Life today is all about the tailor-made. We emboss our iPhone cases and Goyard totes, create our own Netflix and Spotify playlists, and all in the name of ME (and really, what’s wrong with that?). Perfecting one’s personal statement is now de rigueur and so it was only a matter of time before our watches followed suit to become as individualised as possible. Thankfully a few specialist outfitters – from an accessories designer to a diamond service brilliantly entitled Pimp My Watch – are stylishly on hand to help.
George Bamford of the Bamford Watch Department knows a thing or two about personalisation. Back in 2003, he was already customising Rolex watches, employing industrial case coatings and unique dials, earning a reputation as the rebel of the watch-world for daring to alter Rolex’s designs. Now, some 15 years later, Bamford is having the last laugh: heavyweight LVMH has officially endorsed him to bring his unique magic to Tag Heuer and Zenith, the Swiss watchmaker’s crowning brands.
Personalisation can be done at either BWD’s Mayfair townhouse or through its robust online customiser. Time-honoured favourites such as Zenith’s Chronomaster El Primero or Heuer’s Autavia, both in 42mm, are available – but they are just the base canvas. It’s options galore: coatings, dials, hands and straps can be chosen, as can subdials, minute and tachymeter markers, batons, lumes – not to mention adding your initials and picking colours for the brand and Bamford logos. The options are almost infinite, or to be exact, 54 billion for the Heuer pieces and 48 billion for Zenith, says Bamford.
He observes that clients are increasingly asking for ever-more bespoke possibilities, yet the requests today are notably finer and more subtle.
‘One client who’s obsessed with greys wanted a very simple grey dial but with a full white second hand touched with a hint of grey. That was cool. It was a little accent and you don’t realise it’s there till you look closely.’
‘It’s a little audacious to ask, “What watch are you wearing?” However, if you have something interesting on your watch – it’s an immediate talking point without being inappropriate.’
Then last year, former shoe designer Alison Yeung launched what is essentially jewellery for your watch: dazzling charms made from precious stones that are clipped to watch straps. Her Treasured Amulets range for Mary Ching includes sultry gold or enamel lips, a set of wings in pavé stones or 18ct yellow gold clasping a 0.31ct diamond, or a gem-encrusted frog to lovingly hug one’s watch strap. Her most bespoke designs, DNA, allow for individual words, from initials to astrological signs. Meanwhile, the popular Felicity range is more understated with its chic, single band of stones available in a host of colours. All gems and hues are customisable; one man requested a rose gold frog with black diamonds.
Interestingly, men are Yeung’s biggest clients. ‘Men are limited on how much jewellery they can wear, and this is a nice add-on for their watches,’ she says. Calling her gems ‘pure luxury’ that is ‘decadent and unnecessary’, they offer an extra dimension to one’s personality. Plus, they’re conversation starters. ‘It’s a little audacious to ask, “What watch are you wearing?” However, if you have something interesting on your watch – it’s an immediate talking point without being inappropriate.’
Bling is also the forte of Glasgow’s Diamond Studio, whose service, Pimp My Watch, will add sparkle to any timepiece, such as creating a black diamond bezel or fixing rocks into a bracelet.
‘Clients are looking for a certain identity and uniqueness around what they wear,’ says owner Summera Shaheen, who cites professional athletes and ‘investment-conscious businessmen’ as her main customers. ‘They want to let their friends know how well they’re doing.’
There are also an increasing number of requests for vintage watches, with most being a client’s second or third timepiece. As a diamond specialist, Shaheen is on hand to offer her expertise and bounce ideas off a client’s personal vision, while working around budgets: ‘They don’t have to be big, fabulous and expensive’. Customisation usually takes around two weeks.
And like Yeung, men are increasingly the most keen to jazz up their watches. ‘It’s a shame they get neglected a bit,’ says Shaheen. ‘Men like diamonds too.’