

  • Tea Hound

    I don’t think Rolex will miss Bamford, and I fully support Rolex refusing to service these. I wouldn’t mind the whole customisation thing if it was done well – but every Bamford I look at has obvious problems with fit and finish, and that’s just not good enough given the calibre of the watches they work on, and the prices they charge.

    I expect Biver thinks he’s being clever, but he’ll just hand off the relationship management to an underling and move on to his next publicity generator. But who will deal with the Zenith customer who’s had their watch spoiled by Zenith’s official (but non-Zenith) customiser? Not Biver, I expect.

    • Gokart Mozart

      Its the same as customizing cars. Some look good others do not. Some don’t touch the mechanicals, others do.

      People getting their knickers in a twist for no good reason.

      • Chaz

        “Rolex should do something interesting with the Oyster line”

        They did: Sky-Dweller

  • Ranchracer

    Yawn. Next?

  • Roger Goodgion

    “Anyone in the know always thinks of Bamford when it comes to serious Rolex watch customization”

    Did you feel a little bit of your soul die when you typed those lines?

    ” Anyone in the know always thinks of Montezuma when it comes to serious Diarrhea.”

    there, fixed.

    • Kuroji

      You say revenge, I think of Khan and Montezuma.

    • Berndt Norten

      I don’t think he knows any better.

  • TrevorXM

    I’ve already commented way too many times on this “story”, I will stop after this one. But there’s just something about this Bamford clown that annoys me, and I’m not a big Rolex fan. So I had to do some quick research to find out how this guy botches one Rolex after another and somehow remains in “business” and watch bloggers like Ariel Adams give him credibility he doesn’t have. I mean, using the term: “Anyone in the know always thinks of Bamford when it comes to serious Rolex watch customization” ? Is that meant as a joke? So I looked into this Bamford, and I found out how he manages to stay afloat (not news to some, of course) :

    “Son of Lord Bamford – the man responsible for the rise of his family’s
    construction company, JCB, as well as a staggering car collection –
    George could easily have rested on his father’s laurels. Instead, after
    spotting a gap in the market, he set up his own watch customisation
    company, Bamford Watch Department…”

    Of course. How could it be any other way?

    • Berndt Norten

      It’s like what Butch said to Esmeralda in Pulp Fiction. ‘This is America, honey. Names don’t mean s—.’ It would seem that words don’t mean s—. Perhaps some people are simply in over their heads. There is no sense of critical analysis a freshman at a half decent university might acquire. There is a failure to judge. Once it was ‘forbidden to forbid.’ Now it’s forbidden to be critical. At least here.

    • palettj

      Bamford is England’s version of Caterpillar but bigger I believe. He is one of the heirs.

      • Yeah, seems to be a JCB heir: Founder – Joseph Cyril Bamford, son Anthony Bamford (current CEO) and then his son (Joe’s grandson) George Bamford.

        So how could he refuse to work for JCB (Biver) – maybe he thought he was being brought into the family JCB (tractor) business.

  • Joe

    After a really crap day at work, this article and the photos provided the best comedy to light up my mood…

  • I expect there will be some champagne opened at Rolex HQ tonight.

  • Pete Pete

    bumford – devaluing fine timepieces since 2003.

    kinda the ultimate luxury. spending money a nice luxury timepiece and then spending even more money on top of that for rendering it worthless – instead of using a hammer for that, as normal people would have to do.

    • Or, I’m so rich I can destroy the value of a watch and it doesn’t even hurt.

      • Berndt Norten

        Or ‘stupid’

    • Gokart Mozart

      Maybe some people want a Rolex, but don’t want it to look exactly the same as 5 million Submariners or 5 million day dates.

      Maybe they do not want it to look like it did 40 years ago but just bigger and uglier.

      Maybe, if Rolex decided to be more exciting and adventurous then a beige wall, people would not Want a Bamford.

      Maybe if Rolex listed to some of the watches its customers wanted Bamford may not have lasted for a year.

      • Chaz

        *apologies ahead of time*

        What did the Polack do with his newly won Olympic gold medal?

        He had it bronzed.

        • Thats a “portagee” joke out here in Hawaii ne bra.

      • Pistol Pete

        Then your point must also apply to LVMH then, right?

        • Gokart Mozart

          No because Zenith (LVMH) and most brands do continually play around with the products and and add complications or hands and materials. Does not always work, but they do try new stuff regularly, rather than once in a blue moon.

          Even companies that are quite conservative are alot more about giving their customers choice.

          Eg look at the PP Nautilus or AP royal oak, or even ALS with the Lange 1.

          It is not just design but complications as well. Why not put a Cellini movement in a oyster case?

  • Kuroji

    I notice that Conan O’Brien retired his blacked-out Milgauss in favor of a Panerai.

  • I was in London recently and stayed in Mayfair, so I strolled about and walked past what I’m pretty sure is Bamford’s HQ. Oddly nondescript. Walked past Bremont too (Sunday morning so nothing in Mayfair was open). https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e7b7fb83ded232096e41fddb06a510d5abee2ce5570d00b73d09c85b580b685d.jpg

    • Gokart Mozart

      Did you get to go Bond Street, or Harrods to check out some watches or was it a non work related break.

      Actually when you guys goon holiday do you go to places where there are no watches 😉

      • I was in the UK on non-watch business. I overnighted in London on each end of the week long trip. I did walk down Bond Street and saw that Marcus (whom I did a retialer article on) was all gone.

    • Berndt Norten

      There’s an old economic theory, recently applied to medical inflation–some say ‘supply creates demand.’ I tip my hat to Bamford. He must have known that setting up shop in Mayfair (with its exorbitant rents) would confer ‘status’ on his brand. He supplies, and the rich douches demand. Kind of the reverse of James Carville’s twenty dollar bill in a trailer park theory, but the same sort of low cultural literacy and aesthetic applies!

      • Or maybe Bamford set up shop there because as Willy Sutton famously never said, “That’s where the money is”.

        • Berndt Norten

          And he’s laughing all the way to the… Bankford

    • Chaz

      Looks like Bamfart blacked out half the building.

  • Yan Fin

    As long as we have Kravitz – who cares? And even if not, once again – who cares? Seriously, who cares?

    • Berndt Norten

      I care, Yan Fin. I care. I care deeply.

      • Yan Fin

        I apologize, it was insensitive, not at all though through, and just plain rude of me. Would you find in your heart whatever it takes to forgive and forget?

        • Berndt Norten

          Love means never having to say you’re sorry. Then again Ryan O’Neil is a douche. But you and me we is tight, good hombre.

  • otaking241

    This seems like a strange development. Insofar as the Bamford model “worked” it was in turning iconic and desirable but ubiquitous watches into something more exclusive and unique. Rolex in fact enabled their success by remaining so conservative about its designs and so truculent in opposing variation and customization. Sure you can get a Datejust in a few dozen combinations of dial, markers, bezel and bracelet but even they all hew very close to the source, and the most popular models like the Sub are pretty much locked in to a scant handful of options. If you wanted something different your only option was to go after-market, and in that space Bamford was successful in becoming the most known and trusted name.

    By contrast, I can’t think of a genuinely iconic model from any of the LVMH brands that isn’t also offered in a huge variety of flavors. Which leads me to wonder what LVMH is getting from the partnership? Bamford gets a cooperative partner and warranty service for its products, at the expense of a certain degree of built-in desirability. But what does LVMH think that Bamford can do for them that they aren’t already doing for themselves? My first thought was “This is kind of like Mercedes buying AMG” but I don’t really think that analogy holds…

  • Mark1884

    Great news for Rolex.!!!!
    No more watches destroyed by the loser hacks at Bamturd !

    • Berndt Norten

      Bamturd. That’s brilliant

  • Yan Fin

    Wow, tuned Tag, this is priceless. Like tuned Russian Lada.

  • palettj

    Ablogtowatch has offically jumped the shark with articles like this and copy that reads, “Anyone in the know always thinks of Bamford when it comes to serious Rolex watch customization.” What a joke.

    • Well that’s what came to my mind (Bamford). But “serious” as in seriously bad.

  • Sheez Gagoo

    The black Daytona is horrible. The lack of markers on the dial makes the chrono useless.

    • But you can still use the tachymeter (so long as the splotchy black finish doesn’t make you go blind).

      • Sheez Gagoo

        It almost did. Some entity from inside the Bumfart said to me, to walk into the light. But not the comfortable, peacefull voice. More the Poltegeist one.

        • Like that old expression – “The light at the end of the tunnel”. But really it’s the light of an oncoming freight train, ha ha.

  • SuperStrapper

    Read: bamford didn’t want to get squished by a legal battle with rolex.

    • Gokart Mozart

      TBH, if Rolex wanted to they would have done it about the time they realised people were buying them.

      I guess they would have looked into and thought there is a chance they could lose.

      That would cause a bigger problem than some one cutomising a couple of hundred watches a year that have already been paid for. It’s not like they are stolen.

      They probably sell less Bamford Rolexs in a year than Rolex make in one hour.

      • SuperStrapper

        I just find the coincidence a bit too cute that this Bamford announcement comes right on the heels of Rolex making an announcement about denouncing the customisation of their watches.

  • Berndt Norten

    War is peace. And Bamford abandoned Rolex.

    • Berndt Norten

      However will Rolex continue without the support of Bamford?

      • IG

        They will but with tears in their eyes.

  • WINKS

    Goodbye Bumfart. You shan’t be missed.

  • Ulysses31

    I wonder how much having “Bamford” on the dial kills the resale value? I guessing it’s a lot, to the point where it just isn’t worth it unless you live in some oil-state where you get paid to do nothing.

  • HectorAsuipe

    The murdered-out Milgauss was kinda cool. Would fit in a collection of 30-50 watches in the >$10k range just fine. Oh, you don’t have such a collection?

  • deCosmos

    Bumturd & Co should not be allowed to go anywhere near a Rolex, let alone a Patek Philippe.

  • PR

    A company that prides itself in ruining watches, ooh how the rich will do anything to be “unique”

  • Mike Rehfuss

    The SWISS MADE on the bottom of the blacked-out Daytona is off-center from the Crown.
    That’s not hard to miss. Between that, and the bleeding out of the red pip on the Commando Sub, I don’t think these guys have the best attention to detail.

  • Overwatch

    Phew!