When Rowing Blazers founder Jack Carlson was in college at Georgetown, Washington, D.C., he heard that the Domino’s Pizza located down the street from the university’s dorms had the highest sales among the company’s stores. If that’s true, he and his classmate Eric Wind, now the prominent 1:1 replica watches dealer behind Wind Vintage, were major contributors to this feat. Together, the pair would pull all-nighters several times a week to study for their “Modern Empires in Asia” course, frequently ordering Domino’s to fuel them through the night. “Whenever I look at my [Domino’s Rolex], I think of Jack and the late nights of our freshman year,” Wind says.
The Swiss made fake watches world is funny in that a random coincidence like this – two horological movers and shakers dorming down the street from a Domino’s in the mid-2000s – can have a massive ripple effect on the collecting community nearly two decades later. Because of Carlson and Wind’s nostalgia for medium-to-good pizza, they got seriously interested in cheap replica Rolex Air King and Oyster Perpetual watches printed with the Domino’s logos at the start of the pandemic.
In the early ’80s, Domino’s partnered with Rolex to provide high-earning store managers with motivation to hit lofty sales goals. Hit $20,000 in weekly sales and a watch printed with the bold red-and-blue logo right there on the dial was yours (eventually Domino’s upped the difficulty, demanding four consecutive weeks of $25,000 sales). Domino’s also engraved the top Rolex copy watches with the recipient’s name and TSM, the initials of the pizza chain’s then-CEO Thomas Stephen Monaghan. Wind says that there were several hundred made every year. “They’re not rare, but they’re not common,” he says. “It’s somewhere in the middle.”
Partnering with corporations was pretty common for Rolex once upon a time. There are other AAA UK Rolex replica watches made in partnership with Winn Dixie, Coca-Cola, the Cotton Bowl Classic, Pan Am, Busch, Honda, and the Pool Intairdril Oil Company. However, as the demand for Rolex pieces has grown, this program has mostly come to an end. It’s a hard enough task for the brand to produce enough pieces to satisfy its collector base without adding custom corporate-branded pieces into the mix.
There were three different types of Domino’s Rolex (DR) made over the years.
The first were made in the early-to-mid-’80s with a big, “more primitive-looking” box logo, as Wind describes it, at 6 o’clock
In the early ’90s, they switched to a smaller box logo in the same location
Finally, in the mid-’90s, the watches were issued with a tilted logo (this one is Carlson’s favourite)
At first, snobbish watch collectors looked down on the watch. Who, they imagined, would want a luxury watch printed with the logo of a fast-food chain? Ew. The super clone watches for sale were so disliked that dealers would pop the Domino’s-printed dial off the watch, replace it with a logo-less one, and stuff the pizza’d dial into a drawer. Engravings would be polished off and a scrubbed-clean Air-King would be offered to the market.
Many collectors looked down on the DR and the prices bear that point out. These were the “least expensive China Rolex replica watches you could buy,” Wind says, selling for between “$1,000 to $1,500 less than a decade ago.”
However, Carlson and Wind, the pizza grease probably still coursing through their veins, viewed them differently. Wind was moved by nostalgia and Carlson, as the leader of a fashion brand, saw another phenomenon. “I always was obsessed with this watch,” he says. “It’s a great high-low moment. A lot of people in the fashion industry have been putting this watch on their mood boards for years.” But while he saw them used as inspiration, he noticed he never actually saw them on wrists.
Carlson started scouring through eBay listings, getting them vetted by Wind. He ended up buying Domino’s luxury Rolex Air-King replica watches for himself and a ladies Air-King with the Domino’s dial on it, both for only a few thousand dollars each. Together, Wind and Carlson bought several more when their value was still ascending. Carlson started featuring them prominently in campaigns for Rowing Blazers while selling some on his site. Wind put out a video helping collectors understand the different eras of the DRs, which was suddenly crucial information.
As the value of the DRs started to rise, in no small part thanks to Wind and Carlson’s efforts, Frankensteined versions of the fake watches wholesale started to emerge. “Now, because all these dealers found, ‘Oh, I’ve got a couple of Domino’s dials back in my drawer,’ they’re putting them back in watches over the last three years,” Wind says.
Now, take a spin through a few auction house results and you’ll see very different numbers accompanying the DR compared to just a few years ago. Christie’s sold one for $20,000 in October 2020, $17,500 a year later, and another for $22,500 in December 2021.
Many factors are contributing to that 10x increase: a growing fondness for logos, ’90s nostalgia, and a whole new customer base coming in with less snobby ideas around a watch.
Now, the logofied Rolex replica watches shop is undergoing a reinvention. While the Crown might not offer this program anymore, its little-brother brand Tudor has picked up the baton. In 2019, Ed Sheeran partnered with Tudor to make customised gifts for the crew who worked on his “Divide” tour. The streetwear brands Bait and Undefeated, both owned by mega collector Eric Peng Cheng, have released a friends-and-family Black Bay 58 and Pelagos with Tudor in the last few months. Last week, Rowing Blazers put out its own branded Tudor with a neon-pink hair-metal logo on the dial. It’s the first Tudor to be printed with pink.
Getting a customised Tudor involves some pretty masterful hoop jumping. Carlson and Wind first sent the brand an application back in September 2021 and were then tasked with creating a presentation to explain the background of Rowing Blazers and why they wanted to do a watch. The pair created over one hundred designs – some of them with bold red-and-blue designs inspired by the Domino’s Rolex – before whittling it down to their favourites. Their first design was rejected but they apparently cleared Tudor’s bar on the second try. And after all that, Carlson and Wind still had to submit the list of every single person who would receive the watch. (None of these fake watches site are ever put up for sale publicly.) The pieces are then engraved with the approved recipients’ names to squash any secondary market shenanigans.
The juiced values of the DR and the reinvention of the branded replica watches online are twinned in my mind. Both speak to many trends happening in the watch world: the seeping influence of streetwear, an obsession with exclusivity and friends-and-family-only pieces, and a changing attitude towards these types of personalised watches. Much like the growing acceptance around previously engraved best quality fake watches, pieces like the DR can tell a collector a lot about a piece’s history and the dial alone tells a full story. “It’s the biography of the object,” Carlson says. “What makes it so interesting is preserving that integrity.”