Bamford London keep coming up with custom variants on Rolex and other Swiss watch brands. This reworking of a Zenith is pretty out there. No price on the website, you have to email an equiry.
In collaboration with Black Badger, this Zenith Pilot Chrono TIPO CP-2 features a unique Fordite dial.
Fordite is the commonly used term to describe the collected overspray that builds up in the industrial paint bays of car factories over many, many years. The Fordite material used in this collaboration has come from the Ford factories in Michigan, USA, from the 1970-1990s era. This material forms entirely unique patterns which has been made into a special dial.
Inside the case you have the famous El Prmero chrono movement. Those yellow tipped hands are an extra jazzy touch as well.
More here if you want to get some Austin Powers vibe on your wrist.
Bamford London are famed for their unique limited edition watches and this is no exception. Sellita SW300 movement, 40mm stainless steel case and a neat twist to the packaging with a can, not a box. Yes, it’s a Popeye thing.
Just 100 pieces will be made and the UK price is £1500. What we love about this one is the Popeye arms being used as the hour and minute hands – it’s a homage to those Ingersoll pocket watches that featured Hopalong Cassidy and Dan Dare back in the 1950s, which are pretty collectable today if you can find an original that’s still working.
Obviously you have to be a bit of a fan to splash out on the Bamford Popeye, otherwise you could pick up a Sellita powered GMT from another Indie brand for about a grand or less. Maybe a Popeye Doyle French Connection model would actually be a cooler pop culture tie-in and the watch is delivered in a recycled sill of a Lincoln Continental? Just thinking out loud.
At this price point we are gonna choose a Yema Superman, or perhaps a Naruto Seiko 5 to save some money and still add a little comic book magic to your collection. Yep, we know the Yema isn’t a `Superman’ branded watch, but still it’s a great dive model for under 1000 euros. What the heck.
We’ve experienced 9 exciting months of development by your side. Your thousands of votes and comments have allowed us to make the NB24 chronograph a reality, which we here at CODE41 are really proud about. Rather than going with a simple standard movement, we’ve made the mad move of creating an exceptional movement with a peripheral weight integrated into the dial side. It’s rare and complex, but what a joy it is to have it on your wrist!
Mechanical movements are extremely complex, and nowadays are only produced by a few manufacturers. Developing such a movement costs around 3 to 5 million euros, and can take up to 5 years to perfect. In addition, based on series of a few thousand watches per year, the production cost for each movement is around 3,000 euros.
In that case, how have we been able to create our very own movement, fitted with a peripheral weight on the dial side, for only 1,000 euros?
As the chronograph is one of our partner Concepto’s specialties, we’ve been able to make use of their base, constructed using the architecture of the famous Valjoux 7750 movement, known for its robustness and reliability. Then we’ve modified it by moving the counters, redesigning the bridges, and above all adding a peripheral weight on the dial side. This rare complication alone accounts for a third of the cost of production. It’s important to point out that all of the components, except for the mainspring and the jewels, are produced in-house.
So-called ‘automatic’ mechanical movements are fitted with an oscillating weight that recharges the watch through wrist movements (no battery required). As it swings from left to right, the weight rewinds the mainspring, which stores the energy required for the mechanism to function correctly.
NB24 PERIPHERAL OSCILLATING WEIGHT
STANDARD OSCILLATING WEIGHT
Verdict: There are a fantastic range of personalisation options with this model, from carbon fibre to titanium cases, various dial and sub-dial colours, straps etc. At 42mm it’s the perfect size for many, and with a 1-500 numbered edition, you have collector value too. It’s a technical tour-de-force in terms of making the bob weight rotate on the dial side, rather than on the caseback side of the movement – you have to admire that complication. £3100 is expensive, but then so is £1700 for an Oris which has the same movement inside as £900 Tissot.
Check the Code 41 video out;
You have to love the NB24 for its skeleton dial design, unique auto rotor mod, Swiss finishing and limited edition numbers. You will wait a long time before it realises £3000 on the pre-owned market, so make sure you buy into the Code 41 cause, not just the watch ownership.
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.
Clockworks Cashmear are doing something different. They’re offering quartz or automatic watches with interchangeable bezels, hands and sials, so that buyers can change the look of the watch according to their mood. Bit like owning a Fiat 500 but fitting new accessories and changing the paintwork yourself.
Cashmear is run by a Canadian engineer and he reckons that they’ve perfected the tricky business of letting owners swap parts like dial, hands and bezel, witha few turns of the winding crown.
Now, having worked with watches for six years, I can tell you that it is incredibly difficult to remove hands and then re-fit them, unless you have the correct tools, a steady hand and a dial protector in place. So how this can be accomplished by clicking the crown is something I would love to see. Surely the dial must be dropped gently onto the movement, then the hands put in position, with hour and minute aligned correctly, before the new bezel and crystal is laid over the top?
The Clockworks Cashmear appears to have a sort of release clutch wheel on the cannon pinion, so we are guessing this is the clever – patent panding – tech that offers the customisable options. Early buyers of the ETA 2824 powered automatic at approx £540 get a silver hands/dial option. If you want say three different colour options, then the entire caboodle is around £830 on the early bird deal.
It is an interesting idea, but having seen some cack-handed `expert’ watch collectors in the shop pull crowns out completely, key wind fusee pocket watches the wrong way, or bring in vintage watches with a scratched back because they tried to open the case on an Omega Seamaster with a kitchen knife, I’d say owner malfunction is a serious possibility.
There’s been an explosion in motorcycle custom building in the last 15 years or so. The big trends have included Bobbers, Lowriders, old school choppers and Boardriders, to name just a few cult avenues of remixed engineering.
So why not do the same with watches?
That’s what London based Bamford has done in the shape of their Watch Department, offering enthusiasts the chance to design their own TAG Monaco, Carrera, Rolex, Zenith El Primero or Bulgari watch in detail; lume on the baton markers, dial colours, contrasting subdial colours, or tachymetre markers etc – the choices are huge and you can play around with different colour combos on the BWD website – it’s addictive!
This custom build approach doesn’t come cheap, and a blue/yellow El Primero dream watch we designed online came in a £9,000, which is a fair chunk of change on top of the new £6500 RRP for the brand new Chronomaster 1969 model.
But you have a on-off watch, a true collectors item limited edition – as in limited to just one, or possibly two if someone else happens to love your design by sheer coincidence. Yes, this service is pure luxury lifestyle, and you need disposable cash to burn. But that doesn’t stop anyone paying someone to build their ultimate Harley Shovelhead Bobber for 40K does it?
The other thing to consider with the Zenith El Primero is the depreciation of the new Chronomaster open heart or 1969 models, which is pretty hefty in the first five years of ownership. A custom Zenith might stand the test of time better as regards resale value via auction house? We don’t offer investment advice, just ideas 😉
There’s a market for what BWD are doing and we say more power to them. Let’s see some retro 1940s, boardwalk empire/Gotham City, styled Rolex GMT Batman models perhaps, or how about a couple of 50s Cadillac inspired Hamilton Ventura watches? If ever a watch was made for juke box platters, neon lighting and cherry red dials, it’s the Ventura.