When you say ‘customizing’ to a watch guy, usually he thinks of changing out the dial and bezel, maybe the hands. (For sure the strap!)
Exhibit A: the Rolex DayDate and Datejust. These watches have long been the object of diamond bezels and dials. And other Rolex models have not gone untouched either. The bezel of a classic Pepsi GMT gets replaced with a gem-studded bezel of rubies and sapphires, preserving the Pepsi look, if not the original work-a-day vibe.
Exhibit B: there’s a whole subculture of Seiko enthusiasts who routinely modify their watches. A Seiko 6309-7040 diver gets an orange dial, a bi-colored bezel, and new hands and becomes a “Soxa,” a tribute to the classic Doxa Sub Professional series. Or a Seiko 5 Sports diver model SNZH59 gets a similar treatment and becomes a “FiftyFive Fathoms” tribute to Blancpain’s finest.
Then there’s Bill Yao, the man behind boutique brand MK II. He got his start modding Seikos. And now? MK II produces beautifully crafted homages to Rolex classics of decades gone by. Yao’s design aesthetic is guided by the question, “What would the watch look like now, if it had stayed in production and evolved over time?”
But there’s another deeper subculture out there. Guys who take files and Dremel tools to watch cases, reshaping them to their liking, sometimes creating fantasy homages to watches that never existed.
Does that set your teeth on edge? Well how about this?
Imagine a brand new Submariner 114060 – yep, the current version of the trusty No-Date Sub. Now strip it like you were going to leave it up on blocks in an alley. Stash the ceramic bezel insert and ‘ROLEX ROLEX ROLEX…’ rehaut for safekeeping, and machine away at the modern ‘supercase’ shape until it looks more like something Sean Connery would wear in a remake of Dr. No.
Chop the bezel ring and drill the lugs for good measure.
Strip the dial and take it to the paint shop. Refinish it with gilt printing except for a classic looking red ‘300/1000.’ Add 18K yellow gold hands and hour indices, put the ceramic bezel insert and ‘ROLEX’ rehaut back in place, and top the whole thing off with an 8mm Brevet crown.
Tempus Machina is a new company who’s taking lessons from all these folks and doing just that. But far from being nails on a chalkboard, their new ref. 216A Submariner is the stuff of dreams.