Personalized luxury watches, a spin on upcycling, defying standards

The biggest fear of luxury watchmakers is loss of control, says Bertschy de Vontobel. “The greatest proportion of used watch sales online are completely uncertified.” For the consumer, there is a risk due to the lack of a reliable guarantee. And once a watch has been personalized, the original manufacturer’s warranty is void. A spokesperson for Patek Philippe points out that if a company watch has been recycled or personalized, the Patek Philippe warranty is also lost – with a negative impact on the long-term value of the watch, they say.

When Bamford Watch Department started selling high-end personalized watches, many brands were unhappy. “[Bamford] were considered a nuisance for brands like Rolex and Audemars Piguet, ”explains Brack. The turning point, however, came in 2017 when Jean-Claude Biver, then president of LVMH’s watch division, which included Hublot, Tag Heuer and Zenith, saw an opportunity with personalization to make hard luxury items more appealing to young people. consumers. That year, Bamford stopped personalizing Rolexes and became the official customizer of LVMH watch brands. More importantly, customers could purchase a personalized LVMH brand watch with its warranty and guarantee still intact. Bamford declined to contribute to this story.

Rolex prefers to remain king of its own domain. The brand does not support the personalization of its watches, which is a clear indication that Rolex warranties and maintenance will be withdrawn. “It’s not part of their business model to have someone modify their watches in any way,” says Brack, who warns that personalized watches don’t increase in value. “There is little to no aftermarket for these parts. “

All of this puts the onus of custom watch studios to provide full support. Mad Paris is committed to repairing all faults and problems with its custom watches, which come with a five-year warranty, said Petersson of Browns. “Our customers will benefit from their expertise in the event of a problem. It is extremely important to give the customer the confidence to buy [a high value item] which has been the subject of considerable work.

Views on the future of high-end personalized watches vary widely. Brack insists that big brands don’t need to get into personalization. “There are enough consumers who want models from Rolex or Patek Philippe – these companies can barely keep up with the demand. Bertschy wonders if there are enough of these already limited edition watches in stock.

However, Hodinkee’s Bateman believes the demand for personalization will increase. “If you show up to a party and wear the same dress or jacket as someone else, then that’s a little awkward. It’s the same if you show up to a dinner party and wear a Patek Philippe 5711 Nautilus, for example, and find that everyone around the table is wearing the same thing. It makes your watch a little less special. I think that’s where the root of this desire to personalize things comes from.

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