11.10.2020 - News

Customising luxury watches: the pros and cons

With six weeks to go until Christmas, you may find yourself still searching for a unique gift, especially if you’re dealing with someone who ‘has everything’. If you’ve chosen to buy either a new or pre-worn luxury watch, you may be debating giving it a personal touch; perhaps a complete transformation or a subtle piece of engraving.

While many watch collectors would frown at the mere idea of modifying such an expensive watch, others look to customise lower-end luxury watches for something different. So before you start attempting to remove the dial from your new purchase, we explore the benefits and drawbacks of modification.

Watch modding (or customising)

One way to subtly change the appearance of a watch is to swap out the bracelet for a customised one. You may have received an alternate strap with the timepiece you purchased but there is an entire industry created specifically for top-end watches.

As long as you ensure you have the correct size of straps you could make a watch look completely different on a leather band or textile strap. And of course, an investment in straps is a great way to expand your existing collection without buying too many watches. It’s only a temporary measure, so if you did prefer the old way, you could switch it back whenever you like.

Trial a dial 

Unless you have thousands of pounds to play around with, it’s always worth consulting a skilled watchmaker if your wish is to modify the dial. As the face of the watch, any adaptations are likely to completely change the original look. It could be you want a different colour or a fresh set of hands.

You can also use gems to create a bespoke watch but obviously this is a very expensive and permanent procedure, however it’s still cheaper to do this than buy a top-of-the-range diamond watch. You could add diamonds to the centre-piece – think Jay-Z – or add a few delicate jewel indexes. 

Adding a PVD coating to a watch is also a costly and permanent procedure  but works well for those who are fans of blacked-out watches.


A heartfelt message can be added to a watch in the form of engravement with some brands offering to do this when you buy new. Pre-owned watches often come with dates or names inscribed on the back. Cartier offers ‘Commande Spéciale’. Its special order service allows customers to create a unique piece such as the insertion of a sunburst dial onto a Cartier Tank Cintrée.

If the watch is only ever intended to be handed down and not resold it would be a nice touch. If sale is ever on the cards, you’d need to consider how much you might reduce the value by, if you inscribe with personal initials, for example.

Sense of style

For those who like to stand out from the crowd, a bespoke option is a good choice, and while the main aim is to tell the time, and admire some amazing craftsmanship, it’s also a fabulous way to show off your sense of style.

If you love the style of Chopard’s Imperiale Joaillerie Rainbow but not the price, you could choose something like a cheap Rolex Daytona model and modify it to include a gem-set bezel – think Rainbow Daytona. Purist collectors might turn their noses up at the suggestion but for those who cannot afford the real deal, it’s a great option. 


Over time, some watches will begin to show signs of degradation, They may get scratches, dented or discoloured but these are common traits in pre-worn watches. As a general rule, collectors prefer watches to remain in their original condition. Therefore modifying a watch can mean it can lose value in the secondary market.

However, some avid fans do enjoy seeing wear and tear and at times, watches with fading or imperfections can sometimes fetch higher prices than those that have been regularly serviced, polished and kept in fabulous condition. 


Some brands who offer authorised servicing for watches will not touch a watch that has been modified with other parts. If this concerns you, it’s best to leave your watch untouched. You may also void your warranty if you customise a watch permanently.


There are always risks to modifying something expensive, and the same goes for watches. If you are considering major works on your watch be sure you’ve got good reviews for the watchmaker undertaking the adaptations. Be prepared that the end result may not be what you envisaged. Parts may have been damaged in the process or a new coating could turn out looking cheap.

Contact us

If you need help to sell your new or pre-worn existing watch, we are available over the phone for appointments throughout lockdown, so contact us today.