QUILL & PAD MAGAZINE: LVMH & Bamford, A Match Made In Heaven Or . . . ?

TAG Heuer Monaco Chronograph Forged Carbon Bamford Edition: LVMH & Bamford, A Match Made In Heaven Or . . . ?

Confession: I have never understood why somebody would buy a watch from an esteemed brand and then have it “customized.”

In my opinion, the results more often than not never surpass the attraction of the original model.

And, worst of all, the watch is no longer original.

The fact that I don’t understand it explains why people do this. I am a purist, taking great pleasure in searching high and low to locate an original crown when one of my vintage watches needs one. I am of the opinion that when you buy something new, be it a car or a watch, and you immediately have to customize it you bought the wrong product.

I am honest enough with myself to admit the flaws in this reasoning, though. Some people simply want a famous brand name or iconic design, yet feel that it is missing something.

Some want to make the original their own – and as it is their watch, they are free to do as they wish. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and therefore a very personal matter.

For that reason alone, I tip my hat to those who not only pay top dollar for a desirable watch by a premium brand, but then fork out even more money to elevate it to what they consider personal perfection. In a weird kind of way that even makes us kindred spirits; we just express ourselves differently.

TAG Heuer Monaco Chronograph Forged Carbon Bamford Edition

TAG Heuer Monaco Chronograph Forged Carbon Bamford Edition

The ups and downs of modding watches

When it comes to companies who customize watches, the Bamford Watch Department is in a league of its own.

The company was founded in 2003 by George Bamford, who in his own words had “a desire to rediscover the lost art of personalization in an age of mass production.” Striking a chord with collectors, it soon became one of the leading companies in customization.

Bamford Watch Department’s bread and butter products involve sports watches by Rolex, and those it has customized are in such high demand that even in the pre-owned market they still command a generous premium. That is quite something because customized watches can be more challenging to sell, often depending on the degree of eccentricity the initial owner installed in the piece.

In a sense, Bamford was creating the Rolex models everybody wanted, yet Rolex did not make.

The problem with customizing Rolex watches is, however, Rolex. Owners that have anything on altered on a Rolex – whether adding diamonds to the bezel, a PVD coating to the case, or redesigning the dial – can expect that when they give their Rolex to the brand for service they get a hefty estimate that includes the replacement of all parts that Rolex deems not original. Or that the service is refused altogether.

This pushed Bamford to set up a service department of his own so he could service the watches that he had customized for his clients.

George Bamford (left) and LVMH Jean-Claude Biver, head of LVMH's watch division

George Bamford (left) and Jean-Claude Biver, head of LVMH’s watch division, at Baselworld 2018

Bamford meets TAG Heuer

“Give the people what they want” is also a credo that LVMH watch division head Jean-Claude Biver has wholeheartedly lived by throughout his career. The unique ability that Biver however has is that he knows what the people want before they know it themselves.

And unlike Rolex, Biver loves collaborations, gladly utilizing the talents of Bamford in service of some of the LVMH brands he is responsible for as exemplified by both Zenith and TAG Heuer naming Bamford their official customization partner in 2018.

Zenith Pilot modified by Bamford

Zenith Pilot modified by Bamford Watch Department

Being the official customization partner for Zenith and TAG Heuer is a win-win because Bamford can customize watches with the support of both brands, Biver expands the desirability of his products in some demographics, and clients can get the watches of their dreams while counting on the full support of both Bamford and Zenith or TAG Heuer.

Tag Heure chronograph modified by Bamford

A Zenith Pilot Chrono Tipe CP-2 modified by Bamford Watch Department

While Bamford has already customized a few Zenith and TAG Heuer models, I want to focus on the TAG Heuer Monaco launched at Baselworld 2018 as I feel that this watch exemplifies the true synergy of such a collaboration.

In the watch world the Monaco is an icon thanks the role it played in Le Mans (see The Real Story Behind Steve McQueen’s Heuer Monaco: Exclusive Interview With ‘Le Mans’ Property Master Don Nunley).

So one good ground rule might be, don’t mess with an icon.

TAG Heuer Monaco Chronograph Forged Carbon Bamford Edition on the wrist

TAG Heuer Monaco Chronograph Forged Carbon Bamford Edition

Even though Bamford had already modified Monaco models in the past, this time it was different. As the official customization partner of the brand, Bamford’s influence and access grew significantly, allowing him to take the customization to the next level.

And, boom, the Monaco features a carbon fiber case! Combine this with a revised black dial with Bamford’s signature aqua-blue details, and the retro watch that is the Monaco is all of a sudden from the future.

TAG Heuer Monaco Chronograph Forged Carbon Bamford Edition

TAG Heuer Monaco Chronograph Forged Carbon Bamford Edition

I had the pleasure of spending some extended time with this model, and the purist in me kept surprisingly quiet all that time. In fact, one question arose, “Why hadn’t TAG Heuer done this before?”

With TAG Heuer modifying its iconic Monaco to such an extent, it wins by offering much more artistic freedom to new and younger customizers, but at the cost of potentially alienating  its existing customer base.

Crown and caseband of TAG Heuer Monaco Chronograph Forged Carbon Bamford Edition

Crown and case band of TAG Heuer Monaco Chronograph Forged Carbon Bamford Edition

It is even expected from a customizer that it transforms an object outside the norm, otherwise why bother? Offering a warranty-approved customizing service offers both added value to clients and to TAG Heuer itself, as Bamford does something that the brand cannot do itself.

Dial details of TAG Heuer Monaco Chronograph Forged Carbon Bamford Edition

Dial details of TAG Heuer Monaco Chronograph Forged Carbon Bamford Edition

That also answers the question posed in the title of this article, as currently it looks like a match made in heaven. And I am looking forward to see what the collaboration results in next!

For more information, please visit www.bamfordwatchdepartment.com.

Quick Facts TAG Heuer Monaco Chronograph Forged Carbon Bamford Edition
Case: 39 mm, forged carbon fiber case
Movement: automatic Caliber 11 (base Sellita SW-300 with Dubois Dépraz chronograph module)
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date, chronograph
Limitation: 500 pieces
Price: $8,100

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