I recently ran into George Bamford – of Bamford Watch Department – who shared with me that he will soon entirely stop customizing Rolex replica watches for customers. This news is sort of a big deal given that Bamford put his name on the horological map by being the world’s premier aftermarket customizer of Rolex timepieces. Anyone in the know always thinks of Bamford when it comes to serious Rolex watch customization, and any time someone sees a black-colored Rolex, chances are the Bamford name comes to mind. While Bamford still has some Rolex watch orders to fill, one of the world’s most famous modern-day Rolex collectors is putting “the crown” behind him.
George Bamford will instead focus the majority of his time to working with Jean-Claude Biver and the LVMH Watch Division that’s under Mr. Biver’s leadership. Biver oversees Hublot and Zenith, while currently serving as the CEO of TAG Heuer. Bamford quietly debuted this relationship recently when introducing a few limited edition Zenith watches customized by the London-based timepiece modifier. It now turns out that this is just the beginning, and that Bamford will be working closely with Zenith and TAG Heuer, as well as possibly Hublot for future models.
Is this what Jean-Claude Biver means when he regularly talks about the importance of love? It certainly seems this way if you interpret “love” as also meaning “cooperation.” While Rolex is often called “the crown” (given their logo), Jean-Claude Biver is often referred to as the “king” of the watch industry. He is certainly among the most powerful. Mr. Biver’s success is often linked to his ability to cleverly create synergies where they are available. Effective cooperation is a cornerstone of Jean-Claude’s management style, which is perhaps why he was able to make such a compelling argument to George Bamford about working together. According to Jean-Claude Biver, “George (Bamford) has proven that he knows how to “tune” a watch and also that he is able to make a very classic watch into a trendy watch.”
Bamford, who was clearly excited to work more closely with Mr. Biver and his teams, shared with me the incredibly pragmatic argument presented to him by Jean-Claude Biver. It isn’t a secret that Bamford’s relationship with Rolex was tenuous at best. Bamford was not an official Rolex dealer, and in order to do business needed to purchase Rolex limited edition watches in the UK market, and then later modify them. Rather than support the practices of an interesting modifier, Rolex took the stance that Bamford, like all watch customizers was removing the “authenticity” of a Rolex rendering them (among other things) not eligible to be serviced by Rolex service centers. That means even though Bamford never touched the mechanics of any Rolex watch, the company itself refused to repair or service Bamford-modified Rolex watches. The move prompted Bamford to create his own service department.
If you know George Bamford, then you know just how much of a Rolex mega-fan he is. The entire concept of modifying Rolex copy timepieces began when he wanted to change the look of a Daytona model he had. Soon Bamford became the go-to name for high-street shoppers looking for a familiar, albeit more exclusive timepiece shopping experience. Getting a totally personalized, or otherwise uncommon modified Rolex watch proved to be a winning formula for many luxury consumers seeking enhanced personality in their choice of watch.