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Should You Ever Customize Your Rolex?

Paul Altieri

It’s hard to imagine that adding diamonds – one of the world’s most coveted and valuable gems – could actually decrease the value of your Rolex. But to be honest, anytime you customize or modify a Rolex watch, it is kind of like putting lipstick on the Mona Lisa. Yeah, maybe she’ll look cooler, but you just altered a perfectly good (and priceless) painting for the sake of aesthetic indulgence.


Maybe I’m being dramatic, but I’m not alone in this philosophy. Rolex intentionally and selectively places every part and component of their watches with purpose and meaning. Purist collectors won’t even consider purchasing a watch that’s been polished, let alone one that’s had aftermarket diamonds inserted or a colorful new face added.

With that being said, I can honestly say that I understand the appeal of customizing your Rolex. Watches are a part of fashion, and I think fashion and style should be fun and personal. At the same time, I don’t think you can modify a Rolex and expect it to age well – as the value will, in all likelihood, decrease, especially as it reaches vintage collectable status. But for the sake of seeing both sides and starting good conversations within the community, I’m going to explore it all – the good, the bad, and the costly.


Customize Your Rolex: The Good

I’m not a total square – I do understand why you’d want to customize your Rolex. Steeped in tradition, Rolex is not the kind of brand that is willing to go out on a limb for the sake of fashion. So, if you’re the kind of person who gets bored of the same old stuff, wants something bespoke, or just generally wants to take a risk, I think customization can be a good option for you.

Today, there are a lot of options out there for aftermarket modifications. You have companies that will totally overhaul your watch to make it look like a long-lost vintage treasure, while others will give you the clear caseback on your Rolex that you have always wanted. You can even get PVD coating on your Rolex case and bracelet for an ever-cool matte-black look. Of course, you also have the option of switching out the dial for the color of your dreams. When you customize your Rolex, you’re going to have a totally unique or pretty unique piece that is sure to catch eyes and start a few conversations.


Customize Your Rolex: The Bad

While customization offers seemingly endless possibilities, it also caps value potential. For serious collectors, this is a big turn-off. Yes, we all got into watch collecting for a love of the objects themselves. But, a big part of the fun is collecting pieces that already hold great value or that will appreciate over time. The minute you start replacing genuine Rolex parts with aftermarket parts – no matter how well-made they are – you are literally taking value from the watch.  

Plus, the chances of reselling the watch also decrease when you customize it. Your customizations may appeal to you, but they might not appeal to other buyers. Plus, you can bet any purist collector will quickly and swiftly walk out the door the second they spot these modifications. If you’re in the market for a watch and the seller mentions custom work or modifications, be extremely weary of this risky investment, or simply avoid it altogether. That is, unless you understand that the watch will be more for fun and fashion than value.


Customize Your Rolex: The Cost

I think I’ve made it pretty clear that customizing your Rolex can decrease its value. I mean, just imagine if you replaced your new Polar Explorer II with an icy blue face, only to find out years down the line that there was another ref. 16550 situation on our hands. A watch that would have aged gracefully and uniquely is now worth pennies compared to its counterparts. Now this is an extreme situation, but I think you get the point.

But there’s another side to this, too. Really good, top-tier customized Rolex watches are going to cost you a heck of a lot. One example is Les Artisans de Genève, who despite being relatively newcomers to the watch customization game, are charing tens of thousands of dollars for aftermarket modifications.


The inspiration for this article actually came from their ‘Tribute to 6240 Tropical,’ which was released and sold out in a matter of weeks for a whopping $35,000. Yeah, its inspiration comes from a $200,000 vintage Daytona – but still. Can you really justify spending all that money on a watch that (technically) isn’t totally a Rolex anymore?

That’s up to you. If you realize that it’s for fashion and fun, sure. But if you’re looking to build a collection with steadfast value and investment potential, then this really isn’t the best option for you.


Paul Altieri
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