Starting a few years ago, collectors noticed a new trend appearing in the world of Rolex customization: Rolex owners were creating “blacked-out” Rolexes through the application of a PVD coating. Soon, it was easy to find companies that would customize Rolexes and other luxury watch brands to emulate the black-on-black styling available with a PVD coating. Now, blacked out Patek Philiipes, Omegas, Tudors and Panerais are easy to spot in the wild. But why this movement towards a monochromatic look?
Consumers in 2020 are used to a high level of customization in the products and services they interact with on a daily basis. They have personalized social media feeds, insular news networks, and buying experiences that constantly promote similar products or new services to try. It’s not a surprise that today’s collectors would also expect that customization in their investment accessories.
Rolex and other watch brands do allow for a certain amount of personalization in their timepieces, but that personalization occurs within a heavily-walled garden. Rolex is more likely to encourage buyers to choose an existing model that aligns with their personal aesthetic, rather than spending money to customize one. ADs might push a Daytona for someone who wants a full dial and contrasting colors, or an Explorer II for a more monochromatic, uniform beauty. But for collectors who want the sleekness and modernity associated with a completely black timepiece, PVD and DLC are increasingly popular options.
What Is PVD and DLC?
PVD stands for Physical Vapor Deposition. Before it was used on watches, it was used in the industrial sector as a replacement for electroplating. As the name suggests, it is a method of applying a coating to metal that happens in a vacuum. In many ways, this type of finishing is superior to electroplating, as the coating used in PVD averages about 15 microns in thickness, a much thicker and stronger coating than electroplating, which is normally just a few microns thick. This means that a PVD coat is incredibly strong and durable when placed on objects.
However, when it comes to watches, the strength of this coating does have a downside. Since it is so strong, instead of the PVC nicking or splitting on impact, it simply transfers the force of the impact to the softer metal underneath, damaging and weakening the metal beneath the surface. Of course, since this process isn’t usually reversed, those nicks and scratches in the underlying metal aren’t visible to the wearer of the watch.
DLC is an acronym for Diamond-Like Carbon, which describes a PVC process that uses a very specific type of coating. A DLC creates a strong barrier between the coating and the underlying metal because of the use of carbon in the coating. It creates a low friction surface that’s incredibly corrosion-resistant. Because of its strength, companies that use a DLC coating can command higher prices for their PVC and customization work. Titan Black is perhaps the most well-known purveyor of this type of PVC coating.
What’s The Appeal of Blacked Out Watches?
There’s nothing like a blackout watch for sophistication and a bold statement, either in gloss or in matte. An all-black Rolex manages to be both subtle and intimidating when placed next to more traditional finishes. A PVC-coated luxury watch matches an emerging aesthetic, rather than anchoring your look in the past. Put simply, you can create a watch that’s truly you and truly yours, altered to your specifications, in order to match your lifestyle and aesthetic.
Should I Apply A PVC/DLC Coating on My Rolex?
That decision is highly personal, one based on several different factors. Before you invest in PVC/DLC, you might want to consider the following questions:
- Do you intend to resell the watch? A PVC coating can damage the resale value of your luxury watch.
- Is this a high-value timepiece or one with deep sentimental value? Although blacking out a watch can modernize a vintage watch, it’s also a process that’s very difficult to reverse.
- Will this be your first blacked out PVC watch? If so, it may help to start with a watch that you’re having trouble bringing into regular rotation because of its aesthetic. If you love the blacked out look, a PVC coating can transform the look of a watch in your collection, taking it from the occasional wear into high rotation on your wrist.
As you’re looking into a company to handle the process, know that some brands are more reputable than others. Looking at high-res images can help choose a vendor, as can reviews or seeing an example of their work in person.
What Are the Downsides of a PVC-Coated Luxury Watch?
A black PVC coating dramatically changes the look of a watch and not always for the better. Rolex styling and aesthetics are chosen carefully, evolve slowly, and Rolex always has an eye towards perpetuity, legacy, and timelessness. It’s altogether possible that in a few years a blacked out Rolex will look tired or dated, much the way an all yellow gold timepiece can look today. There’s also a chance that the coating will burnish, develop a patina, nick, or rub off. That may mean paying twice to upkeep the look. And of course, any time you’re altering a carefully made machine, even aesthetically, there’s the possibility of altering or breaking the materials, movement, or functioning. For an investment piece, that’s quite a risk to take. Investing in less-dramatic aftermarket customizations like interchangeable straps are an easy way to change the look of your watch that’s still reversible in case you decide to sell the watch in the future.
What Strap Looks Best With A PVC Blacked-out Rolex or Other Luxury Watch?
Don’t be surprised if you see Rolex itself leaning towards this trend in the years to come. Rolex is already experimenting with black-on-black bezel/dial combos, and their matte Oysterflex strap is definitely a nod towards the persistent blackout trend.
If you love an all-black look, an Everest Band can be used to double down on any PVC coating added to the case or dial of many different models. In fact, we’re working on a new strap that’s designed to perfectly match a PVC-coated Rolex. Watch our feed and the journal for this strap when it debuts. We’ve gotten a lot of requests for this strap recently, so we expect high demand when it lands.
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Written by Meghan Clark