The personalization of high end watches will probably always be a hot topic in the watch community. As long as wealthy collectors are buying watches, some will have an urge to completely revamp them to make them their own. By the same token, the collecting community will always have a segment of purists who find that any tinkering with a brand’s original design amounts to a crime against horology itself. Regardless of your personal feelings and taste, however, I think it’s hard to argue that there are a handful of firms offering custom work at an extremely high level, and Artisans de Genève is certainly at or near the top of a very small list. If gaudy and out of control diamond and gem setting is what comes to mind when you think of custom watches, Artisans de Genève is worth a look, as their house style is rooted in traditional aesthetics executed at a very high level.
Because Artisans de Genève doesn’t actually produce and sell their own watches (when browsing their website, you’re reminded at every turn that they aren’t affiliated with Rolex or any other brand, and that they offer custom work for individual clients who provide their own watches), it’s a little hard to get your arms around what they’re working on. That’s largely intentional on their part, of course, but from time to time they will highlight a custom job that is particularly unique or visually beautiful. The Honey Green Project, recently unveiled to the public, is one such example of a Rolex personalization that Artisans de Genève has decided to highlight as an example of their best efforts.
The Honey Green starts with a 116508 Daytona, which is a yellow gold variant with an emerald green dial, often referred to as the “John Mayer Daytona,” as he’s a noted fan whose public endorsement of the watch as a hidden gem had the predictable result of sending second hand values through the stratosphere. The goal of the project was to create a Daytona using a very specific shade of green as the base, described by Artisans as “somewhat dark, close to an English green.” The tone is a perfect complement to the gold case, and presents a very different sort of green and gold combination than you’ll find on a stock 116508. The Honey Green, with its panda style layout and custom Bakelite bezel, is very intentionally calling back to the aesthetic of vintage Rolex.
Looking very closely at the Honey Green reveals that this is much more than a color swap with the original reference. There are many small details that will only be obvious to serious Rolex collectors who will immediately place the Honey Green within a vintage context. The crown guards, for example, have been removed by Artisans to replicate the proportions of a vintage Daytona. Additionally, the modern chronograph pushers have been replaced with “Millerighe” style pushers with striated grooves. Again, this evokes a midcentury style absent from modern Daytonas. But it’s the dial that’s the real showstopper here, featuring subdials in sandblasted gold and a deep sunray finish. It’s dynamic and feels very much in harmony with the subtle changes made to the case.
Another bonus of going the custom route is that it allows the owner to admire the movement of their Rolex, which of course is not part of the package on any Rolex that leaves the factory. Artisans has added a gold rotor to the 4130 chronograph caliber as well as additional decoration to the movement, applied by hand. This includes hand beveled edges on the movement bridges, something that you’d never find on a bone stock Rolex caliber, which are finished nicely, but in a more industrial fashion.
This level of personalization doesn’t come cheap. According to Artisans, the cost of the work for the Honey Green came to approximately $24,000. That, of course, does not include the cost of the watch. More information can be found on the Artisans de Genève website right here.
Editor’s Note: Artisans de Geneve reached out and requested that the following information pertaining to their business and inspiration for the Honey Green watch be reiterated:
Regarding their business practices: “We offer a customization service upon request and our capacity is extremely limited.”
Regarding the goals of the project: “The challenge was to insufflate our client’s timepiece with vintage codes, and to develop a unique green that would match with each material, and the gold counters. It is never about recreating a watch.”
Regarding the aesthetic: “(The Honey Green) is inspired by the aesthetic of all vintage timepieces, and the style at that time rather than a specific brand.”
Regarding the Honey Green’s proportions: “The crown-guards and the rest of the modifications were thought out with our client to give a refined allure to his timepiece, and not replicate the proportions of a vintage Daytona. When working on a client’s timepiece, we insufflate his personality and story.”