Custom watches: the only timepieces that are truly unique
If a customised watch is good enough for Sheikh Khalifa, it’s good enough for us all…Neil Churchill January 20, 2015
When it comes to watches, unless you own a highly limited-edition timepiece or an antique model that has long been out of production, the chances are your piece of wrist candy is certainly not unique, and owning it makes you little different from anyone else with a AED 50,000-limit credit card.
It is ironic really, when you consider that a watch is perceived to be an imprint of a man's individual taste, his soul, and yet there are literally thousands - if not tens of thousands - of others walking the earth with the exact same strap, dial, face and hands ticking away on their arms.
How do you own a watch that is truly unique then? It's simple really; you go direct to a watch customisation company and design your own timepiece. Just as you would take your Mercedes Benz to Brabus, you take your Rolex Submariner to the watch world's equivalent. Easy.
But there are only a few companies with the expertise to pull apart a Swiss-made watch, engrave the dial, bejewel the hands, emboss the date indicator, and then put it back together in perfect working condition. Here are three names we'd recommend if owning a truly unique watch is something you crave:
Bamford Watch Department
Specialising in steel sport watches, Bamford has been around since 2003 and lives by its slogan: "If you can imagine it, we can create it." The English company offers its buyers a range of classic timepieces that can be customised to their own specification. They have also created some limited edition pieces based on some of the most desirable models from Rolex, Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet amongst others, and have collaborated with other well-known names including Conde Nast Traveller and Snoopy - both seen below.
Bamford's real USP though, and what the company is known for, is its use of a military grade PVD - physical vapour deposition. The process gives your watch a military grade coating to create a blacked-out look, better described as a diamond hard flawless black coating.
Once your watch is as dark as the night, you can customise it further by adding luminescent indices, bespoke dials and case engravings. We know what you're thinking - surely this process nulls the validity of the original brand's warranty? Yes, it does. But Bamford offers its own two year warranty and a lifetime guarantee on the watch's coating. So you've got no reason to worry.
Prices are mainly on application given the nature of the customising business. But for a limited edition model, you're looking at upwards of AED 65,000. For details visit: bamfordwatchdepartment.com
Blaken uses a method called DLC Coating, which is actually two procedures that give the watch a jewel-like surface - the method was originally developed for use as protective wear in motorsport and aerospace technologies.
Blaken's founder, Hendrik Jürgens, got the idea for his company after partying in Miami with the likes of P. Diddy and Donald Trump. He noticed that everything in the world of the wealthy was personalised, from cutlery through to champagne. Everything that is, except for high-end watches. Back in Germany, Hendrik took two years to test and build prototypes before launching the business, and its USP of coating watches in diamond-like carbon. The process takes 18 days minimum, with each watch personally checked by Hendrik before leaving the workshop.
While giving the watch an extreme toughness, DLC is an impressively thin coating. To give you an idea, the following is from Blaken's website: "A micrometre is a thousandth of a millimetre. A standard sheet of paper creates an average thickness of around eighty micrometres. DLC matt layers, by contrast, are only one to two micrometres thick, and at the same time are up to eight times harder than steel, which makes the wear and scratch resistance of DLC coatings superlative." Yep, that's impressive. Blaken says contact with chemical materials such as solvents, acids or alkaline substances have no effect on the DLC coating - why on earth your watch will encounter acid is beyond us - and that it is an ideal protective layer for diving, sailing or mountaineering. It also contains no allergenic metals, so it should sit problem free next to your skin. Lovely.
Prices are on inquiry, but come with three years worldwide warranty. For details visit: blaken.com
Titan Black does more of the same - DLC coating - but it also offers a near-limitless array of customisation options, from changing the colour of every bolt, hand, marker and rim to adding text, logos, patterns or images. Its real selling point though is a Light Delivery System, something so incredibly unique and high-end that His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan, ruler of Abu Dhabi and president of the UAE, had three watches especially commissioned - one for himself, one for the crown prince Sheikh Mohammed and one for the UAE's founder Sheikh Zayed.
Controlled by the watch's chronographic buttons, the LDS has the power to illuminate a customised watch face, specifically the customised designs or symbols on the dial. By way of example, Sheikh Khalifa's trio of modified Rolex Daytonas each feature the corresponding owner's name in blue script. As you can see, it looks phenomenally good. We'd even go as far to say it is the pinnacle of watch customisation. Aside from the LDS, Titan Black also offers to DLC-treat and customise watches already owned by customers, including pre-owned vintage watches - although a warranty in this case is not guaranteed.
The British company also offers to source ultra-rare watches and vintage watches on behalf of clients, and to advise on the building of private timepiece collections. More of a watch concierge service then. Prices start at AED 55,000 but can go up to AED 390,000 for a limited edition. How much for a LDS like Sheikh Khalifa's? A lot. For details visit: titanblack.co.uk