Artisans De Geneve - Spike Lee Cool Hand Brooklyn Skeleton, Tribute to 6263 Albino, Mika Hakkinen and Lance Armstrong Challenge

Artisans De Geneve, three words that automatically make us think both “Customised” and “Gonna be good” so, who are they? 

First off, they aren’t manufacturers, they don’t sell or source watches, and they are not affiliated with any brands.

Artisans De Geneve are a Geneva based independent workshop that offers high end modifications to private clients. 

Essentially, you take the watch to them, and they work with you to create your dream, whether thats a skeletonised Nautilus, or a Daytona that has been reimagined as a tribute to a vintage piece using modern specs and materials. 

They will only work on authentic watches which are below 5 years of age, and will only work on unpolished examples. 

The workshop opened in 2005, and has gone from strength to strength ever since and has a celebrity following ranging from Spike Lee to Juan Pablo Montoya. 

These are not simply brand specced watches that have been dipped in DLC and given an aftermarket dial. 

Artisans De Geneve is one of the few workshops that take custom pieces to a level way beyond simple tweaks. 

Lets get in to some of their creations. 

"The Spike Lee Cool Hand Brooklyn Skeleton"

The Rolex Daytona 116520 was the starting point for the Brooklyn Skeleton so it retains the same 40mm size. 

It was commissioned by Spike who is an Artisans returning client to celebrate being jury president for the 74th Cannes film festival in 2021. 

Its a fresh and distinctly modern blend of impeccable skeletonisation and Spikes favourite colours of New York City, blue white orange (just like the flag) with “BROOKLYN” appearing in bright orange along the top of the bottom sub dial. 

The hands are now a dauphine style in rose gold to match the openworked movement. 

While being the star of the show, its not just the dial thats had “the treatment”

The movement is still Rolex calibre 4130 but it has been reworked and decorated to reveal a lot more movement through the tungsten BKLYN rotor. 

Its pretty hard to believe that a stock Rolex movement which although superb and utterly reliable can also be a bit gorgeous after some elbow grease from Artisans De Geneve. 

With that amount of effort, a clear caseback is mandatory. 

The case has been hand brushed and polished and the bezel is a custom blue ceramic insert which is a perfect match to the dial work. 

The pushers have start/stop and reset badging and the new crown showcases an orange band through its centre in a nod to the overall colour scheme of the watch. 

RubberB have taken care of the bright orange velcro strap so you know the quality is going to be right up there and I wish they were available as standard.. I’d be right on the phone. 

“Tribute to 6263 Albino”

To “get” this watch, you first have to discuss its origins, which is obviously the vintage 6263 Daytona which we all know and love, but with a very special twist. 

Those who know their vintage will know that the sub-dials on the original silver dial 6263’s were black. 

But, there are 4 known examples of all original all silver 6263’s which make them an exceptionally rare bird indeed, possibly *the* rarest Daytona. 

Certainly more so than the Newman which makes collectors go a bit not quite in the knees.

They are known as “Albino” due to being completely monochromatic. 

Eric Clapton had one which he auctioned in 2003 to the tune of $505,000 (five times its pre auction estimate) before being auctioned again in 2015 for over $1.4 million USD. 

Some say that this was the watch that launched vintage Rolex collecting from being a bit of a niche hobby to being preposterously expensive and fraught with anxiety. 

Thanks Eric. 

This Artisans variant is based on a Daytona 116520 and since I’m obsessed with water resistance i’m going to thank the stars that this being a modern piece it comes with modern resistance of 100m so you can dunk it under the tap to clean.

Do that with a 6263 and you may be crying all the way to your watchmaker with your Daytona drying out in a bag of Basmati. 

The Sunday dial and subdials are all silvered with chronograph and subdial hands in a beautiful vintage style flame blued steel. 

These Hands are the only actual colour on the dial landscape, and indeed the watch itself which is otherwise completely monochrome with a black bakelite bezel, and fully brushed steel case and bracelet.

The simplicity and restraint of this piece is what (in my opinion) makes it absolutely stunning. Its a real case of less is more design-wise.

The first thing to note here is that the crown guards are now absent, and the pushers are Millerighe MK00 variants so an entirely modern case has been pared back to its vintage roots. 

This theme continues with the use of Bakelite for the bezel, a favoured material for the oldies. 

The 44 jewel cal 4130 Daytona movement has been pared back to become manual winding as per its muse so the automatic works such as the rotor have been dispensed with. 

Because the movement which gives 72 hours of reserve has had the Artisans treatment, it also gets the sapphire case-back through which to admire it. 

This is one of my favourite ADG creations. While I love the modern skeletonised designs which really flex their technical prowess, my sweet spot is vintage design and this, to my eye, is just the cream of the crop. Its a real “if you know, you know” watch with a bit of hidden history to boot. 

 "The Mika Häkkinen Challenge"

This Hakkinen uses a Daytona 116506 as its base so its a weighty lump of platinum with a formula one theme. Fitting given that Mika is a F1 Champion who has earned his nickname “The Flying Finn”

The colour scheme of this one is pale blue and orange, also known as the Gulf Colours which are both heavily reminiscent of Formula 1 and regularly seen on McLaren, who Hakkinen drove for. 

These pieces are available in titanium, white gold, and platinum. Platinum being the unicorn of the three. 

There are slight differences between the titanium and precious metal models which makes them easy to identify. 

The steering wheel shaped dial frame sits above the openworked movement is different between Ti and precious models. 

This piece features a sandblasted frame which almost glitters in different lights whereas the Ti variant features a matte anthracite coating.

The hands have been painted blue, with sub-dial hands in orange. 

This is also a “switch” from the titanium variant which has blue hand sub-dials and polished hands over its darker frame. 

The crown is the final difference between the metal editions as the platinum and white gold variants feature a blue band, while the titanium bears the same but in orange. 

Its the little twists and differences that collectors really enjoy so its great to see them present here in a watch that is completely different in the first place. A bit of icing on the already cool cake. 

The bezel on all editions is made of titanium and market with “Titanium G5” which references both the material and grade. 5 being utterly high end. 

The entirety of the case and bracelet is brushed leaving no polished parts to detract from the main features. 

A regular grizzle from Daytona fans is the shiny shiny element of the case and polished centre links which are classed as “scratch magnets” so I genuinely do enjoy seeing the difference that brushing can make, particularly on platinum where scuffs and swirls are just that little bit more painful on polished areas but less noticeable on brushed finishing. 

The modified Daytona 4130 movement on the Hakkinen has again been switched from automatic to hand wound and has been sandblasted with a nickel palladium finish with a sapphire caseback. 

If you look closely the positioning of the jewels across the central band of the matte movement just looks phenomenal and would have been obscured had the rotor remained in place.

Again, its the little details that really make Artisans De Geneve exciting. 

One of our favourite features of the workshop is that different clients can bring wildly different design concepts, usually associated with their field, and that Artisans can take these ideas and make the same base watches fit the personality of their commissioners perfectly. 

The Hakkinen is unmistakably formula one, not because it screams with badges and great swathes of petrol headed colour, but through the use of subtle details and finishes, such as the steering wheel frame and coded subdials. 

The Lance Armstrong project uses the same Daytona base but is a totally different beast to the Hakkinen or the Brooklyn, both of which feature skeletonisation and modernity. 

With that said, lets get into the Armstrong Project. 

“ The Armstrong Project”

As Lance Armstrong rightly states in his video for Artisans: 

“The thing about my story is most of the world knows both parts of it. They know the good times of it and the bad times. It doesn’t change the fact that I have those memories from the good times that I cherish the most. 

The downfall was unexpected and the true test then is how you respond as a man who has to reinvent his life” 

With that in mind, we can see pretty clearly why he chose to open up his watch in the same way that his life was laid bare for all too see, and why he chose yellow, as a nod to the 7 jerseys he won and wore for 83 days while riding the Tour De France during the good times before the bad times stripped him of his titles in 2012 as well as being the emblematic colour of his LIVESTRONG foundation.

The openwork on this piece which is again based on the Daytona ref 116520 is way more severe than on other ADG releases, you can see that on the left part of the dial and movement there is literally nothing but space, which is a deliberate nod to Armstrongs history being out in the open. 

It has a little bit of Nietzsche to it. 

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. 

And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” 

Fitting, but also a great excuse to bring nihilism and existentialism into a watch review, aren’t we fancy!

The bezel on this one is a pulsations variant which matches the dial layout and can be used along with the chronograph function to time and take your pulse and calculate your heart rate, perfect for a cyclists watch and the thunderbolt chrono hand is a very cool touch and similar to the orange bolt hand of the Rolex Milgauss. 

You can see that the third subdial has been removed from the dial as this piece is a pulse counter which renders the 12 hour sub unnecessary, in its space, nothing, which is the point. 

The heavy modified Daytona movement is again scaled back to manual and a mixture of sandblast and black which creates great contrast not entirely dissimilar to the rear end Omegas dark side of the moon Apollo 8 edition which bears some overall similarities in colour scheme and movement view. 

The custom strap has been provided by RubberB and is black with a yellow centre stripe designed to echo the painted centre strips of the American roads that Armstrong still enjoys riding on. 

Although we cant provide the one off straps made by RubberB we are an authorised stockist so if you want some world class rubber for your watch, do give us a call. 

I think we can probably wrap with that but if youre interested in any of the Artisans De Geneve pieces, please give us a call!