The romance of Rolex is powerful. The allure and appeal of the brand is vast and not something to be taken lightly. Rolex is not just a top watchmaker, but according to at least one study, is the most reputable brand in the world. This means that the Rolex name – along with the quality of their products – is something that many consumers want to show on their wrist.
When a stock Rolex watch is coated with a particular color, put on a new strap, or engraved (as the MadeWorn Rolex reviewed here), it is very much a customized Rolex assuming it retains the original movement and dial. Once you start to meddle more with elements such as the dial and fundamentally change what Rolex has released from their factory, while keeping the Rolex name on there – I don’t think you are still selling a Rolex.
It is actually somewhat ironic because over the last couple of months, I’ve thought about what type of Bamford customized Rolex I would ever have made for myself. This has come about after seeing a lot of Bamford timepieces and asking the very natural question of “what would I want?” One thing that kept coming to mind is that I would want the Bamford name to be more prominent than the Rolex name. I even considered removing the Rolex name altogether from the dial, as I would see the watch very much as art, and the artist being George Bamford.
So, would removing the Rolex name from a Bamford Watch Department watch help or hurt their sales? I am sure that George Bamford’s initial reaction to this idea would be negative. As an enormous Rolex fan, I am sure that he would take issue with the fact that the brand he so loves, that is the subject of so much time and effort by him and his staff, would all of a sudden lack the Rolex name. Bamford customizes watches from other brands too, such as Panerai, Patek Philippe, and Audemars Piguet, but bespoke Rolex timepieces are still the cornerstone of his business.
While it would have to be handled properly, I think I could make a very strong argument that Bamford Watch Department timepieces – for those that go above and beyond merely coloring the case of a stock Rolex timepiece – would be better off removing the Rolex name from the dial altogether. Most people would clearly know that the watch is a Rolex underneath, and on the rear of the watch could be a fun statement (George is always a fan of fun statements) such as “A Rolex At Birth, Now Graduated To A Bamford” – or something in that vein.
While there aren’t many analogs in the watch world, the car world has a few. Consider RUF, for example, that begins with stock Porsche automobiles and, in some instances, heavily modifies them. RUF, based in Germany, totally takes the Porsche badges off the exterior of the car. Their clients understand exactly what an RUF began life as, and I think appreciate that RUF is about taking a stock Porsche and making it – well, different. Isn’t Bamford more or less doing the same? Will the Bamford Watch Department piece not be perceived more favorably by watch lovers as well as perhaps Rolex themselves by simply taking the Rolex name off the dial and replacing it entirely with their own name.
This would position Bamford not in the category of questionable ethics and taste (a position some place them in), but more in the position of a design tinkerer and experimenter which compliments the larger world of Rolex – as opposed to being an entity which to some appears only to ride on it.
George Bamford himself has more than likely entertained the idea of producing base Rolex watches without the Rolex name and has probably dismissed the notion for what he felt were good reasons. Though, perhaps he has not considered it from the perspective that I have just mentioned. Right now, people judge all Bamford Rolex watches at the same level they judge Rolex watches (extreme scrutiny). Though, if they see Bamford as being less about riding on the Rolex name and more about lovingly playing with core Rolex designs on top of the best-made watches in the world, I think they would not only be more forgiving, but also more amenable to both the concept and execution of what the Bamford Watch Department does.
The Bamford Watch Department Commando Edition watches are totally cool. I love the special metal cases and presentation documents, along with the slick designs which are very cool and fashionable. With that said, the custom dials and other work lead me to feel that these timepieces should no longer bear the Rolex name, to be simply replaced with the Bamford name exclusively. The brand’s customers will know that the timepieces originated as Rolex products, and over time, I think it will lead to a net gain for George Bamford’s business if they carry themselves more like RUF, and less like those companies who would seek to ride on the name of a greater brand. The issue is that Bamford Watch Department is actually a great brand, and they just need to take a bit more “ownership” over what they do. The Bamford Watch Department Commando Edition watches are priced at £12,000 for the base Rolex Milguass model and £13,000 for the base Rolex Submariner model. bamfordwatchdepartment.com