Bamford Watch Department have just launched the Commando Edition, welcoming a new era of watch customization by employing a versatile coating called Graphite Powder Coating (GPC). The Bamford Watch Department Commando Edition colour scheme offers the chance to pick-up a Rolex Submariner or Rolex Milgauss coated with one of three unique GPC colors (desert, combat, or forest). In addition to the extremely hard-wearing and aesthetically novel exterior, the famous customizers will also provide a new dial for these classic Rolex watches. The dials, which appear to be of sandwich construction, feature big, bold, luminous numbers at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock, and a large downwards-pointing arrow at 12. The hands of each watch will also be repainted to match your chosen colorway. The date has also been removed on the Rolex Submariner. Bamford Watch Department knows how to transform a watch – their résumé is hard to match – but is it something that appeals to watch lovers the world over, or just a select few?
Customized luxury watches are, in my opinion, contentious to the core. I can hear two very loud, very well-reasoned arguments in my head, and I’m never sure which one I agree with. On the one hand, the very notion of luxury infers exclusivity: By that token, a one-off piece, a unique model, the rarest of the rare, should be the Holy Grail. And yet, there’s something about taking a classic timepiece and individualizing it that comes across as almost disingenuous, as disrespectful, as cheating…
I frequently tell people that the Bamford Watch Department X DRx – Army Vs Navy – ‘Popeye’ – Rolex Yachtmaster Gold is the coolest watch I’ve ever seen. I mean it. I love that watch. But would I choose it over a regular, untouched Rolex Yachtmaster if I actually had to shell out the cash for either? I don’t know if I would. I love the look of it, but in my mind, it lacks provenance. I view it in the same way as an antique cabinet collector might view a Victorian cabinet fitted with brand new hinges from the local DIY store. Sure, it’s almost original, and it may even look better, but it isn’t genuine, it isn’t ratified by the brand, it has no place in history… These are my misgivings when it comes to customized watches. They do not apply to every customized watch ever made (because it depends on who has commissioned the customization and to what end), but from an individual perspective, these fears will forever persist in my mind. But that doesn’t mean they can’t look cool; that doesn’t mean I can’t spend hours/days/weeks lusting over the latest off-the-wall concept; it certainly doesn’t mean I don’t want to wear one. I’m just not sure I could afford to do that to a collectors’ piece. But if you can, you might be interested by the Bamford Watch Department Commando Edition customized Rolex range.
Underneath the sexy coatings, we know what to expect from Rolex. The Rolex Submariner and the Rolex Milgauss are well-established classics. Their timekeeping is excellent and their build quality historically excellent. Rolex are known for using a higher grade steel than most any other brand. When you combine this with the Graphite Powder Coating, you’re left with an incredibly durable material, composed of a tried-and-tested substrate, and an avant-garde superstrate that could hold the keys to an aesthetic explosion.
I don’t know what consumers will make of the colors used in this range. They are clearly subject-specific and suitable selections for that reason, but I think both browns are quite unpalatable. The forest green is really cool, and reminds me of the NATO-issue Walther PP9 handgun that entered the public consciousness when Pierce Brosnan chose the plain black version as his Bond’s firearm. So the green looks good, in my opinion, on both the Bamford Watch Department Commando Edition customized Rolex Submariner and Rolex Milgauss, and the Milgauss hand looks particularly neat in ice grey with a red tip. But I’m more interested in the coating itself than what they’ve done with it. If it is possible to apply richly colored surface treatments that have a greater resilience and more refined aesthetic than PVD, we could be about to see a whole wave of brightly-coloured luxury watches. This may strike dread into your heart, but I’m kind of excited by the prospect.
Any advances in material science are of interest to me. It seems that watchmaking goes in phases of development: Sometimes the industry becomes obsessed with tourbillons and hundreds of slight tweaks hit the market simultaneously. The best traits are retained, and the phase transforms into something else. Right now, it feels like case-coatings are getting due attention. Bamford Watch Department might not produce calibres, but they might well be kick-starting a new movement in watchmaking. If you enjoy these limited series from companies like BWD, you’ll probably enjoy the packaging in which these interesting pieces are supplied. The price for the Bamford Watch Department Commando Edition customized Rolex Milgauss is £12,000 and the price for the Bamford Watch Department Commando Edition customized Rolex Submariner is £13,000. Both the customized Rolex Milgauss and the Rolex Submariner are available in all three colors. bamfordwatchdepartment.com