Personalisation and customisation are a popular way to individualise your watch and make it reflect your own tastes and personality. One of the brands leading the way in customisation is Artisans de Genève, who have created some exceptional modifications like the Zinal Project and Montoya Platinum, both of which are motorsport inspired variations on the Rolex Daytona. Their latest commission has a very different theme and takes customisation to the next level, going beyond cosmetic changes and adding a new complication an to existing watch. This is the Artisans de Genève Sea Shepherd Challenge.
All timepiece modifications produced by the brand are specifically done at the request of their private clients, making each one highly exclusive (if not unique), a fact that is emphasised by the limited output of their Geneva-based workshop. The Sea Shepherd was commissioned by Paul Watson, a well-known marine wildlife advocate and documentary maker. He wanted his Rolex Submariner Date (Ref. 116610) to better reflect his love for the nautical landscape and particularly the vast, star-filled night sky used by sailors the world over for navigation.
In order to fulfil this brief, Artisans de Genève gave themselves the challenge of adding a moonphase to the Submariner Date, the first time they’ve ever added a complication to a watch. They achieved this by creating a moonphase module that could be added directly to the existing 3135 movement. You can view a breakdown of the module on their YouTube channel.
The Sea Shepard has an aventurine dial with a matching aventurine bezel insert to create a sparkling field of stars and dark blue night sky, over which the hand sculpted silver moon travels. The moon holds a special place in the lives of sailors as it is intrinsically linked to the tides – sailing is actually one of the few professions where a moonphase is a practical complication in addition to a symbol of elegance and status.
A moonphase is definitely not a complication that you expect to see on a diver’s watch, especially a thoroughbred like the Submariner, which is Rolex’s professional diving specification. However, it’s actually a very cool combination. The complication doesn’t occupy a huge portion of the dial and crucially doesn’t affect the legibility of the timepiece, meaning it’s efficiency as a diving watch is unaltered. Admittedly the phase of the moon won’t help you when you’re 300m under the surface but it will help you with navigating to and from the location of your dive.
Some watch modifications can seem garish and unnecessary but I find this one to be utterly charming. Also, the fact that the customisation is not so simple as adding a few extra jewels really shows that this is a unique and interesting piece that adds real value to the original timepiece. On top of that, it’s intrinsically linked to the client’s livelihood and passions and genuinely reflects his personality. It ticks every conceivable box for a customised watch.
As to price, this was a private commission so we don’t know the true cost and can only speculate. A new Submariner Date will set you back £7,300 (or higher for a second-hand piece) and Artisans de Genève require you to provide your own watch for customisation so that would become part of the overall cost. The cost on top of that is virtually impossible to tell as it’s the first time Artisans de Genève have done a modification like this, and the fact they have a long waiting list for commissions means they have the pick of projects they want to complete. Let’s just say, if you start saving now then by the time you reach the top of the list you still probably won’t have enough.
Price & Specs:
Model: Artisans de Genève ‘The Sea Shepherd Challenge’ Rolex Submariner Date (Base: Rolex ® 116610)
Case/Dial: 40mm diameter, stainless steel case, aventurine dial with moonphase disc with Grand Feu
enamel, silver hand carved moon.
Water resistance: 300m (30 bar)
Movement: Calibre 3135, automatic, 18 jewels
Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 48h
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, moonphase
Strap: Stainless steel
More details at Artisans de Genève.