To say George Bamford is a polarizing figure among watch lovers may be an understatement. But purist or not, you have to recognize that George Bamford–and his company Bamford Watch Department–are very good at what they do.
Bamford has been in the watch modification game since 2003. Rolex watches are the vast majority of his offerings, but he also plays with AP and Patek Philippe. The company’s unofficial motto is “if you can imagine it, we can create it”. Bamford’s creations come in all sorts of colors and designs, but his trademark is the all-black matte finish on the case, bracelet, and dial. And while the brands don’t condone his modifications, it’s clear that George is a huge fan of them—Rolex in particular.
So why get into such a controversial business? George loves innovative and unusual design. His collection is full of notable historic timepieces from Heuer and OMEGA. And, he really believes in his watches having a “heart and soul”. Partly because of their sentimental value, and partly because he’s taken them apart and personalized them. We’ve got the highlights and interesting stories behind some of his favorites.
While George’s first watch was an old Navitimer 806, the Bullhead was the watch to start the seeds of his business. He’s taken it “to bits” and replaced certain parts, so it’s not all original anymore. He jokes: “My watch service guys hate the movement because I haven’t put it back together normally”. But because of how much he’s tinkered with it, the Bullhead is very special to him.
If the Bullhead was the impetus for personalizing watches as a hobby, George’s GMT Master was the beginning of Bamford Watch Department. He modified this watch for himself but found a lot of interest when he wore it out and about. That’s what really got him started on creating watches for others.
This gold Rolex Submariner belonged to George’s grandfather. What he loves about it is how beat up it is, with all the scratches and dents of a well-loved watch. It’s one watch he’s refrained from touching, preferring the memory of its “big blue dial, blue bezel” all tied up in memories of his grandfather. Interesting story: it took George 10 years to find this watch after it left the family after his grandfather passed, making it all the more special to have it back in his collection.