Alejandro Alcocer has a costly obsession. An avid watch collector for over 20 years, Alcocer claims to have one model of almost every timepiece Rolex has ever produced. When word of an exclusive, black Explorer One series made in the late 60s for the Royal British Navy stationed in South Africa reached Alcocer, elation quickly gave way to frustration. “I had to have one,” he says “but I found out that that the distribution of the 500 pieces was never confirmed by Rolex.” Add to this the minor obstacle that a single piece from this ‘disavowed’ collection was reportedly sold at auction for $162,000.
Inspired by this holy grail of horologes, Alcocer decided to create his own range of vintage, limited edition stainless steel Rolexes – in glorious matte black. Sourcing only well-maintained pieces produced between 1958 and 1990 (Alcocer favours both the designs and lighter stainless steel used during this period), each iconic model was carefully vetted by a watch expert in Geneva to ensure it contained all of its original components. “We would not use ‘FrankenRolexes’,” he says, explaining that many vintage finds are often not what they seem upon closer inspection. As one might expect, the movement of each chosen watch was given such a meticulous overhaul and deep cleaning that the Rolexes were effectively, in Alcocer’s words, “not new but good as new.”
The collection was then sent to a Pennsylvania-based company where a coating process known as Physical Vapor Disposition (PVD) fused a micron thick layer of carbon particles onto the disassembled components creating the signature black matte finish. While PVD has been around for a number of years (used primarily in medical and military applications to decrease friction wear on metal parts), Alcocer takes pride in the fact that his unique proprietary method for the Rolex project took three years to develop. After a Diamond Like Coating (DLC) was applied to increase the strength of the layered components, the collection was shipped back to Geneva to be re-assembled.
With only 50 watches released in each of the five Rolex models produced, Alcocer is confident that these limited editions will continue to increase in value with time. “Sixty percent of the retail pieces have been sold,” he says “and there is already a secondary market for them.” Worth aside, the bragging rights alone should be enough to have any fellow Rolex devotee or design junkie thinking about just how much matte matters to their watch wish list. Alcocer puts it best: “A well-designed watch has always reminded me that we are given an unknown amount of time to realize dreams and fulfill visions.” Tick tock, collectors.