I ponder the question after browsing the fabulous and occasionally gaudy designs on the Label Noir website, where customised skeleton dial Daytonas, super green Milgauss and tourbillion dial models all vie for watch collector cash. Yes, you can argue that a custom Rolex is uber-rare, much more so than a stock Submariner or Oyster Datejust perhaps. The tourbillon also has that unique extra claim in that Rolex do not make a tourbillon model. Probably never will.
But the garish rainbow colours on the Milgauss by Label Noir don’t do anything for me. In fact, I’d rather buy a classic Zenith El Primero rainbow edition, as for me, that has true authentic, pioneering credibility. The Zenith has some real heritage, whereas by contrast the Label Noir is a custom paint job on a Rolex classic. Maybe a Milgauss deserves a more Nikola Tesla, or 50s cold war type of style makeover, given its scientific heritage? Watch fashion is a fickle thing, so perhaps buying original examples of Rolex Subs, Daytonas or Milgauss models is the safe option.
It is safer as regards risking your hard earned cash, but then you miss out on the kudos of having something really different. Occasionally, custom makers like Label Noir, Titan, Bamford of London and others all get something spot on. The accumulated details add up to more than the donor parts, if that makes sense.
My fave Label Noir is the skeleton Daytona. It has that Meccano boyish fascination, all gears and cogs on show, it celebrates engineering for its own sake like a McClaren supercar. Would I buy a Daytona for 20 grand and then send it to Switzerland for a skeleton makeover? No. I’d customise a Hamilton Jazzmaster, a Tissot Seastar or a Raymond Weil Freelancer, any Raymond Weil in fact. Because these are all entry level Swiss watches with unremarkable movements inside them, mass produced and built to retail at a grand or so. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain by creating your own Batman edtion Hamilton, or Kermit green Tissot.
But mess with the Daytona? You could be destroying the future value of a classic Rolex that may fetch over 50K at auction as part of your pension plan. Leave the crazy-ass stuff to Johnny Depp I say, just enjoy the chance to own a Rolex and make a few quid in the long run, because – apart from property – there aren’t many things you can buy where there is a realistic chance of actually getting your money back one day.