DIY Pelican Watch Case

Guides | 03.19.2012

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“Crap, where am I going to put all these watches?!”  It’s a problem I’m sure many watch nerds have had to address.  After all, the sock drawer only works for so long.  I recently took on the challenge of finding the perfect watch case for my collection, and I decided to go the DIY route.  

I live in a pretty small Brooklyn apartment, where shelf space is limited and its easy to knock things over.  So, when looking into a watch case it was really important to find something durable and secure.  I also have a growing collection, so room for expansion was a must for any case purchase.

After poking around the internet for a while, I didn’t find any pre-made watch cases that completely fit my criteria.  A display case was out of the question; far too delicate and I don’t have the luxury of free shelf space.  And many of the closing leather cases hold a limited number of watches and don’t quite offer the durability I’m looking for.

I did however find a number of great DIY storage options made out of ultra durable Pelican cases.  Known for making a wide range of cases that can take just about any beating you throw at them, Pelican is a favorite amongst DIY case makers for all types of collections.  Once again, after taking to the watch forums, I found a wealth of great DIY Pelican watch case examples.  The variations are endless, but this rig is the ideal set up that I hoped to emulate.  Paul, the forum poster, used the services of caseclub.com to custom cut his foam, but I’m far too cheap for that and can’t resist the opportunity to take on a DIY project.

The Pelican 1470 laptop case is what is used for this set up.  It’s the perfect size to accommodate a large number of watches (12 in my case) while leaving some additional room for storage slots.  It measuring 15.62″ x 10.43″ x 3.75″.   And at about $100, the 1470 has a bunch of really great features, including double safety locking latches with keys, stainless steel hardware, watertight, crushproof, and dust proof construction and comes with a lifetime guarantee.  The top portion of the case has a layer of convoluted foam.  The base of the case has an approximately 1” layer of foam at the bottom, with an approximately 2” layer of Pick N Pluck™ foam on top of that.

The Pick N Pluck™ foam is the key to making this case perfect for DIY’ers.  At rest, Pick N Pluck™ foam appears and feels solid.  But when bent or stretched, perforations appear, making it easy to custom cut to your desired shape.  The perforations are not significant enough to just tear apart the foam and create clean lines, but that’s a good thing.  Rather, they provide a guiding line for cutting apart the foam, and make it so that, with a sharp knife, cutting is clean and effortless.

For my case, I decided to make space for 12 watches, and two large slots to hold tools and straps.  Mapping out and cutting the Pick N Pluck™ foam is time consuming.  I would say it took me approximately 4 hours from start to finish to complete the project.  Pelican suggests that you place tooth picks in the gridded perforations to map out your case design, which is exactly what I did.  This can take some time, as fitting everything together just perfect is a bit tedious, but well worth it.

After mapping out your design, you’re ready to cut away.  The key here is patience.  As I mentioned, the perforations of the Pick N Pluck™ make it really easy for a sharp knife to slide through the foam with little pressure.  If you rush, and don’t allow the Pick N Pluck™ perforations to guide your cuts, you can end up with an uneven result.

For each of the watch bays, I measured out the requisite space to fit a watch, (approximately 4 units wide by 7 units tall) and cut out the rectangular shape.  Once that foam was removed, I cut off one additional row of foam from the height, giving me a pillow I can use to wrap my watches around and slip snugly back into the empty bay.

So here you have the final product.  I am extremely happy with how things turned out.  I find the case to be incredible sturdy, and I have complete confidence that my watches are protected.  When the case is closed, all of the items inside are held securely in place by the plush foam.  Not that I would ever try this, and certainly don’t recommend that you do, but I imagine the watched inside my Pelican case would survive a serious drop of a high shelf.  The items stored in the extra bays in the rear of the case do not move around at all when the case is closed, so I have no concerns that a loos strap will roll around and scratch a watch while the case is in transit.

Many thanks to the forum posters out there who inspired my DIY Pelican watch case.  If any worn&wound readers out there have done something similar, let us know in the comments, or tweet us a picture to @wornandwound.  We’ll be sure pass it along to our other followers.

by Blake Malin

  • http://www.watchjournalist.com Desmond From Watch Journalist

    Nice tutorial here!

    I never thought of making my own watch case. I’m still using my drawer to store some of my watches and I’m feeling that I might run out of drawers soon.

    Now I’m thinking of making one case for myself, thanks for inspiration Blake!

    • w&w

      Thanks for the comment Desmond. Aside from being time consuming, the project difficulty is pretty low. I say go for it.

  • http://www.extrmedium.com Dexter

    Very good post guys! this is a great idea…!!!

    • w&w

      Dexter, thanks for reading and for the comment. Definitely a great idea. But I have to thank the watch forums for this one. As usual, a great resource for watch inspiration.

      Blake

  • Pete

    This is so obvious and so clever. I’m miffed I haven’t thought of it myself. Thanks indeed Blake. Genius

    • w&w

      Yeah, it took me a while to finally pull the trigger on a Pelican case, but I’m happy I did. Thanks for reading and for the comment!

      Blake

  • Tim

    Nice tutorial too and is convincing me to get one of these too to keep and protect my watches.
    1 question that is bugging me: when you cut thru the Pick N Pluck foam, what’s underneath it? Is there another foam that protects the straps or bracelets from scratching?

    • w&w

      The Pick N Pluck foam is approximately two inches deep, and below that is a roughly one inch think sheet of regular foam. So when you cut out your holes for your watches, there is a bed of foam underneath, not just the hard plastic case. Does that answer your question? Thanks for reading and for the comment!

      Blake

      • Tim

        Hi!
        This answers my question, crystal clear! Thanks so much! I’ve been looking hard and long for a good case for my watch and this may be IT!

  • http://URL Riz

    Awesome job Blake! I am looking to replicate this real soon. What are the dimensions for the other slots and also spaces between watch bays, space to wall side walls, etc.? I know you said approximately 4 units wide by 7 units tall for the watch bay spaces but everything is so lined up and straight, great for us OCD types.

    • w&w

      Hey Riz. Thanks for the question. I started to write a response, and then I realized it would be much easier to just draw up a diagram. Check the link below for a quick diagram I drew up in excel, and let me know if you have any more questions. One thing to note is that I have no idea if all pieces of Pick N Pluck™ foam included with the Pelican Cases are the same size with each case. Mine was 43 blocks by 29 blocks, which is what my diagram is based off of. if you get a slightly different sized sheet of foam, you should be able to just modify the layout a bit.

      http://wornandwound.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Pelican-Watch-Case-Diagram.pdf

      Don’t forget to send us a picture of your final product. I’d really like to see what you put together.

      Thanks.

      Blake

    • http://URL Scott

      A heads-up for folks who want to do this: I bought a Pelican 1470, and discovered a little too late that the Pick and Pluck foam on mine is different from the diagram.

      Mine has 27×40 cells, instead of the 29×43 shown in the diagram.
      Not a big difference, but enough to make a mess if you assume they’re the same and start cutting.

      Not w&w’s fault; mine for not paying attention.

  • http://mtheads.typepad.com/10kmarathonswim IronMike

    Awesome. And I bought a dang case late last year. I know what my next project will be! Thanks for the inspiration.

  • http://URL Jack

    Hey Blake,
    Which Pelican case would you recommend for a smaller number of watches? (5-8)
    Thanks!

  • http://hollywoodstylelimo.tumblr.com/ Emad

    what is the one next too the snzh?
    its beautiful

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