Rau-Tech is a German company that exists in the boutique world of high-end watch customization. This microcosm of horology is mostly proliferated by custom Rolex watches, which are becoming quite popular. One of the most common questions I have been getting from people all over the world is, “when will Rolex start to offer black colored watches?” They seem to feel that with all the custom Rolex watches out there with black cases, there seems to be a less-than-insignificant demand. That may be so, but I don’t think that Rolex is going to start offering black-coated Submariners or other models now or anytime in the near future.
Why? Well, think about it. Rolex is first and foremost about respecting their past. The first question they will ask themselves is, “have we offered back-colored watches in the past?” If the answer is “no,” then they will move on. Of course, one can retort with the fact that in the past there were no particularly good ways of durably coating metal watches in black or other colors. PVD-coating and other techniques are relatively modern. So given these new technologies, does Rolex have a good incentive to offer black-coated watches?
Of course the answer will depend on whether or not Rolex can do it “differently,” in a very high quality and exclusive way. The most important issue to Rolex is that they may appear to simply be following the trend set by companies they do not themselves authorize. Rolex customizers have no official relationship with Rolex. One of the reasons that new custom Rolex watches are so expensive is that the companies that make them first need to purchase the watches themselves, and then modify them, and then sell them and make some profit. Of course, these companies have discreet relationships with Rolex dealers so they aren’t paying full retail, but in any event, the price for a custom Rolex watch is still very high today.
Companies like Rau-Tech, Project X, Bamford, and Pro Hunter offer new custom Rolex watches, but also engage in bespoke projects where clients send in their new or existing Rolex watches to be customized. This latter part of their business is certainly more niche, but in the end what you have is a Rolex customization business that has a lot of high costs associated with it. On top of that is the issue of quality. A stock Rolex watch has a very high level of detailing and expert finishing. Custom Rolex watches, to satisfy that core “Rolex experience,” must offer similar levels of quality, and that is hard to deliver.
In fact, one of the primary reasons that Rolex does not authorize or endorse many of these custom watch projects is because they fundamentally alter the Rolex parts, including the cases and often the dials. If Rolex is selling a particular level of quality and finishing, much of that is altered by an after-market customizer. Customers interested in customizing their own watches or buying “new” customized watches are encouraged to inspect the quality carefully and be aware that the brands in many instances will not service or give issues to the people who own customized products. Like a car, if you modify your model, you can easily risk voiding your warranty.
So let’s just leave it that customizing your watch, be it a Rolex, Audemars Piguet, or Panerai (the three most common luxury brands to be customized these days) is a rich man’s game, and not without its risks. It isn’t for the typically cautious consumer and it should not be done to your most treasured timepieces. So let’s say that after being aware of all this, you are interested in buying a custom Rolex or other timepiece. Traditionally, you have been highly limited by colors – until now.
The purpose of this article – lest I forget – is to discuss the colorful coating options offered by Rau-Tech. There are two very important points here. First is that Rau-Tech can produce rather durable coatings in a range of never before offered colors, and second, that they can coat specific sections of metal, as opposed to entire surfaces.
Rau-Tech separates these “procedures” into two distinct services. The first service is Rau-Tech Duramantan, which is when you want entire surfaces coated, and Rau-Tech Colormantan is where they coat only parts of surfaces while leaving some of the base metal exposed. Duramantan allows for different colors to be used, but only one color per each entire surface. Colormantan is for the more creative customization and allows for much more unique creations. While the example images of Rolex watches with the Colormantan treatment tends to show squared areas of color, in reality, there is no particular geometric or shape restrictions, and the client can opt for more or less what they want, if we understand Rau-Tech correctly.