Who Are Les Artisans De Geneve? La Montoya Daytona, Uncatchable GMT, and More

Who Are Les Artisans De Geneve? La Montoya Daytona, Uncatchable GMT, and More

Artisans De Geneve is an independent custom watchmaking workshop based in Geneva, Switzerland. It’s difficult to pinpoint just one area of expertise; their bespoke creations demonstrate mastery of countless facets within watchmaking: movement modification and finishing; case redesign; manufacturing of parts (e.g. hands, bezels, dials); and so on. They create personalized timepieces for public figures such as Lance Armstrong, Spike Lee, Lenny Kravitz, and most recently, notorious conman and convicted felon Frank Abegnale Jr. I’d like to first take a look their most popular piece – La Montoya – before analyzing Abegnale’s “Uncatchable” Rolex GMT Master II.

Artisans De Geneve “La Montoya” Rolex Daytona

Les Artisans De Geneve La Montoya Rolex Daytona

Image Source: monochrome-watches.com

The Juan Pablo Montoya Challenge – better known as La Montoya – is a fully skeletonized six-digit Rolex Daytona. It was designed in collaboration with Colombian racing driver Juan Pablo Montoya: three-time winner of the 24 hours of Daytona race. His three Rolex Daytonas (prizes from winning the race) have all been modified by Les Artisans De Geneve: one in gold, one in steel, and one in platinum. They all take after the same general skeletonized design.

La Montoya modified Rolex 4130 movement

Image Source: artisansdegeneve.com

Being a skeletonized watch, the movement is the star of the show here. Inside the Montoya Challenge sits a modified Rolex caliber 4130. It features an openworked grey gold rotor, redesigned barrel and bridges, and a comprehensive suite of anglage and redecoration. This gorgeous movement is visible through both the sapphire crystal and sapphire exhibition caseback (now offered by Rolex on the new Daytonas). On the dial-side of the watch you’ll notice a carbon composite tachymeter bezel surrounding a stunning openworked dial. The dial’s architecture is akin to high-end automotive dashboards. Complimenting the chrono subdials are the colors yellow, blue, and red: an homage to Juan Pablo Montoya’s Colombian heritage. 

Platinum La Montoya Artisans De Geneve Daytona mod

La Montoya in Platinum. Image Source: artisansdegeneve.com

The Juan Pablo Montoya Challenge has become an icon. I was familiar with the watch – having seen countless pictures – before ever knowing its backstory. La Montoya is a great example of a widely-accepted high-end watch modification. Making changes to luxury watches is fairly controversial among enthusiasts. That said, it’s hard to argue with what Les Artisans De Geneve have achieved here. Every aspect of La Montoya is painstakingly intentional, beautiful, and well-executed. To those worried about its value or aftermarket-modified status, I urge you to take a deep breath. It’s not your watch; enjoy it for what it is. 

Artisans De Geneve “Uncatchable” Rolex GMT Master II

Les Artisans De Geneve "Uncatchable" GMT-Master II

Image Source: artisansdegeneve.com

Frank Abegnale Jr. is an infamous self-proclaimed conman. He is best known for his book “Catch Me If You Can” and its 2002 film adaptation directed by Steven Speilberg. The book and movie detail his pursuit of forging checks, impersonating a Pan American pilot, and evading the FBI. While there are many questions to the validity of this story (and downright evidence that refutes much of it), there’s no question that Abegnale has lived a fascinating life thus far. Recently, Les Artisans De Geneve announced their “Uncatchable” GMT-Master II: a bespoke modification made for Frank Abegnale Jr. 

Movement through sapphire caseback of Artisans De Geneve Uncatchable

Image Source: artisansdegeneve.com

Given his ties to Pan American airlines, Abegnale fittingly wears a Rolex GMT-Master II. After about a decade of ownership, he decided to give the watch a 1960’s-inspired refresh in collaboration with Les Artisans De Geneve. The watch is clearly inspired by the Rolex GMT-Master ref. 1675. Despite being a GMT-Master II, the “Uncatchable” features a bicolor bakelite bezel, riveted bracelet, and patina-laden dial that was “naturally aged” using two shades of creme. Behind the sapphire exhibition caseback sits a modified Rolex caliber 3186. It features a 21 carat gold rotor, redesigned balance bridge, as well as hand-beveling and redecoration of nearly every surface. Despite having the design elements of a 1950’s-60’s watch, the “Uncatchable” has traveler GMT functionality and modern high-end finishing. As a fan of the movie and general vintage watch nerd, this thing is just plain cool. 

Final Thoughts

Les Artisans De Geneve Ciottolo Azzurro Patek Philippe Aquanaut

Image Source: artisansdegeneve.com

It’s hard to call something “best” when its merit is largely subjective. That said, Les Artisans De Geneve execute perhaps the best personalized watch modifications out there. They effectively communicate their clients’ stories while tastefully changing almost every aspect of their beloved timepieces. These changes are made without taking away from the watches’ beauty, significance, or value. I highly encourage you to take a look at the Artisans De Geneve website. I specifically recommend looking at the “Ciottolo Azzurro” Patek Philippe Aquanaut (pictured above), “The Pearl” Patek Philippe Nautilus, and “Arolla” Rolex Daytona.

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