I’ve always thought of watch modding as a bit of a double-edged sword. Its great to see a unique, often one-of-a-kind take on a watch, but its also a little painful to see a perfectly good Seiko get torn open. Frankly, a part of me thinks it was fine just the way it was. But at the end of the day, with most watch mods, you’re dealing with watches that cost under $200 or even $100, so no big deal, right? But what about modding a watch valued at 20, 30 or 40 times that? Does tampering with a high-end luxury timepiece take away from its intrinsic value, or enhance it? To find out, lets take a look at some luxury watch mods and the companies that make them.
If perusing high-end watch mod sites tells you one thing, its that people REALLY want Rolex to make an all black model. Do I blame them, no, not really. Take a look at this Military Stealth Explorer II by Pro Hunter. My word, this is a drop dead gorgeous watch. This is a mod of the current Rolex Explorer II that features matte DLC coating throughout the case and bezel, and while it maintains the dial and hands of the stock Explorer II, the dial has been signed with an orange PROHUNTER. I find the orange NATO it comes on to be the perfect accessory. Is it ostentatious? Yes, but when you’re wearing a watch limited to 100 units that sells for $18,500, you might as well go all the way. There is also a version on a DLC metal bracelet available for $21,700, but I really love the look of the orange NATO to match the orange hands and logos.
Another example of the super stealth blacked-out Rolex is this Daytona by Black-Out Concept. Again, this mod features black DLC coating throughout the case, with modified dial and bezel to feature high-contrast white text/subdials on black. I happen to really like this look, and I can understand how someone looking for a more aggressive, tactical Rolex could see this as his or her best option. Unfortunately, Black-Out Concept doesn’t provide pricing on their site, but we can assume based on the cost of other watches on this list, that it’s a very, very high number.
Branching out from the world of all black DLC, check out the Stealth – MK III by Project X Designs. Limited to 28 pieces, this mod is based on the Stainless Steel Rolex Submariner Ceramic Date, and features a matte satin case and bracelet and matte black enameled bezel markings on top of the original polished ceramic inner bezel. The original crown guard has been removed and fixed lug bars have been installed. A green Stealth logo has been applied to the dial, which watches perfectly with the military green NATO that the watch comes on. This model is available today for what seams like a very fair $13,600 when compared to the models we’ve already reviewed.
To finish our list off, lets end with a bang. Here is the most high-end piece on our list, an all black Patek Philippe Nautilus Chrono by Bamford Watch Department. There are very little details listed about this piece, including the most important piece of information, its price. What we do know is that a new original Patek Philippe Nautilus Chrono sells for over $40,000, so I would imagine a mod will run you significantly more. The picture of the piece doesn’t lead me to believe it has a matte finish, but its certainly all black!
I could go on and on finding examples of these high-end pieces coated in black DLC and sold for two or three times their original retail price. And who is to say that the markup isn’t appropriate? I’m sure it takes a very skilled individual a fair amount of time and effort to perform these modifications. As I’ve mentioned, I also happen to really like the look of many of these watches. There’s certainly no questioning the beauty of the Rolex Explorer II.
But there is something that seems very off about these watches. Could it be that there isn’t too much imagination put into slapping a steel case with matte black DLC? Maybe. And should it go without saying that if you really want a bad-ass all black Rolex you should just get an homage and mod it for a fraction of the price? I mean, how often can you really wear a stealth black watch into the office?
For me, what these watches all really leave to be desired is the sense of imagination and creativity that you find in the DIY watch modding world. With most of the mods by the companies listed above, there’s nothing particularly inventive or unique about their creations. And, unlike many of the mods we’ve discussed on the site previously, none of them fundamentally alter the identity of the watches they are based on. I suppose that makes sense, as the whole point of a black-out Rolex is that you have just that, a Rolex. Not some unnamed mystery brand that looks amazing.
At the end of the day, as beautiful, bad-ass and lust worthy as they may be, these watches are really all about achieving a look and status, rather than something truly unique.