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Your Position: Home - Timepieces, Jewelry, Eyewear - What's the Difference Between Custom and Factory Set ...

What's the Difference Between Custom and Factory Set ...


While custom watches and factory watches are both designed with real diamonds and precious gemstones of similar size, quality, and quantity, there are many distinct characteristics between the two types of watches.


Factory Watches

A factory set timepiece means that the stones were applied directly by the technicians of the watch brand’s manufacturer without any third-party involvement. All of the inserts were always meant to be a part of the original design. The alignment, orientation, position, strength, and proportion of the gems are precise. It’s because of the amount of time and attention to detail that these luxury timepieces are high priced and harder to obtain.

Unlike the fast-paced environment of New York City, the watch industry is quite the opposite. Artisans train for almost a decade to produce luxury timepieces by hand. The consideration for the expense is because of the hardworking hours that goes into crafting every timepiece. The client base for factory set watches is ordinarily small, and because of this, they are created with flawless dials, bracelets, and bezels set with precious stones. Premium watch brands also rely on ensuring supply never meets demand because it adds to the idea that a person is making a luxury purchase.

Factory Set Rolex Sky-Dweller REF #326959
Shop Avi & Co’s Sky-Dwellers today!


Custom Watches

Custom watches, also referred to as aftermarket watches, are watches that have diamonds added by non-brand authorized third parties on a preexisting timepiece. Also referred to in the industry as ‘iced-out,’ or ‘blinged-out,’ a custom timepiece has some replica parts, and the bracelet, case or the diamonds set on the watch are not original.

Custom set watches are produced frequently, but brands don’t often announce a customized watch out of respect for their client’s original design. There are many components on a watch that can be customized depending on the specific timepiece; gemstones can be added to the case, lugs, or dial. Engraved messages can be written on the caseback, and top watch brands may even be able to customize a movement part with a special color or wheel. One of the most common forms of customization is DLC or PVD coating, which gives an all-black look to the metal for a stronger appearance.

Seiko watches with DLC coating


Pros of a Customized Watch

The greatest part about customizing your watch with diamonds is that it gives the memento a flashier appearance, matching your personal style. With the advancements in technology and people wanting to keep up with the latest trends, it’s only fitting that people want to own a timepiece that is tailored to them. Designing a custom watch allows for complete creative freedom with how the customer wants their watch to look; this builds a timeless and emotional connection. Buying an aftermarket diamond piece will also cost much less than factory watches while allowing the wearer to stand out.

“A personalized approach through customization is key for high-end clients, and particularly those with a penchant for haute horlogerie,” CEO of Zenith Watch Company Julian Tornare says. “We see high demand for this service, and delivering it is part of our commitment to fulfilling client expectations. We create custom pieces for clients who are not interested in wearing watches generally available to the public; they prefer unique examples of watchmaking, a way for them to be actively involved in the creation of a timepiece. And this trend is not slowing down; on the contrary, it is rising.”

Engraving the back of a luxury watch could make any gift even more memorable; it shows that you went the extra mile in thinking of them on their special day. While most buy watches to collect or simply tell the time, a lot of what makes a watch so meaningful is the story behind it. Add an engraving to the caseback either with the person’s name, the event’s date, or a short note for that personalized finishing touch.

John F. Kennedy’s infamously engraved Rolex Day-Date from Marilyn Monroe.


Cons of a Customed Watch

While adding diamonds to a timepiece can make it more lavish, it completely changes the shape and size of its original form; the manufacturer may need to trim portions of the watch, damaging the overall quality.

If the plan is to sell or loan your luxury timepiece in the future, it’s highly inadvisable to customize; not only can it be a costly process, but it also does not translate to a higher resale value, like most may believe. An unaltered, original conditioned timepiece is worth far more than the material value of any added diamonds.

For Rolex in particular, additional adornments are considered ‘fake watches’ in the eyes of the brand, as they won’t service a watch with any custom parts. This creates problems when Rolex owners are trying to repair their watch and can’t find a reputable repair shop.

Finally, the quality won’t be the same as an original factory set product. A brand’s manufacturer is careful when selecting each gemstone. A local jeweler might use economy-class diamonds to meet the needs of a customer who is on a tight budget.


How To Spot an Aftermarket Timepiece

Each diamond or gem should be aligned in a uniform direction, just as they would by a hand-crafted factory set watch. An iced-out watch will have proportions that don’t sit just right because they were never designed that way. Diamond accessories can also be cracked, noticeably cloudy, or feature non-white stone. If there is still any uncertainty, check the reference number of the watch. This will reveal if it was intended to have gem-set parts or not.

Original Rolex vs Customized Rolex Comparison


Luxury Watch Brands and Their Customized Timepieces

Many of the top watch brands have made unique watches in the past for their top clients. One of the most impressive examples was when financial banker and art collector Henry Graves turned to Patek Philippe to have the most complicated watch built. This pocket watch held the record as the worlds most complicated portable mechanical watch for 56 years.

Suggested reading:
Were sunglasses popular in the 90s?
What was the point of the night watch?

The Graves Super Complication pocket watch built by
Patek Philippe in 1933 for Henry Graves.


Many of todays most iconic watch collections were initially made at the request of clients. In 1931, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso was released as a request from polo players who wanted a watch they could wear while playing. The IWC Portugieser was requested in 1939 by two Portuguese businessmen who wanted a highly legible watch as precise as a marine chronometer.

In the past, these types of customization timepieces were a genuine way to help brands grow. However, as technology progressed, it became more difficult to make those custom orders while keeping up with the luxury demand. The amount of time it takes to create a detailed watch is why they are also harder to obtain. For example, Richard Mille produces about 3,000 watches per year because it takes about 12 meticulous weeks to make just one watch.


Smaller Watch Brands and Their Customized Timepieces

Smaller brands are trying to think outside of the box to include non-traditional methods of watchmaking. With big brands not having the time to stop production for individual customized watches, smaller companies have started offering this option. Companies like Jacob & Co. have created an Astronomia watch for Leonardo DiCaprio’s charity. “Doing bespoke (customized) work has been a part of my company since the very beginning,” Jacob & Co.’s founder Jacob Arabo says. “It’s how I set myself apart, and we continue to do this today. Nowadays, true luxury is about exclusivity, and there is nothing more exclusive than having a bespoke timepiece. I love making my clients’ dreams come true, and our company is set up to create these unique pieces.”

An example of how to customize and engrave a watch with TIMEX.

In the past, customization options might have been limited to a strap or an engraved case back, but nowadays, a custom timepiece is just a few clicks away. According to Sharp Magazine, here are the top brands that offer customization:

  • Bamford Watch Department

  • Piaget

  • Seiko

  • Timex


Other brands that offer customization options include:


At the end of the day, it really depends on what your personal preference is. Having factory watches is 100% original and any customization is seen to watch collectors as negative and less appealing, as it can devalue the watch. However, if you wish for your timepiece to be unique and tailored to you, then a customized timepiece is the way to go.

To ensure you are receiving the correct watch for your collection, whether that be factory or custom set, make sure to purchase from a reputable and trusted retail company. For any additional questions, feel free to reach out to one of our representatives at Avi & Co. by creating an appointment with us today!

It’s a given that a Rolex watch will hold its value quite well. Why? Because Rolex is one of the most prestigious watchmakers in the entire world. The brand’s iconic collections, including the Submariner, Daytona, Explorer, and Datejust are some of the most recognized and successful to have ever been manufactured. Gem-set Rolex watches are accompanied by significant price premiums when purchased at retail, but are diamond Rolex watches worth the investment? To answer the question, let’s take a look at why Rolex watches are so expensive in the first place.

Diamond Rolex Watches as Investments

Rolex watches are more than just regular timepieces with a brand label stamped upon them. You aren’t just paying for the name; you’re paying for a brand that does everything in-house, from the production of their beautifully developed movements to their patented innovations. The materials used in the actual design of a Rolex are costly to start with, in particular the diamonds, which are all hand-selected before being set into the brand’s proprietary gold or platinum alloys. The equipment involved in the construction of a Rolex watch is also very costly; we’re talking about giant specialized machines, electron microscopes, and gas spectrometers. 

However, diamond Rolex watches are another ball game altogether. They retail at an incredibly high price compared to their non-diamond counterparts. For example, the pave diamond dial on the Everose gold Yacht-Master 40 comes with a price premium of nearly $20,000 over the standard model. For some, a brand-new diamond Rolex watch is worth spending the money on, especially if you intend to keep it for an entire lifetime. You’re paying for the brand’s expert knowledge – an experienced manufacturer and developer of cutting-edge materials. Rolex also has its own team of skillful gemmologists and gem-setters who first examine and then set the diamonds in place with meticulous attention to detail. The placing and embedding of a scintillating diamond into a Rolex is considered one of the most exquisite processes that are carried out at the company’s manufacturing facilities.

Regardless of whether or not you buy a diamond Rolex watch, you are investing in the brand’s heritage and expertise. However, when the time comes to re-sell a diamond Rolex, in the majority of instances, its value will have depreciated to some degree or another. This is understandable given the massive price premiums that accompany diamond Rolex watches at retail; however, here’s where the price tag of a diamond Rolex watch is justifiable. On the pre-owned market, a second-hand diamond Rolex will be priced much more sensibly. In fact, it’s price bracket will (on average) sit only a couple of thousand dollars above the price of a standard pre-owned Rolex watch, reflecting a more accurate value for what one would expect from a more luxurious rendition of a high-end timepiece.

So, while a pre-owned diamond Rolex watch will almost always cost more than its non-diamond counterpart, what you’re actually getting for your money represents greater savings, and potentially a more investment-worthy timepiece. Most diamond Rolex models on the Bob’s Watches website can be purchased for less than $2000 more than the cost of an otherwise identical model without a diamond dial. In some instances, a Rolex watch with a diamond dial can be secured for only a few hundred dollars more than a standard model, while the price difference between the same two watches at retail would be several thousand dollars.

Diamond Rolex watches will always remain desirable since they add an element of extravagance and elegance to a person’s look. A number of Rolex collections are available with diamonds, including the Datejust, Day-Date, Daytona, Pearlmaster, and Date (along with certain Submariner and GMT-Master II references). Additionally, diamonds are most often found on the dials and bezels of Rolex watches; however, they can also be seen on the crown guards, lugs, and bracelets of certain select models. Some models showcase baguette-cut diamonds, which feature significantly larger stones and offer a nice alternative to the familiar round-cut diamonds that are found on most gem-set Rolex watches. 

One of the most expensive diamond Rolex watches in the world is the Rolex GMT-Master II Ice, which has a case, dial, and bracelet completely showered in diamonds. Diamond-set versions of the Rolex Day-Date 40 are an expensive option but provide a classic look with the added luxury of diamonds set in their dials and bezels. There are also full diamond-embellished Rolex dials like the pave diamond dials on Pearlmaster watches, which are often accompanied by traditional Roman numeral hour markers and a dazzling diamond-set bezel. 

So, for a timepiece that will hold its value and deliver all the indulgence and luxury that you’d expect from a brand-new diamond Rolex watch, the pre-owned market is easily the best place to look when planning to invest in a diamond Rolex. Depending on taste and budget there are countless designs available, including both current-production and discontinued models. You can pick up a Rolex Datejust with diamond hour markers for a slight premium above a standard model, but expect to pay a bit more for a model with a diamond bezel, simply due to the larger quantity of diamonds present on the watch. Similarly, baguette diamonds are always more expensive than their round-cut counterparts on Rolex watches due to their significantly larger size and more unique shape.

When purchased at retail, diamond Rolex watches are among the brand’s most expensive timepieces and rarely offer much investment potential due to the steep price premiums that accompany them. However, on the pre-owned market, the price premiums taper off almost instantly, meaning that used diamond Rolex watches offer some of the very best savings within the industry when compared to their original retail prices.

What's the Difference Between Custom and Factory Set ...

Are Diamond Rolex Watches Worth the Investment?





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