Friday, April 03, 2009

Project X Designs: Watches Will Never Be The Same...

What If You Could Design Your Own Rolex?

What if you could design your own Rolex watch? What model would you base it upon? What colors would you choose? Would you give it a BLACK DLC (Diamond Like Carbon) case and Oyster bracelet or a custom NATO strap? The dream of owning a bespoke Rolex watch–which is unique to you–is now reality with Project X Designs which is based in London, England.

As a matter of fact, Project X Designs is offering customization services and will soon be rolling out their own limited edition customized Rolex watches.

We're All Clones

So why would anybody want to own a Rolex watch that is unique to themselves? Probably for the same reason anybody would want to own a Picasso painting that is unique–because you don't want to go to your friends house and see the same painting you have hanging above your fireplace, hanging above theirs.

Have you ever been to a party and had a conversation with somebody wearing the exact same Rolex? I have, and it made me feel really strange and uncomfortable. Have you ever been in a meeting with 16 dudes all wearing stainless steel Rolex Submariner watches? You get the idea, and so does Daniel Bourn who is the proprietor of Project X Designs and a long-time vintage Rolex dealer in London, England.

Customized Daytona with Synthetic Sapphire Showcase Verso

The Bourn Identity

Before taking a closer look at the Project X Watches, let's take a closer look at the man behind the brand, Daniel Bourn. When I first saw Daniel's creations and website, I was naturally curious about learning more details. I have had several detailed conversations with Daniel and I must admit I am blown away with his insight, integrity, design acumen, talent and passion!!!

Daniel mentioned that through many years of being a serious Rolex collector and vintage Rolex dealer, he understood the requirement of those looking for something different...something unique to them. The idea to offer a service customizing Rolex watches grew from that. Daniel is a hardcore stickler for detail and has invested in making many long-term investments to ensure that Project X Designs quality will go beyond customer expectations, and it shows!!!

In the image below we see a really good example of how creative Daniel is and I must say I am really, really impressed with this color combination he came up with for the white dialed Explorer.

I have heard some people say they believe Rolex does not like the idea of people selling Rolex watches that have been modified or customized but that does not make sense to me at all. If you bought a Mercedes Benz years ago and had AMG customize it for you, Mercedes would have been happy to make an additional sale and expand its market-share, brand equity and income. As a matter of fact, Mercedes thought it was such a great idea, they bought AMG and now offer the AMG option themselves.

I have said many times I believe Rolex should re-open their custom shop, just like Fender guitar did. Fender in many ways is the Rolex of guitars, and about a decade ago, Fender opened up a custom shop which, for a significant fee, will customize a Fender guitar any way you want–and the Fender custom shop has been a huge success!!!

I think Rolex should recognize people want to be unique, and many are willing to pay a premium to create something that is unique to them. Some may argue, that God forbid, if Rolex allowed customers to create their own designs, people would go nuts making tacky watches, but I don't think that would be the case (pun not intended)–not to mention Rolex makes models that are way over-the-top–like the Leopard Daytona, but it does not matter because beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.

Rolex at Basel 2009

Rolex just showed off its new models at BaselFair in Switzerland, which ended yesterday, and many people in the Rolex vintage and collectable community were underwhelmed to say the least. I am not bashing Rolex because I love Rolex and would not spend so much of my life energy writing about their magnificent history if I did not adore Rolex, but I think Basel was boring at best. I think there is so much room for significantly improving Rolex design. It seems like in many ways, Rolex design is confused. Here is an example of what I am taking about:

Last week Rolex showed off this new model (pictured above) of a men's 36mm Datejust at BaselWorld with a flowered dial. I think Rolex believes they are catering to the trend of women wearing men's Rolex watches by creating this watch. As a man, I wouldn't be caught dead wearing the flower dial Datejust, but I think it would look great on a woman.

My point is that, by Rolex focusing its design resources on feminizing Rolex they are alienating their core consumers. The thing that made Rolex great has been their tool watches, and I think many women like wearing men's Rolex watches, because they like wearing men's watches–it is that simple!!! Take for example, Jennifer Aniston who is seen below wearing a customized men's Rolex Milgauss that has been customized with a black PVD coating.

Real Rolex Hotness: Jennifer Aniston

Jennifer Aniston is considered to be one of the most beautiful women on earth and she has been wearing Rolex for decades as her personal choice as seen in the photo above, and in the photo below from a recent GQ Magazine photo shoot. Notice Jennifer is also wearing her customized blacked-out PVD Rolex Milgauss.

Back to Project X Designs

So let's examine what Project X Designs is, by examining what they are not. Project X Owner and designer, Daniel Bourn says "For our bespoke Design Service & Limited Edition Designs we currently only use new Rolex watches. This ensures the quality and accuracy of the product is maintained. We are simply looking to enhance or adapt an already classic design by modifying the color, finish and shape, providing the owner with the freedom and ability to create a greater visual impact, rather than alter functionality.

Take for example, the customized Project X Design Rolex Submariner pictured below. Daniel said "A customer came to us and said they wanted to have the crown guards removed on an LV 50th Anniversary Rolex Submariner to give a modern watch, a more vintage and timeless look. We then changed the insert to black and added a black DLC (Diamond Like Carbon) coating producing more of a stealth military vibe."

Notice in the photo below that the Rolex Submariner crown guards have been removed.

I asked Daniel about whether or not it was a concern that the PVD coating might get scratched and have to be refinished? Daniel responded "We use DLC, otherwise know as Diamond Like Carbon, so called because it contains diamond-like qualities. As diamonds are the hardest known naturally occurring mineral the process logically suggests it creates a more protective surface area after application. DLC typically utilizes the ability of the material to reduce abrasive wear, thus improving longevity. It creates a powerful aesthetic image on the watches, as well as improved durability. The process is also being used in engineering and bio-engineering industries with Formula 1 cars and medical parts."

In the photo below notice the Submariner has had solid curved spring-bars permanently welded to the lugs. This serves several different functions. It allows the Submariner to accommodate a wider range of NATO, and ZULU straps and stops the straps from rubbing against the serial number on the side of the case. Also notice the pearl indices on the bezel at the top has been replaced with a red ruby.

Project X Designs Customized Daytona

This next Rolex Daytona is the same model as in the first two photos in this story. It has a custom painted red hand and the bezel has white enamel on a black background. This is a very cool look!!!


This next watch is a customized Rolex DEEPSEA SEA-DWELLER which has a DLC (Diaomond Like Carbon) Coating along with a green bezel pearl to give the DEEPSEA a more aquatic vibe.

The photo below is of the DEEPSEA and the back of the watch has the Project X Designs logo etched in the center of the verso and in this photo we see the watch with reinforced spring-bars that are removable.

The idea is you put on a set of the reinforced spring-bars in the summer months when you want to wear the watch on a nylon strap like a NATO, then when you want to put back on the DEEPSEA Oyster band you remove the reenforced springbars by cutting them in their center (since they cannot be removed with a tool). The idea with these bars is they are like having a permanently reinforced bar which cannot pop off under any conditions.

Date Magnifier Removed

This next customized Rolex LV Submariner has its green bezel replaced with a black one with the pearl replaced with a blue stone and the trademark date-magnifier has also been removed. Many people think the Submariner looks better without the date-magnifier window. Also this watch has the black DLC finish.

In the photo below you see the caseback has been custom engraved with the Project "X" Designs logo which is an "X" in a circle which looks really cool–like the "T" in a circle, for Tritium–like on the 5517 Milsub. Also the serial number is engraved on the outside of the caseback.

Watches are for men, what shoes are for women

Men are extremely limited in what they can wear as far as distinguishing themselves with jewelry and fashion, which is one of the reasons watches are so important. If we face reality for a moment you must admit that nobody needs a Rolex. You can buy a watch for $9.99 that is water resistant and keeps decent time.

Many people who invest in expensive watches do so because they have a positive emotional response to the way the watch looks. I am really impressed with Project X Designs and Daniel Bourn. I think his brand is extremely refreshing in a world of black or white dialed only stainless Rolex Daytona watches.

I also find Project X Designs to be unpretentious and genuine. There is no pretend history or false homage to Rolex historical figures of the past.

Project X Designs is filling the gap in the market for people who want something unique and visually interesting. To my way of thinking, it is like taking a beautiful painting and simply changing the frame to one you like better.

As I previously mentioned, Project X Design offers bespoke watches which means customized [think bespoke/custom suit] and sometime soon they will be debuting their limited edition watches which I believe are limited to 24 watches per design. The limited edition watches are geared toward people who don't want to take the time or spend the money to customize a watch but want something unusual and cool.

You can learn more about Project X Design by visiting their website by clicking here.

Design Note: All photos used in article are of prototype watches used during development & testing of bespoke options.