“Rusty” By Artisans De Genève — Setting A New Standard For Bespoke Vintage Inspiration
It’s no secret that I am not the biggest fan of Rolex watches or what the brand has come to represent. Still, what I didn’t get was why anyone in their right mind would completely rebuild a brand-new Rolex to their own spec. Surely, such a thing is sacrilegious, no? “Rusty” by Artisans de Genève, however, is so good that it has the power to turn even the staunchest advocate of pure originality to “the dark side”.
Artisans de Genève’s Shades of Blue project from 2021 made me desire a Daytona for the first time. It also opened my eyes to the world of customization. But we’re not talking gem-set bezels and bussed-down bracelets here. No, this was customization with a difference and a sharp eye for detail and vintage clues. For an automotive parallel, just look at the Porsches from Singer, where you can have a classic-looking 911, but with the details, refinement, and speed of a new car. Consider “Rusty” in the same vein, and it will make sense.
A studied approach
First off, “Rusty” by Artisans de Genève is not for sale, nor is it something you can find in a catalog from the atelièr. But therein lies the appeal of the company’s work. Artisans de Genève has a limited-capacity workshop in Geneva, where the eponymous artisans undertake the personalization of watches for their owners. So, in theory, you can have something similar but bespoke with nearly infinite possibilities in terms of design. Artisans de Genève is also acutely aware of the brand-guarantee tightrope it’s walking. The brand does not produce watches for sale, as this will void their guarantee. I deeply respect this purity of intent, and on a visit to the atelier during Geneva Watch Days last year, I was smitten. Not by the pizzazz of the timepieces, but by the studied nature of the approach. The tropical touch on the dial of the “Rusty” is a great example.
“Rusty” — The background
At first glance, this is what all auction hunters cherish — a rich, tropical-dialed, vintage be-crowned chronograph. To quote the owner, Mr. S.C.G., “I’ve always been fascinated by the footprint of time on objects and by the sentimental value they bring us. I’ve worn the same watch for several years, so I contacted ADG to add a special touch. A timeworn feel that would make it even more unique.”A similar approach is what incites the atelier to embark on each separate project, and for the “Rusty”, this included a tropical holiday for the dial
It goes deeper than patina
We all know the Cosmograph Daytona ref. 116520 is a great watch, but the “Rusty” has the charm of another age. The case has been slimmed down, bereft of its crown guards, with millerighe pushers and a smaller crown. So we all see the vintage Daytona 6263 clues, but this is only a vehicle for the meticulously aged dial. ADG developed a controllable process for creating that “tropical” oxidized patina we all love. The company shipped the dial to a secret location in the Azores, an area with a tropical climate and very high humidity. After ten weeks, the client was happy with the stage of aging, and the process was stopped. To me, the mere time and effort that went into this give the dial a deeper meaning.
More than a sum of elaborate parts
Back in its case, the dial is framed by a brown bakelite bezel with honey-colored numerals. The now brown-tinged dial has amber-colored counters and text, with a vintage-looking lume that glows brown at night. This infuses the dial with a warmth that might be man-made but, for Mr. S.C.G., is highly sentimental. And the “Rusty” Project does not end with one of the richest honey dials out there. The movement itself is re-worked and skeletonized. The 4130 caliber is hand-beveled and reveals a subtle contrast. Mr. S.C.G. will see rose gold geartrain details through a new sapphire case back, something I’m sure many a 116520 owner would love to have.
What is personal perfection worth?
To sum it up, a book is a lot more than its cover. Personalization can also mean so much more than a first impression. For me, that means that this small atelier of craftsmen changed my perceptions of one of the most popular grails. I wasn’t a fan of the Daytona, but now? If I had the funds, I would happily invest in a bespoke, modded one. In fact, that might be the only way I’d want this chronograph. And that says a lot for the work of Artisans de Genève.
What do you think? Would you hand over your hard-won Swiss grail to have it altered beyond recognition? Is this just plain wrong, or is it way too tempting? Let us know in the comments.