The Rolex Upgrade
Column by George Kostava
The first time I noticed an all black Rolex, it was being worn by Kanye West during Paris Fashion Week a few years ago. Frankly, I was surprised I'd let such a design slip by my attention; I watch watches closely – from studying brands to exhibitions and shows.
However this particular Oyster Perpetual Submariner was nothing like I'd ever seen before, and I honestly thought the days of real reinvention for the brand were over.
You can, of course, decorate faces with a variation of jewels forever, but let's face it – things just look better in steel or gold, sans bling-bling, espeically for PFW. But all black? Now that's something new, and I liked it.
Investigating further on the web, I found a studio called Bamford Watch Department. The company, founded by George Bamford, specialises in tuning famous watch models from all manner of different brands. The studio opened about ten years ago and has become famous for its use of military materials, such as CNV (Carbon Nano Vapour), as well as military-grade titanium coating (MGTC).In addition to the Submariner at BWD I found a fascinating edit of other Rolex models – Milgauss, Daytona, Explorer – almost the entire line of the brand. There were also some interesting pieces by Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet. For advanced users, the site also provides a form of customisation, where you can select a model and then change the colour of any item or facet, whether it be notches on the bezel, hands or face.
It was a learning experience, a totally new and individualised service. It's also worth noting that BWD actively collaborates with contemporary artists, too - for example, in 2013, they released timepieces in collaboration with the English painter and sculptor Marc Quinn (who also, you may recall, drew a self-portrait using 4.5 litres of his own blood).
This collaboration saw three Rolex Deepsea's designed with different dials, inspired by aviation, as well as The Bamford Watch Department x Marc Quinn Red Ocean Orbit (Pacific) Milgauss. "When the opportunity arose to develop a line of watches with Marc Quinn, we just could not resist. Mark is an important figure in the international art scene, and it is a pleasure and a joy to see him on our team," so says company founder George Bamford. "I've always been obsessed with time and instruments to measure it. When I met George, I realised that we needed to create something together. I am delighted with the result," adds Quinn.
Perhaps Mr West's next vocational calling will be in haute horlogerie? Watch this space.
The Bamford Watch Department not only "tune" watches to meet exact specifications, it also provides a two-year warranty on all mechanisms and a lifetime warranty on the hull.
Rolex's Oyster Perpetual Submariner
Marc Quinn. "Eye of the stories (Atlantic perspective). Capes continent.", 2012.Oil on canvas. 220 cm