I recently visited the headquarters of London-based “Bamford Watch Department” in order to get a more intimate view of this fascinating company which continues to be so very controversial. A warm and highly congenial man, George Bamford is perhaps one of the world’s most active and ardent Rolex fans and collectors – which is slightly ironic given the amount of criticism he receives for what his company Bamford Watch Department (BWD) does to Rolex replica timepieces.
I’ve personally never been ambiguous about my appreciation for what Bamford does, nor am I insensitive to those who are not particularly taken with his work. With that said, I’ve never quite been able to pinpoint the issue many (not all) watch lovers have with what Bamford does. That is, until now, as I believe I have solved the problem of “what is Bamford doing that irritates so many watch lovers while at the same time pleasing others.” Thanks to the Bamford Watch Department Commando, I think I have a very good answer – so let me know if you agree.
UPDATE: The pictured watch is actually a pre-production prototype which is not detailed like the final versions will. The image of the watch above with the black background is of the final model. So… one of the newest timepiece collections from Bamford Watch Department are the “Commando” watcheswhich take stock Rolex Submariner or Milgauss watches and modify them with special case coatings (that will come in a few colors) as well as custom dials produced by Bamford. The Bamford Watch Department Commando watches even come with very cool packaging to complete the military watch theme that George Bamford put so much time and effort into.
Hands-on, the Bamford Commando watches are pretty cool. The base-Rolex watches have been given a matte coating in military green (which will also have other colors in the near future) along with “sandwich” style dials which are meant to offer enhanced luminant while also integrating the look of Replica Rolex Explorer watches to these models which are clearly not Rolex Explorers.
Bamford has access to some pretty high-tech industrial coating processes which is how they are able to do things which others cannot. Can you name a lot of other watches with a durable green coating? I can’t. This is, in theory, a sort of big deal, and uses a Graphite Powder Coating (GPC) technique which I find to be quite fascinating. PVD coating, for example, (which is how most metal watches are coated in black) is limited in the colors that it can produce.
This particular model is the Bamford Commando Submariner (which is what I am calling it) because it begins with a base Rolex Submariner 114060, but makes it look quite different. The case and movement are all stock, while the coating, dial, and elements of the hands’ paint are done by Bamford. To be clear, this is not a timepiece Rolex will warranty or even service. Fortunately, Bamford covers all of that.
The downsides to the Bamford Watch Department Commando watches are their comparatively high prices, as well as some of the detail work around the paint. When we debuted the Bamford Watch Department Commando Edition watches, a lot of the audience correctly pointed out that the red paint applied to the 12 o’clock position on the rotating bezel was done in a manner that had red paint “bleed” outside of the upside down triangle space. This is certainly something luxury watch buyers are looking to avoid, and something Bamford should seek to avoid as well. At the least, it isn’t something you’d ever see from a production Rolex watch.
While the custom dials produced by Bamford are very cool, they can’t directly compete with the often pristine dial quality of factory Rolex replica watches. Moreover, it is unclear exactly how the green coating for these Bamford Watch Department Commando Edition watches will wear over time, which is a further source of unpredictability. If there is anything that Rolex has tried for years to embody in their marketing, it is that owning a Rolex is extremely predicable – in a good way.
So this leads me to why I think watch lovers are often upset with what Bamford is doing. It isn’t Bamford’s designs, creativity, or concepts which are at issue. What is at issue is how those designs seek to borrow from the Rolex name, and in a way that I believe is beginning to verge on possibly unwarranted. In short, at what point is a Bamford Watch Department customized Rolex, no longer something that should have the Rolex name on the dial?
Bamford Watch Department as well as the other Rolex customizers out there are free to purchase new Rolex watches, offer bespoke treatments to them, and sell them. The question is to what degree can these watches be modified and still bear the Rolex name. Would a Bamford Watch Department timepiece without the Rolex name (even though it is clearly a Rolex underneath) be as successful? Or would removing the Rolex name from the dials fundamentally change the value proposition of these timepieces for the intended consumers?
I want to spend a minute talking about the type of person who buys a Bamford timepiece – of which there are many. I’ve spoken to George Bamford about this on several occasions, and what seems to be a continuing theme among Bamford customers is that they are wealthy, headstrong, independent thinkers, lovers of items made just for them, and those who certainly use their timepieces to make a statement about themselves. These are also individuals who respect time-honored institutions (such as Rolex). Thus, the company’s clients, just like George Bamford, are huge fans of Rolex, but are in a place in their lives where they want their Rolex timepieces to be either completely unique for them, or part of a much smaller production of models that allows them to make a unique statement while wearing a very respected timepiece.
The romance of Rolex is powerful. The allure and appeal of the brand is vast and not something to be taken lightly. Rolex is not just a top Rolex replica watchmaker, but according to at least one study, is the most reputable brand in the world. This means that the Rolex name – along with the quality of their products – is something that many consumers want to show on their wrist.
When a stock Rolex watch is coated with a particular color, put on a new strap, or engraved, it is very much a customized Rolex assuming it retains the original movement and dial. Once you start to meddle more with elements such as the dial and fundamentally change what Rolex has released from their factory, while keeping the Rolex name on there – I don’t think you are still selling a Rolex.
It is actually somewhat ironic because over the last couple of months, I’ve thought about what type of Bamford customized Rolex I would ever have made for myself. This has come about after seeing a lot of Bamford timepieces and asking the very natural question of “what would I want?” One thing that kept coming to mind is that I would want the Bamford name to be more prominent than the Rolex name. I even considered removing the Rolex name altogether from the dial, as I would see the watch very much as art, and the artist being George Bamford.
So, would removing the Rolex name from a Bamford Watch Department watch help or hurt their sales? I am sure that George Bamford’s initial reaction to this idea would be negative. As an enormous Rolex fan, I am sure that he would take issue with the fact that the brand he so loves, that is the subject of so much time and effort by him and his staff, would all of a sudden lack the Rolex name. Bamford customizes watches from other brands too, such as Panerai, Patek Philippe, and Audemars Piguet, but bespoke Rolex timepieces are still the cornerstone of his business.
While it would have to be handled properly, I think I could make a very strong argument that Bamford Watch Department timepieces – for those that go above and beyond merely coloring the case of a stock Rolex timepiece – would be better off removing the fake Rolex watches name from the dial altogether. Most people would clearly know that the watch is a Rolex underneath, and on the rear of the watch could be a fun statement (George is always a fan of fun statements) such as “A Rolex At Birth, Now Graduated To A Bamford” – or something in that vein.
While there aren’t many analogs in the watch world, the car world has a few. Consider RUF, for example, that begins with stock Porsche automobiles and, in some instances, heavily modifies them. RUF, based in Germany, totally takes the Porsche badges off the exterior of the car. Their clients understand exactly what an RUF began life as, and I think appreciate that RUF is about taking a stock Porsche and making it – well, different. Isn’t Bamford more or less doing the same? Will the Bamford Watch Department piece not be perceived more favorably by watch lovers as well as perhaps Rolex themselves by simply taking the Rolex name off the dial and replacing it entirely with their own name.
This would position Bamford not in the category of questionable ethics and taste (a position some place them in), but more in the position of a design tinkerer and experimenter which compliments the larger world of Rolex – as opposed to being an entity which to some appears only to ride on it.
George Bamford himself has more than likely entertained the idea of producing base Rolex watches without the Rolex name and has probably dismissed the notion for what he felt were good reasons. Though, perhaps he has not considered it from the perspective that I have just mentioned. Right now, people judge all Bamford Rolex watches at the same level they judge Rolex watches (extreme scrutiny). Though, if they see Bamford as being less about riding on the Rolex name and more about lovingly playing with core Rolex designs on top of the best-made Rolex replica watches in the world, I think they would not only be more forgiving, but also more amenable to both the concept and execution of what the Bamford Watch Department does.
The Bamford Watch Department Commando Edition watches are totally cool. I love the special metal cases and presentation documents, along with the slick designs which are very cool and fashionable. With that said, the custom dials and other work lead me to feel that these timepieces should no longer bear the Rolex name, to be simply replaced with the Bamford name exclusively. The brand’s customers will know that the timepieces originated as Rolex products, and over time, I think it will lead to a net gain for George Bamford’s business if they carry themselves more like RUF, and less like those companies who would seek to ride on the name of a greater brand. The issue is that Bamford Watch Department is actually a great brand, and they just need to take a bit more “ownership” over what they do. The Bamford Watch Department Commando Edition watches are priced at £12,000 for the base Rolex Milguass model and £13,000 for the base Rolex Submariner model.