For some, owning a Rolex is a sign that you’ve arrived. (As Biggie said, “Where the true players at? Throw your Rollies in the sky!”) Women have even been known to try and hide a stolen Rolex in their vagina.
It’s a funny thing, though. You finally get that special watch—whether it’s a Rolex or a Breitling or an Omega—and then you look around see a whole bunch of other guys in your tax bracket sporting the same thing on their wrist.
Since a watch is the one piece of jewelry that men traditionally wear, you want the timepiece that you wear to be special. But it isn’t easy. Even for the most discerning connoisseur, finding a watch that is truly unique can be a challenge.
That’s what happened to George Bamford. The son of a wealthy British construction magnate, Bamford began collecting watches in 1992 when his parents gave him a Breitling Navitimer as a present. From there, he was off, purchasing more Breitlings, simple Rolexes, Tag Heuers, anything he could afford.
It became a bit of an obsession. Eventually, he thought he’d reached the summit when he came to own a Rolex Daytona zenith movement with an inverted 6-9 sub dial.
“It was really the pinnacle. I was doing something called ‘shooting the cuff,’ shooting out the watch from under my jacket and showing it off to everyone,” Bamford says. “Then I had a moment which felt like how a lady would feel if she arrived at a party wearing the same dress as everyone else. I turned up to a dinner party where there were a lot of cool cats present and everyone was wearing the exact same watch as me, with either a black or white dial.”
What had been his holy grail now felt rather commonplace, at least among a certain elite subset of the population. So Bamford set about creating something he had never seen before. He wasn’t into the whole jewel-encrusted, bling-bling watches that Jacob the Jeweler was making popular at the time. He wanted to go the opposite direction and create a watch in black, more specifically matte black. Using a process borrowed from his family’s mining operations, Bamford created a customized Rolex GMT Master and Submariner for himself and his father. By that summer, even though he hadn’t set out to start a company, he had received 25 orders from people who’d seen the watch on his wrist and wanted one for themselves. And Bamford Watch Department was born.
The company’s motto is “If you can imagine it, we can create it.” Clients can meet with a worldwide dealer or build a watch on the BWD website. While the matte color options are particularly popular, the possibilities are endless. If you want to match the dial of your watch to your sneakers it can be done. Prices start around $12,500 and go up to nearly $150,000.
You’ll never mistake a Bamford Watch Department creation for anything else, which is exactly the point. Says Bamford, “We are all striving to find that true luxury item in a mass-market world and I feel that personalization of mass-market products is one way to find that.”
Over the years, the company has created some truly special watches. It wasn’t easy but Bamford was able to narrow it down to his five favorites. Check them out.
1. BWD X MASTERMIND DAYTONA
This was created in 2013 as a collaboration with Mastermind Japan and it was a limited edition run. It is on a Rolex Daytona and coated in our signature military-grade titanium and comes in two colorways, black with gold (above) and black with silver, with Mastermind’s skull and crossbones logo on the dial.
2. BWD DAYTONA SCUBA DARK GREY
This was a design created this year by a client and the colors were inspired by the Porsche 997 GT3RS. I loved the design but when I saw it in the flesh I absolutely fell in love with it and my client was blown away which is always our goal. It is on a Daytona in our Scuba Dark Grey with red detail. The image really does not do it justice.
3. BWD X THE RODNIK BAND SNOOPY DATEJUST
This was created last year. It was another collaboration but this time with my lifelong favorite, Snoopy, which was given to me as a child. I have carried on the tradition with my own son and daughter and given them a Snoopy when they were born. I love the playful nature and I am honored to consider Philip Colbert, the genius behind the [Rodnik Band] brand, a friend. The watch is a Datejust and we have created custom-made hands by using Snoopy’s arms.
4. BWD x DRX POPEYE YACHTMASTER
This was a unique collaboration with King Features Syndicate and fashion tastemaker Darren Romanelli (DRx) and uses one of the most iconic military characters of all time. The watch comes with a custom comic strip and celebrates both the Army and Navy. It was a delight to use this character and celebrate Americana. It was created in 2012.
5. BWD DEEPSEA TRUEHUNTER
This was created last year and it was military inspired. It is a limited edition Rolex Deepsea and has military green detail with orange accents. It is available on a military green NATO strap or on a steel bracelet.