Chris Ser knows his work upsets people. “I understand where they’re coming from,” he says, digging his pneumatic engraving tool deep into the metal of a $10,000 watch that most owners would be afraid to even scratch. “But Rolexes are not as sacred as some people make them out to be.”

Ser and his colleagues at Fin Des Temps, an artist-owned engraving house he founded in 2014, perform their sacrilege in a tiny sixth-floor apartment-turned-studio on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. They are not simply engraving owners’ initials; they are carving intricate, original artwork onto nearly every available metal surface on high-priced luxury watches. Ser, himself heavily tattooed and with gold teeth in his smile, physically resembles his ornate, flashy designs.

Fin Des Temps and other engravers exist within a small but growing industry offering aftermarket customization in a variety of forms. At one end of the spectrum, DIY enthusiasts tweak design elements of their inexpensive Seikos or Casio G-Shocks, swapping in new hands, bezels, and even dials. At the other, highly trained craftsmen, like those from Les Artisans de Geneve, will refinish every component of a complicated high-end watch, from the dial to the movement, leaving it practically unrecognizable from its original form. In between you’ll find companies, such as Bamford Watch Department and MAD Paris, that will give your Rolex Submariner a black PVD coating, a layer of diamonds or other flamboyant features not offered by the brand itself.

Underpinning the customizing scene is a desire for something exclusive. “Anyone can buy a Rolex, but a one-of-a-kind piece? Nobody else will have that,” says Justin Counter, one of Ser’s colleagues at Fin Des Temps. Rolex is a popular brand for modifications; customers want something personal and unique, but that still retains the prestigious manufacturer’s name and the high-quality watchmaking it represents.

Read more about aftermarket customization on high-end watches on the Gear Patrol website  HERE

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