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The Coolest Rolex That Never Was

We’ve talked about modding before here at the Everest Journal. Modding has long been a staple of the Seiko community (a whole subculture plus a micro-industry has grown around modifying Seiko watches). And of course, whether Rolex lovers admit it or not, Rolex modding is alive and well, but mostly contained to plain bezels and dials being changed out for bejeweled versions.

And there’s Tempus Machina, who begins with a stock Submariner 114060 and has their way with it until it looks like it was picked up from James Bond’s nightstand in Dr. No.

And then there are the guys doing custom homage work in their basements, with their pad printers and Sherline lathes and mills, turning out fantasy homages of watches that never were, but should have been. There’s another subculture that’s grown up around this phenomenon. Check Instagram for some of those watches.

Thirdly, there are the Frankenwatches, those with all genuine parts, but mixed and matched to create a watch that, for nefarious intent, often misrepresent the piece in question. These end up being the horological equivalent of the product of an automobile chopshop.

And often, watch nerds attempting the moral high ground cast a wary eye on these activities, especially the homage work, especially when it comes to Rolex. Too much opportunity to lop over into the realm of the fake.

But recently, one fantasy homage caught our eye on the Rolex Forums, that of forum member pkwu’s mash-up between a Rolex Explorer II and a Coke GMT-Master II. Basically, it’s a white-dialed Explorer II, reference 16570, with the rotating bezel assembly from a GMT-Master II, reference 16710.

Apparently, the GMT-Master’s bezel assembly married perfectly to the raw case of the Explorer II. All the mash-up required in the way of mechanical skills was removal of the Explorer II’s stationary bezel, and the reassembly of the GMT-Master II’s bezel assembly in its place.

Swappin’ parts. Shade tree watchmaking in its purest form, folks.

So here’s the thing. Call these made-up watches what you will, some of them are pretty cool. We sure think this one was. And it appeared that virtually everyone who weighed in on the forum post thought so too. A few even called it a poor mans albino 6542 (the white-dialed GMT-Master of when only a few known examples exist).

One or two commentators were a bit reserved, but just as many wanted to know the details of the modification, to the extent of asking for a sequence of photos. To which another replied, “Most genuine Rolex owners do not want to modify their watches - so, you won't find more information on here [the Rolex forums],” with the recommendation of “If you really want to go to the dark side,” check for information on how to do the conversion on other forums.

So if you really want a unique Rolex watch, and you have pockets deep enough to create a miniature junk yard of Rollies, you too can sharpen your micro-mechanical skills and create a unique piece that’s all genuine Rolex.

Don’t complain if some call it “FrankenRolex,” but we do wish Rolex would take notice (in a good way), and release some of these “new” designs.

 

-Ed Estlow

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