The subject of aftermarket customization is a hot one to say the least. What used to be common practice with dial replacements, aftermarket bezels, and diamonds added on every surface possible has been replaced with a new mindset, “DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING.” Watch collectors of every brand these days clamor around the idea that every single detail on a watch should be as original as it was from the day it was purchased from the brand directly. So in a world of factory only, I must admit it is refreshing to see a little spice here and there thrown into the mix.
Earlier this month, Swiss custom watch shop Artisans de Genève set the internet forums on fire with the introduction of a Rolex Submariner with an aventurine dial and moonphase complication. If you’re unfamiliar with the luxury artisans, they are a by-request only workshop focusing on unique customizations of iconic timepieces (check out this tribute Daytona). Their newest client, controversial ocean conservationist Paul Watson, captain of the Sea Shepherd since 1977 and one of the founding members of Greenpeace. Mr. Watson brought his personal Rolex Submariner 116610 to the Artisans de Genève team and the results (in my humble opinion) are a thing of absolute beauty.
There are two standout features on this customized Submariner and honestly I have no idea where to start so thanks to the flip of a coin, let’s take a deeper look into the dial and bezel. Both have been formed using aventurine glass, a synthetic material made by adding several various metal oxides into a liquid gas resulting in tiny particles crystallizing as the mixture cools. This unique material gives off a scintillation like no other and is becoming more commonplace in the watch industry in recent years (much to my joy). If you’ve never seen one of these handsome dials in person I highly recommend you go and try any watch with aventurine glass on in the flesh. The dial resembles a starry night...the kind of night sky you only see when you get as far away from city lights as possible and the stars shine like never before.
The second notable difference on this watch is of course the moonphase right there at six o’clock. Historically, the lunar phase has played an important role in sailing, assisting in calculating one’s position out on the open waters. For that reason it seems to make sense to me that dive watches should feature this sort of complication from time to time and I was pleasantly surprised to see it added here. The moonphase disk is made of fired enamel and the actual twin moons are made of silver and are hand engraved to give the utmost detail possible.
While the case measurements remain exactly the same, Artisans de Genève took great liberties with the finishing of the traditional 116610 case and bracelet. The sides of the case have been milled out in order to create a recess and were then micro blasted for a contrasting finish. The main case surfaces were satin brushed with hand polished bevels and matching finishing done to the bracelet for seamless integration.
As if all this weren’t enough, we see one final addition never found on a standard Submariner with an exhibition caseback (after all, if you’re going to customize a Rolex you might as well go all out, right?) The standard Rolex Calibre 3135 undergoes a facelift of its own with hand beveling and polishing throughout. Topped with a white gold rotor that has an aventurine glass insert and every little detail is just perfect.
So after all that what do we think? In case you haven’t realized just yet, I absolutely love it. While Rolex may not be producing a watch for every single person on Earth, they are still relatively mass produced watches that are pretty cookie cutter. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with that especially in regards to the Submariner. There’s a reason that watch has been trusted in some of the most extreme circumstances possible and why it’s survived so many decades. I just really enjoy seeing a bit of light-heartedness when it comes to watches (though definitely not light on the wallet with a cost of 32,500 Swiss Francs and the provision of your own Submariner). I’ll admit, this amount of customization might be a little extreme.
For those of us who want to dip our toes into it, there’s the world of watch straps which have made “customizing” the look of our watches much easier and more attainable. It’s no moonphase on, but I do love the look of our Everest rubber and leather straps on a Submariner.
By: K. Wells