July 1, 2017
by Zen Love
Bamford Watch Department has been providing aftermarket modification services for watches from various luxury brands since around 2003, and has often created a stir in doing so. Best-known for their customized Rolex watches that have included everything from colorful coatings to cartoon characters, these were always done as unaffiliated, third-party projects. Now, Bamford announces that they are officially sanctioned to go nuts on Zenith watches and have introduced the relationship with some examples of Bamford-customized Zenith Cronometro TIPO CP 2 and Zenith Heritage Pilot Ton-Up watches. This is the first time for Bamford to be officially authorized by a Swiss watch brand and represents a big step for the British watch customizer.
The brand’s less-than-official relationship with Rolex in particular has been the source of some controversy. Just see our article here with hands-on pictures of various customized Rolex watches by Bamford, as well as background on the company and its founder George Bamford. Rolex themselves and many others seem to think that their watches are “perfect” as they are. While we can surely agree that people can do whatever they want to an item that they purchased and own, there is a lot of potential debate on the nature of Bamford’s business that benefits from well-known luxury names – but it is also true that they offer some high-tech proprietary options and exclusivity, for which there is clearly a market and that is not available from the brand. Of course, subjective issues such as whether the customized watches are desirable improvements on the originals or if the final products are attractive to your tastes is another matter.
Rolex is known to be ultra-conservative in terms of designs (with notable exceptions here and there) and does not even offer its own watches with black-colored cases despite a thriving aftermarket that specializes in offering this. Colorful and “experimental” design choices are, however, not unknown to Zenith. We might have further predicted polarizing releases, bold styles, and more collaborations after the unstoppable Jean-Claude Biver took a more active role in the company himself that is part of the LVMH group where he is head of watchmaking. While Biver has named Julien Tornare Zenith’s new CEO, Tornare continues to report directly to Mr. Biver in his “renewal of Zenith” mission. Whether or not this particular relationship is a direct result of Biverian forces, it does seem to indicate movement and fresh thinking at the brand.
So, while not a huge leap for Zenith, the new partnership is a big deal for Bamford as it is the first time for them to be working directly with a Swiss brand in an authorized capacity – and working with Zenith can be seen to provide greater legitimacy to their customized watches from other brands too. Practically, the relationship means that Bamford will be getting watches, parts, and other supplies directly from Zenith and working closely with the manufacture. The watches will be sold through Bamford’s retail network as well as their website where one can also customize one’s own watches online.
The online customizer follows a formula and gives you the ability to instantly see how a design change will look, offering control over a range of aesthetic details that differ according to the model. One can even separately choose the color of the Zenith star above the logo. The customizing tool is mostly about different colors, but one can, for example, choose from among ten dial colors and then further match the date wheel (or not) and choose the date text color as well. Since a lot of the dial elements are printed (rather than separate applied components) it makes sense that these would be easy to change up with different colors, but Bamford does offer more options and control than a lot of similar tools out there. As an aside – and I’ve said this before – why on earth does Casio not offer something like this for G-Shocks? I mean, you can officially do it with a pair of Converse Chuck Taylors.
While the online tool is fun, working directly with individual clients is a big part of Bamford’s business, and for the right price, they will probably do their best to accommodate further requests or creative ideas. If you want Sponge Bob on your watch dial where his hands indicate the time à la Mickey Mouse – it doesn’t hurt to ask. That said, standard versions designed by Bamford are available as well, further functioning as examples of what is possible. So let’s take a look at the Zenith watches that Bamford has customized to illustrate their new relationship – again, they are based on the Zenith Heritage Cronometro Tipo CP-2 and the Zenith Heritage Pilot Ton-Up.
The Zenith Heritage Cronometro Tipo CP-2 (that we saw hands-on here) has been customized by Bamford with a black coating for the steel case and different colored highlights on elements such as the hands and markers. The sandy black or asphalt-like texture of the dials and hands looks cool in Bamford’s pictures that mostly show models with green or “aqua blue” highlights. The base Cronometro Tipo CP-2 watch is 43mm wide (water resistant to 100 meters), runs the El Primero caliber 4069 automatic chronograph movement, and has a price of $7,700. You can see more details about the watch in the above linked-to article.
The Zenith Heritage Pilot Ton-Up (hands-on) as shown here is given a similar treatment as the Cronometro Tipo CP-2 with the blue and green highlight colors. The original Zenith Heritage Pilot Ton-Up has a similar interesting dial texture, but I think I actually prefer Bamford’s more modern interpretation – even though I am skeptical of how colored coatings age and show wear. The Ton-Up also uses the El Primero 4069, is 45mm wide and 100m water-resistant, and has a price of $7,100 for the version not modified by Bamford.
Bamford launched a new site in conjunction with the announcement of their official relationship with Zenith, and you can find more customized or customizable models there including El Primero and Zenith Heritage 146 Chronomaster watches – as well as other watch brands. Naturally, prices will vary depending on different models and customization options, so most will be “on request,” but they are starting from around £8,000. bamfordwatchdepartment.com | zenith-watches.com