Why I Pimped My Rolex (Archive)
I don’t like Rolex!
Let me sugarcoat that. I’m not a fan of modern Rolexes other than the Explorer II Reference 216570 with the main reason being is that it looks so much like the vintage 1655 “Freccione” with its flamboyant orange second time zone hand, a collector’s classic dream.
During a trip to Tokyo a couple of years ago I was in a meeting with a distinguished Japanese gentleman, impeccably clad and wearing the most gorgeous Yohei Fukuda bespoke shoes. Beneath his French cuffs he appeared to be sporting a modern Explorer II. Needless to say, this gentleman captivated me so that basically the first thing I did once the meeting over was look for a Rolex dealer.
But since I’m not a fan of modern Rolex (and somewhat of a cheapo) I naturally didn’t want to pay full price. My guardian angel, once again proving that he or she is watching over me full time, came to the rescue as just around the corner I found a second-hand store that had . . . wait for it . . . an Explorer II in stock.
After having put my amazing negotiation skills to work and obtaining a generous zero percent discount, I walked out with Reference 216570 including box and papers.
The watch nerd that I am, I rarely immediately wear my new watches; I like to put them aside for a few days and let the anticipation grow. When the day finally came that it was time to wear my new Rolex, I took it out of the box, read the instruction manual (I couldn’t figure out how to set the orange hand) and proudly put it on my wrist.
And then horror struck. I didn’t feel anything, not a thing!
It didn’t give me joy, I didn’t look distinguished, I didn’t even look Japanese!
I wore the watch, I wore it quite a lot during that summer. I really wanted to love it, maybe we would grow to love each other and appreciate each other’s company. But, no, it just didn’t happen.
Zilch, nada, niente!
Around that time I was also checking out the different online platforms offering different case coatings and dial modifications, and I started thinking that maybe if I made some modifications it would help me give more TLC to my Explorer II.
I spoke to my buddy, Chris, about this. He is a collector and watch fanatic and takes his watches very seriously. He is often left shaking his head in disbelief when I talk to him about my different watch projects, but this time his reply was, “I don’t consider the Explorer II an iconic Rolex like a Submariner or a Daytona, so why not?”
Yes, I seem to be the guy who needs approval from his peers to go ahead with a project . . . sigh . . . and there I was thinking I was a free spirit!
Anyway, to make a long story short, I collected quotes from different companies who could pimp my Rolex, and each was even more ridiculously expensive than the other. Each quote I got almost doubled in price, but I was ready to make the sacrifice; I was not going to abandon my Explorer II without a fight.
There was no way I was going to go under with regrets, but that’s where my guardian angel intervened a second time: another collector friend of mine told me of a discreet watch shop in Switzerland (names and places have been changed to protect the innocent) who could do the pimping I needed.
Emails were sent, contacts made, and the watch was sent for a full makeover that would take two months. The changes I wanted were minimal: a black case and bracelet with lime green enamel numerals on the bezel. The dial and hands were to remain untouched.
The reason for my choice was simple: I wanted my Rolex to still look like a Rolex, but since I was pimping it I didn’t want to have the dial redone to look like a vintage model (on a side note, I find the current offers to modify modern Daytonas to look like vintage models, but at an even higher price than acquiring the true vintage counterparts, completely ridiculous!).
As for the green numerals . . . well, they are not because I’m a big Shrek fan. I rather love the color and find that unfortunately it is used far too infrequently in watchmaking. The person in charge of the enameling sent me a few suggestions by mail, even one with orange numerals, but I settled for a strong lime green color in the end.
After about two months’ wait, I got a package in the post. And without warning opened it to find my pimped out Explorer II looking menacingly dark yet joyous with its green accents. And I noted with some joy that the pimper (or pimp?) had sent me the watch even before I had paid for it! Kudos to him: I am happy to have people who still work based on trust.
So how did I feel?
I won’t lie: it wasn’t love at first sight.
The watch was cool, definitely very cool. It was exactly everything I was expecting and even more. I can’t say that I love the watch, and this remains proof that I just don’t like modern Rolex no matter how pimped up it is. But I wear it with pleasure; it is a great conversation starter and it is a damn good-looking, kick-ass watch.
And it helped me unearth my inner pimp!
Do you think that I made the right decision or did I commit sacrilege? Or both? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
For more information on the Rolex Explorer II, please visit www.rolex.com/explorer-ii.
* This article was first published on June 18, 2016 at Why I Pimped My Rolex. You may find the comments there interesting.
Also published on Medium.