LaCalifornienne, a company that "restores vintage timepieces and reimagines them in bold colour", hasfound
themselves in a legal dispute with Rolex, who filed a lawsuit on the
15th November at the US District Court for the Central District of
LaCalifornienne is an independent watch dealer which customises vintage
and pre-owned Cartier and Rolex watches, injecting colour into the
classics by altering the original dials, bezels, straps and crystals.
Founded three years ago by Courtney Ormond and Leszek Garwacki
(defendants), the company is now being sued as Rolex accuses the
husband-wife duo of producing and selling counterfeit watches.
Featured in the likes of Forbes and Vogue, laCalifornienne
watches are praised for ‘breathing new life into vintage timepieces’
and seen as a ‘youthful upgrade to the classics’ (Goop by Gwyneth Paltrow).
However, Rolex doesn't think so.
During the customisation process, laCalifornienne replace original Rolex
parts with non-approved parts, a process which does not sit well with
the mega brand. In the lawsuit, Rolex claims that replacing parts in a
pre-owned or vintage Rolex no longer “attains the aesthetic” of Rolex and makes an otherwise authentic watch a counterfeit.
Not only have laCalifornienne ‘revamped’ Rolex watches giving the Rolex
trademark a complete makeover, but Rolex believe that the watches do not
perform to the same standard as an unaltered Rolex.
After acquiring two of the modified watches, Rolex claimed that the bezels in both watches were “bent
and not properly fitted to the watch, and therefore water is likely to
leak through, and ultimately, adversely affect the dial and movement of
the watch.” This flaw along with others could be detrimental to the Rolex name, “diluting the distinctive quality of Rolex’s registered trademarks” as stated in the case against laCalifornienne.
LaCalifornienne is also accused of “benefiting and profiting from
Rolex’s outstanding reputation for high quality products and its
significant advertising and promotion of Rolex watches and the company’s
trademarks” along with falsely suggesting that the watches are “authorised, sponsored, or approved by Rolex when they are not.”
I’m kind of with Rolex on this one. While the consumer/watch owner
should be free to modify his watch in any way he wishes to, setting up a
business with the sole purpose of selling heavily modified Rolex
watches and passing them off as genuine is a different story.
The fact is this: A Rolex name on a Rolex watch is worth more than the watch itself. And when buying a Rolex, you would want a 100% genuine Rolex watch, not just something that someone has put together.
We will be following this case with interest.
However, laCalifornienne is just one of many companies which specialises in Rolex modifications. Take for example, Artisans de Geneve (incidentally based in Geneva!). While Artisans de Geneve clearly points out that "modification service is for private customers only, and that customised or modified watches are not intended for resale",
in my opinion the end result is the same: a customised Rolex containing
non-Rolex components that barely resembles the original design yet
bears the Rolex copyrighted logo. I doubt Rolex have not heard of them
and wonder what action will be taken.
Quite frankly, if Artisans de Geneve are such great artisans, why don't
they start their own watch brand, sign watches with their name and show
us what they're good at, rather than bastardising Rolex watches and the