Modified Rolex: Endangered Species?

The Juan Pablo Montoya Project

Most consumers wouldn’t dream of buying a modified Rolex. They think Switzerland’s über-famous timepieces are perfect just the way they are. Thousands of wealthy Rolex buyers disagree. For them, perfection isn’t perfect enough. Like Oliver Twist, they want more . . .

They want a Rolex that’s unique. Different. Bespoke. And they don’t mind paying for the privilege. So they warm up their platinum credit card and commission a modded Rolex like one above. Well, not exactly like the one above.

It took Artisans de Genève two years, a hundred Swiss craftsman and a metric ton of money to create a see-through Rolex Daytona for Colombian F1 driver Juan Pablo Montoya. Given the amount of custom parts under glass, I reckon The Juan Pablo Montoya Project is a Rolex in name only. And soon, maybe not even that . . .

Modified Rolex: bracelet

At the other end of spectrum: modders who don’t want to futz with their Swiss watch’s fabulous face. For them, bracelet mods are the thing. As you can see, engraved Oystersteel bracelets can be extraordinary in both detail and design. Critically, the finished product still speaks Rolex, telling the world je suis arrivé.  

Modified Rolex with engraved bracelet

The temptation to mod the dial to match the bracelet – or the other way around – is irresistible. In this case, an artistan added Chronos’ face to the dial. (It can’t be Medusa. I’m not stoned.) Buyers seeking a less ornate, more modern modded Rolex are spoiled for choice – at the moment . . .

Wildman "Rolex" Datejust

UK modder Wildman re-makes Rolex in basic black, with dials that complement the Darth Vader aesthetic. The Datejust above is a horological retro-mod, complete with “lustrous gold details that hark back to the much sought after early Rolex models with Gilt dials where gold text was prominent on the dials.”

Most of Wildman’s work isn’t so wild, but their bespoke department is ready to tock and roll. For the time being . . .

Blaken Rolex Milgauss

Germany’s Blaken also sells a range of badass black Rolex – and a $34k day-glo Rocketbyz Rolex Milgauss. The horological fruit of artist Tonyboy’s imagination is about as discreet as a Mohawk on a investment banker. Like the Electricianz funky AF watches, the Rocketbyz’s dial shines in UV light. So there is that. For now . . .

Mad Paris

France’s Mad Paris modders are also no strangers to color – or gemological showmanship. They offer a range of custom bedazzeled Rolex. At least in theory . . .

laCalifornienne modded Rolex

Enough foreshadowing (a.k.a., death by ellipses). Here’s the dark cloud hanging over the entire Rolex modification industry.

Last month, Rolex filed a lawsuit against laCalifornienne, purveyors of the colored OP above (and worse below). Rolex charged the modder with “engaging in a course of conduct likely to cause confusion, deception or mistake, or injure Rolex’s business reputation, diluting the distinctive quality of Rolex’s registered trademarks.”

LaCcaliforninne abomination

Rolex argues that laCalifornienne is “benefitting and profiting from Rolex’s outstanding reputation for high quality products and its significant advertising and promotion of Rolex watches and the company’s trademarks, making it seem as though its watches are authorized, sponsored, or approved by Rolex when they are not.”

Blaken disclaimer

It’s not known if Rolex has served paper on other modders. Meanwhile, Blaken and Wildman have added legal disclaimers to their website’s landing page. Mad Paris’ landing page promises “Our new website will be online shortly.”

Is it curtains for Mad Paris, Wildman, Blaken and other Rolex modders? I wouldn’t bet against it. Switzerland’s most profitable watchmaker has pockets deeper than the Mariana Trench, and this ain’t Rolex’s first trademark infringement lawsuit rodeo.

Rolex Milgaus Pride (courtesy titanblack.co.uk)

If you fancy a modded Rolex act now – assuming you’re OK owning a Rolex without a warranty, a timepiece an authorized service center wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot spring bar tool. Modded Rolexes are, officially, counterfeits. And now, an endangered species.

[Click here to read Modified Rolex: Abomination or Wikkid Pissa?]

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