Rolex Retouching Timelapse Demonstrates Astonishing Skill and Attention to Detail

Okay, we know you’ve asked for less time-lapses and we’re doing our best to kick the habit, but this one couldn’t be helped, and we’re pretty sure you’ll forgive us. It’s not your standard stunning landscape time-lapse, this one shows the remarkable attention to detail and skill that goes into taking a great photograph of a Rolex watch, and making it phenomenal.

The video was put together by German photographer Andreas Jörg, who wanted to showcase the amount of work that goes into post-processing a professional product shot. In all, the time-lapse compresses a total of 2 hours of retouching work into just nine minutes and one second.

Here’s a before and after:



The original photos were taken with a Phase One and Mamiya Leaf, and lest you think he captured crappy images and trusted in his Photoshop skills to fix them, that shoot took one and a half hours and spit out a few pretty incredible photos to begin with. As we said at the top, what he does in the video is take a great photo and make it phenomenal… and maybe blow our minds a bit in the process.

To see more examples of Jörg’s photography, head over to his website here. And if you’d like to watch him work some more, you can find more retouching videos on his YouTube channel here.

(via Fstoppers)

  • Kaouthia

    It’s a composite of several shots. It’s not one shot enhanced.

    Some good photoshop skills, sure, but I’d have been more impressed had they just lit it right in-camera in the first place.

  • Helk

    So that explains why my Rolex doesn’t look as good as the advertised version

  • mike

    I am not one to post negative comments, but this video did nothing to increase the quality of my life.

  • jock nines

    fewer grammatical mistakes, less pedantry?

  • Hmmmm

    Why even use a camera? It’s got to be easier to just to virtually create it.

  • Matt Rickman

    “fix it in post”

  • OtterMatt

    That was my exact thought, too. I realize that this is most likely a job worth tens of thousands of dollars, but still. I suppose the fact that nobody will ever notice this much detail or work is sort of a backhanded testament to the skill it was done with.

  • IEBA

    Ditto. With the amount of “crafting” that occurs after the fact, it’d be far more productive to take the engineering model, build a 3D model, and then it can be rotated and lit and tweaked ad-nauseum for years to come.

  • Chris

    You can’t actually do that. I’ve shot hundreds of watch photos – every single high end watch shot like the one above requires compositing because of the shiny nature of the object. One light will make the shiny dials light up nice but then erase all texture or wash out face details because of the glass face, etc… To get a shot like that, composite exposures are required. You can do less work in post if you can remove the glass cover on the watch, but that probably isn’t an option most of the time.

  • Banan Tarr

    Doesn’t explain why you bought it (maybe it was a gift?) when it didn’t look as good as the ad though? :)

  • alreadyupsidedown

    Maybe I’m crazy, but I actually like the original shot better. I suppose it doesn’t have as much ‘pop’, but I find the more reserved style has a little more taste.

    Cool work either way.

  • anon

    everything in one shot is an utopia in contemporary watch photography… you’ll need at least 2 images. one for the watchface and one for case/watchstrap. often you need more, as the contrastly lighting for one shot, totally kills the contrast in another part of the watch.

  • Kaouthia

    They used to manage it just fine on film. Dean Collins has some excellent coverage of exactly this on a 4×5 view camera in one of his videos.

    I think with the kind of funds Rolex have available that pretty much anything is an option, but to me, this is just false advertising.

  • Joe Sanders

    In times of films everything was more complicated and much more expensive. The skilllefel required were higher too, I guess. We didn’t shoot watches but we often needed 400$ for polas until we came up with the correct lighting and exposure. And we always did multiple exposures and images always were retouched back in our film days. Unfortunately nobody noticed the great work of the retouchers because there was not a tool like photoshop in almost every house like today. And there was no youtube. So I think earlier we betrayed you, today people talk about it and show how advertising works.

  • Mike

    False advertising? Everything you see on TV and magazines is not real. If you think this is a lot of photoshop go look at what they do to humans.

  • Kaouthia

    I tend to not purchase too many humans. ;)

  • Mike

    You’re missing out!

  • Chrisf24

    Less time lapses? I think the ones you put a great!

  • Markus

    As the construction data is available, why not render it in a 3D software? Every modern rendering software is capable of exporting layers (highlights, depth, shadows, texture et cetera.) you can combine them in every imaginable way in post production then.

  • Martin Duerr

    This why so many cgi studios doing the stuff photographers have done in PS. If you want to do a super clean and artificial look do it in 3D.

  • Eduardo

    What´s the point in photographing it to make it look like is a 3D render? Clueless

  • MMielech

    “They used to manage it just fine on film.”

    Your comments are amazingly ignorant of what happens to images once they leave the photographer’s nest. Do you actually think that older Rolex ads were printed with minimal exposures and retouching? Please. Even your Dean Collins dude had to have his images heavily touched up, I’m sure. Retouching wasn’t born with Photoshop.

  • MMielech

    “Why even use a camera? It’s got to be easier to just to virtually create it.”

    Well, that’s precisely what’s happening in the world of product photography right now. Many automobiles you see in ads are synthetic, or, created in 3D programs from engineer’s computer models. I knew that the world had changed when someone showed me a purely synthetic Lexus in a live ad almost ten years ago. Many other products are now “made” this way in advertising. Like all retouching, the best are the images you can’t tell if they are fake.. And, trust me, you see them every day.

    It’s not “easier”, though. It requires skilled 3D technicians woking closely with product designers. “Easier” at the moment is doing it the old way for many products, because of inertia. The auto industry is way ahead of the curve, because making prototypes and shooting them on location is ridiculously expensive, so the 3D guys are saving them a lot of money and time.

  • Kaouthia

    Not being ignorant at all. I’m not saying there’s anything bad about Photoshop, and I’ve spent many long hours in the darkroom myself, but there’s a lot here that could’ve easily been done in camera rather than being “fixed in Photoshop”.

  • MMielech

    Did you watch the video? Do you watch what was done? Did you see how the itsy bits little reflections were created? The little details, everywhere? Do you actually think that that could be done in camera? Please. The photographer is just creating raw material in this instance. The retouchers are the stars.

  • Kaouthia

    You understand that “a lot” doesn’t mean “everything”, right?

  • Dieudo

    I find Ming Thein’s watch photos quite convincing as they are, and they don’t require composite shots.

  • Sir Stewart Wallace

    A friend of mine photographs for the big three often and I can tell you that most of what you see in ads aren’t renders. Perhaps heavily photoshopped, but not 3D models.

    This is a short setup video, not my friend. But think of sets like this, but sometimes with entirely recreated backgrounds to look like different terrain or locations in a room twice that size, if not larger.

  • pokeken

    The composite shot makes the watch too garish…off putting for me but maybe something that would attract the typical modern day Rolex buyer…each their own..btw mad compositing skills!

  • Richard Ford

    Will Rolex come around and do this every day to my wrist when I put it on – ready to go out into the real world?

  • theart

    But Rolex doesn’t want their add some years from now. Sure, you can rotate and light and tweak a 3d model ad-nauseum, but it’s about the same amount of work as rotating, lighting, and tweaking in the studio. Doing a virtual render is really only faster and easier than taking real pictures if what you need a picture of hasn’t been built yet.

  • Stormin

    so, the short story is, I can’t buy that watch because it actually doesn’t exist in reality….

  • Kris Wood

    I imagine if you had enough flags in place you could possibly do it in a single shot, it’d take you the better part of a day (and most of your sanity) to pull it off though.

  • Matt Wheeler

    Composted light painting of the same frame could’ve been an alternative to cropping pieces together, but hey whatever works and what the client wants…

  • Matt Wheeler

    This is one of those things where someone gets really bored in photoshop. I honestly feel I’m starting to gravitate towards this editing style; the dollar is in the details.

  • Chris

    Well, I respect the skill and attention detail, but is the outer face frame brown or gray? I dont like the brown, so if the watch isnt brown its a failure by clients eyes if thats the case.

  • Peter Acker

    That video gave me almost as much of a headache as the comment thread. ;0)

  • Tasha Amina Ali Borden

    i like this music who is it by ?

  • jon

    I honestly feel the same way. There is something plain wrong about the second shot. It’s as if it is residing in the ‘uncanny valley’ of product photography. If I were actually looking to purchase a watch, the untouched shot would be the one for me. For everyone else (those who can’t afford it, but elevate the brand with their desire) the touched up photo is there for them to ooh and ahh. So in that sense, I can imagine the heavily photoshopped version might turn more heads.

  • Graphicsrus

    A LOT of wasted time on an image. The time could have been cut in half with a better original photo. This is a graphic designer showing off. Sure, I get it. But in a professional application waaaaayy too much time was spent goofing off on this pic.

  • Blackglasswasfun

    Chris and MMlelech,
    Looking back through these comments-It’s really easy to tell when some one hasn’t shot product or “black glass” isn’t it? Nice explanation of compositing work.

  • Jesse Garcia

    I think it would have been faster to draw it Photoshop from scratch..

  • Jesse Garcia

    I think it would have been easier to draw it in Photoshop from scratch

  • Not Me

    The strap looks terrible in the after shot because the real gradation is lost.

  • David

    ceci n’est pas une pipe

  • wizard

    … That`s not the same watch (I mean the colours are so different between one or another you`d say they have different themes

  • Max

    Wait a sec.. you mean even the $10,000 watch I just bought is fake??

  • Matt Exford

    The issue of retouching models doesn’t really apply to watches. It is deceptive to advertise a product wrongly but if someone wants a watch they will likely look at it on their wrist first and decide if it looks good. These over processed ads may get more people into the shops but its not setting incredibly unobtainable goals for a persons figure.

    If anything it only harms the sellers and manufacturers as people will want really nice looking watches and not settle for the ones in the shops as they don’t look like the ads. Well that is my two cents.

  • AliNoorani

    At least we are not seeing any hands or legs stretched or any curves enhanced or any boobs boosted here!
    Yes, I really appreciate his work and I see nothing wrong with it.

  • Jamie M

    if u got the lights and exposure right, it would only take a couple shots and not this much touch-up work… just sayin