These watch brands are making customization more accessible

Wristwatches are sentimental items, popular as gifts, and natural candidates for personalization of all kinds. But beyond the engraving of initials or messages on the case back, further personalization has often meant consultation between a watchmaker and a customer who can afford such a special service. However, the Internet and globalized production have begun to provide more options for more people.

Depending on the type of functionality and level of customization, watches can involve a lot more complexity than, say, printing your selfie on a t-shirt or coffee mug – although there are indeed services that offer to put your own photo on a watch case or even dial (not that we recommend). Somewhere between engraving your initials and ordering a bespoke one-of-a-kind piece from a high-end independent watchmaker, online configurators allow users to mix and match existing components and colors.

Just as many websites allow customers to view a watch with different strap combinations, some also apply the same concept to other components. However, watch parts are generally much more complicated to swap than bracelets, often requiring special training and skills. Making these watches to order also means they may not ship immediately and may take longer to arrive on your wrist. But the prospect of having a watch that’s unlike any other and made special by your own touches and tastes is an appealing proposition.

To be clear, we’re talking here specifically about websites that make their models to order (some websites such as Rolex and Oris offer a “configure your watch” button or something similar, but that’s more of a way to search among the models according to their characteristics). Below are examples of companies offering online configurators, and we recommend trying them out for yourself.

Timex

Timex

Timex offers the nominal customization experience of choosing the case you like best, pairing it with one of the various dials, and then choosing a strap. The dials are pre-designed without the possibility of modifying specific elements. Like any other configuration program, you start by choosing the base model. Timex offers eight existing models to customize, and we’ve toyed with the Scout 40 with a “silver” case and matched it with a blue dial among seven options. Paired with a gray strap, the result would cost the same as one of the pre-made $75 Scout 40 models.

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Porsche design

custom factory watches

Porsche design

Announced this year, Porsche Design is rare among luxury watchmakers not only for offering an online configurator, but also for the breadth of customization options it offers. The brand claims that the combination of elements amounts to 1.5 million possibilities. It’s all built around the brand’s famous Chronograph 1 watch, which you start customizing by choosing a natural or black-coated titanium case finish, signature features of the model.

With a base price of $5,150, some options command a premium: a black case costs around $300, and opting for an all-black titanium bracelet with a fine-adjustment mechanism costs an additional $1,250. You can choose a black or silver bezel with a tachymeter or timer scale, plus a few handset options, but the dial’s “colored ring” is where the most fun and distinction lies – it’s available. in a wide range of colors which can additionally be matched to webbing, stitching and even some rotor options.

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Fact

custom factory watches

FACT

Hong Kong-based watch company Undone offers such a variety of basic models that its customization tool seems to offer significant creative possibilities — the majority of models listed on their site have a “Customize” button next to the standard “Buy Now” button. Moreover, the brand is known for offering well-built products (using the same Chinese suppliers who work with major Swiss brands) at very reasonable prices. Go ahead and have fun mixing and matching everything from dial configurations and colors to handsets and more. Even better, you are looking for very reasonable prices if you like the look you are offering.

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Bamford Watch Department

custom factory watches

Bamford Watch Department

Although Bamford now has its own (relatively affordable) watch collections, the British company is best known for customizing top brand watches in the aftermarket – a relationship with LVMH means there are plenty of options for customizing watches. TAG Heuer, Zenith and Bulgari. Like many sneaker manufacturers, Bamford allows users to select a range of colors for just about any element. Bamford’s online tool was the most comprehensive and easy to use of those we tried, offering the most freedom – even resulting in combination possibilities that are perhaps misguided. Many of Bamford’s colors are quite strong and vibrant, so you can end up with something that stands out and really reflects your own taste.

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