Watch Modding 101

By: Li Wang

Articles | Guides | Series | Watch Mods | 09.16.2013

Watch modding (modification) has become a subculture within the watch collectors’ world with a small but strong contingent of individuals making parts.

Love the case of the Seiko SKX779 “Monster” but hate the dial? No problem. You can order an aftermarket dial with a Sinn look. Would you like a new Submariner-homage but don’t like Mercedes hands? For a mere fraction of grabbing Rolex’s ubiquitous diver you can create your own sub-lookalike for under $300 with sword hands.

OW_MKII_EXPLORER1

O&W MKII Rolex Explorer Mod

Where does one start on this path towards customization? The king of watches to use as a base for modding is the Seiko SKX007, the ISO-rated 200 meter value dive watch that retails for just over or just under $200. Why is it the Honda Civic of watch modding? This model has the most available aftermarket parts that fit.

The great thing about watch modding is that you can learn to do it yourself with a set of basic tools purchased from eBay, or turn to one of a handful of experts, vetted by the community of the WatchUSeek.com forums. The Seiko subforum, for example, has a ongoing thread called “Post your mods here.” Or try the Custom Watches subforum at Poor Man’s Watch Forum.

OW_MKII_EXPLORER2

Modding is by no means limited to Seiko divers or even their SKX007 model, but the sheer number of ready-to-go parts for this specific watch is why the discussion often begins here.

Inspiration from the icons

The code words seem confusing at first. A PMMM is a Poor Man’s Marine Master, named for its resemblance to Seiko’s MarineMaster Prospex Diver. Then you have the very popular Fifty Fathoms mod, named after historic dive watches from Blancpain.

seiko 55 mod

Modern mix

Or how about the Planet Monster? If you are a Seiko and Omega fan, you probably can guess this is a mash-up of the Seiko Monster and Omega Planet Ocean.

But then there’s the mod that is just based on the owners whimsy, such as a blue and orange mod made specifically to wear when watching Denver Broncos football games.

The barely noticeable mod

Or there’s the subtle mod, maybe just switch of hands or bezel insert. Some people simply swap the date wheel from white to black to match the dial. This is the mod for those who think, “That watch would be perfect except for those…”

Now what?

  1. DIY: There are numerous tutorials available online on how to swap a dial and hands with a basic set of tools available on eBay.
  2. Go to a known modder: you can contact some of the better-known watch modders vetted by the watch forums. See our list below.
  3. Local watchmaker: order parts and have a your friendly local watchmaker do the reassembly.

The key players

Yobokies: Yobokies.com is Harold Ng, who shows his goods through a Photobucket account. There’s no ordering online. You email him what you want and he let’s you know if he can do it.10watches.com: Jake B’s online shop sells a variety of parts for modding. His selection of bezel inserts is astounding. (see our interview here)

North East Watch Works: Duarte Mendonca does custom mods and offers bead blasting.

motor_city

Motor City Watch Works: Jay in Michigan is known for his cerakoted finishes and also offers a range of modding and repair services.

International Watch Works: Jack Alexyon is considered the man for vintage restoration and he also does a mod work.

Monster Watches: Rob in the Netherlands can source very hard to get original Seiko parts and he is a trusted modder for those in Europe.

This article barely scratches the surface of what can be done in the world of watch modding. People do movement swaps, different coatings and finishes, shave down perimeters of dials to fit in a particular watch case, and so on… I haven’t even started introducing all the players who make custom parts such as Jonathan “Swedefreak” Koch, who specializes in crystals, or Dave Murphy, who machines custom bezels.

Custom Seiko "Planet Monster" Diver

Planet Monster Watch Mod

Be careful. Watch modding can be addictive. A lot of fun comes in the planning. If you enjoy getting creative with design and love watches, then jump right into the world of watch modding.

by Li Wang

 

  • http://URL chuen

    Thanks for consolidating the modding 101.
    Good to see that the modding scene has progressed from a once “do not touch” subject into a “customisation” hobbies.

    The world.wide.web internet has also provided the valuable needed information of parts source, guide and tutorial. This has help, aid and encourage novice to try the once taboo of watch modding hobbies.

  • http://sean-scott.com Sean S.

    Any chance anybody knows what kind of strap is on that 55 Fathoms mod?

    • http://URL tyreko

      Pretty sure it’s a Brady sailcloth strap.

  • http://URL Sean kirk

    Great to see this list. How come dagaz watches are not here?

    • http://URL Li Wang

      Dagaz is included but named by its website URL 10watches.com.

  • http://URL centerline

    My “dream watch” sits somewhere between GMT-masters, Glycine Airmen, and simple 70s Seiko divers. I’m a sucker for a 24h hand and a cushion case, but there aren’t really any I can think of that combine all of that.

    Last year, I found a significantly modified Seiko 6309 locally on Craigslist that ticked all those boxes (I believe the mod was done by the loved/hated “Loy”). It was a slight risk, but the asking price was reasonable, and the watch really struck me. Why not? Gave it a full service just to be safe, and it runs perfectly.

    Some would claim sacrilege (on a Seiko? Really?!), but in the end, I absolutely love it – and that’s all that matters to me.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/31699527@N00/8216527744/