In Focus Watches

Crafting Sapphire Rolexes with AET Remould

AET REMOULD Loong

Custom watches tend to come in two distinct breeds. On the one hand, you have the mass-produced, generally cheap-but-fun stuff from brands like Undone and cool impulse buys that don’t necessarily have much staying power. Then you have the custom jobs that take an established watch – generally something like a Daytona or Nautilus – and give it an eye-catching make over. This is the realm of your Artisans de Geneve, your MAD Paris and AET REMOULD.

It’s that last one we’re here to focus on however, not simply because they’re likely the one you’ve not come across before – at least if you’re a regular reader of these hallowed pages – but because the German watchmaker is arguably the one that goes above and beyond what a custom timepiece can actually be.

AET REMOULD Sapphire Case

While a good part of that is their cool, frenetic approach to design – which we’ll get on to – the starting point is a little more basic. Basic as in building blocks rather than simple, as materials are a huge part of AET REMOULD’s remit – particularly sapphire.

Sapphire has been a watchmaking staple since Jaeger-LeCoultre’s hardwearing Reversos of the 1930s. The main reason why is a solid one, literally. It’s one of the hardest materials on Earth at nine on the Mohs Hardness Scale, second only to diamond, making it a serious protective barrier to the otherwise fragile dial of a watch. The downside however, is also that it’s the second hardest material on Earth. The only thing you can reliably cut and shape it with is diamond, so machining the stuff is easier said than done, especially if you want to avoid any damage to the perfect panes of transparency you’re working with.

AET REMOULD Graffiti
AET REMOULD Graffiti

Rolex Daytona ‘Graffiti’

And yet, it’s the material that AET REMOULD have been, well, moulding in their own image. It’s not been easy – the company’s invested $20 million in research and development – but it’s been worth it. That investment went towards, not developing a new material, as sapphire’s been relatively unchanged for decades, but in how it’s used. AET have developed a phenomenally cool five-axis CNC machine that allows the freedom of movement required to mill, shape and machine sapphire. At the same time, they’ve also developed a way of polishing with ultrasonic waves which, when combined with traditional polishing, achieves the kind of clarity that larger brands only dream of. Sure, it still takes over 1,000 hours of work to process a case, but in an industry where sapphire is becoming more and more common beyond the crystal, AET have set themselves at the pinnacle of where the material can go.

AET REMOULD Loong
AET REMOULD Loong

Rolex Daytona ‘Loong’

Sure, sure, that’s all just words – the proof is in the watch. And so, there is 2022’s AET REMOULD Loong. Ostensibly a Rolex Daytona, very little of the original watch other than the movement (and arguably the printing on the dial) remains of the classic racing timer. Instead, the entire case, caseback and dial are made from sapphire, as is the entire bracelet. And emeralds of course, but then you can’t build a piece like this without at least a little pomp. Alongside the meticulous polishing and finishing, the world first includes a bas-relief carving on the dial, an illustration of just how magnificently AET REMOULD work with the materials at hand. There’s nothing else out there quite like it.

AET REMOULD Halloween
AET REMOULD Halloween

Rolex Daytona ‘Halloween’

Of course, not every watch they do is pure sapphire. It does however still provide a base for many of their designs, from the colourful, street-slanted awesomeness that is the Graffiti Three, to the recent seasonal Halloween full of pumpkin-centric fun. The contrast between the transparent case and dial, and the funky colours and shapes across it make for not just an eye-catching watch – though in every instance, they’re that – but a mirroring contrast between what we’d consider traditional haute horology (including the use of some classic references as a base) and modernity bordering futurism.

AET REMOULD After-Rain
AET REMOULD After-Rain

Rolex Daytona ‘After-Rain’

There’s definitely a premium; the Halloween for example will set you back $68,600 (approx. £56,000) and doesn’t include the base watch or movement you’ll need to send over. But unlike some custom houses that will basically black out your watch or skeletonise your dial, maybe swap a colour here or there, AET REMOULD quite literally remould the watch into something never-before-seen. The Loong may be the pinnacle of their craft, but there are many steps along the way to finding the grail watch you never thought you needed.

More details at AET REMOULD.

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About the author

Sam Kessler

Legend has it that Sam’s first word was ‘escapement’ and, while he might have started that legend himself, he’s been in the watch world long enough that it makes little difference. As the editor of Oracle Time, he’s our leading man for all things horological – even if he does love yellow dials to a worrying degree. Owns a Pogue; doesn’t own an Oyster Perpetual. Yet.