A predominant sub-culture within the watch collecting community is fanatical about one watch; the Seiko SKX. And within that group exists a segment that is equally obsessed with making every change possible in order to create something completely new. There’s even an option to create a version from the ground up, buying all parts after market, creating the most glorious iteration down to the date wheel and handset.
I have always admired this from afar, passing it off as too technical and risky for me. But lately I’ve found myself in a bit of a rut, partially due to the current health and economic situation, so I decided to delve in a little… then a lot. This is my first post on the topic and I’d like to share some thoughts and learnings and a photo or two.
If you’re reading this I’m betting you might be in the same position I was in and just looking for the best mod to start with. Without a doubt the easiest mod would have to be a bezel / bezel insert change.
There are two ways you can go about this; completely replace the actual bezel and bezel insert or reuse the factory bezel, remove the stock insert and adhere a new one. Personally I like the idea of keeping the OEM bezel and insert in tact, in case needing to sell later on, or if you just feel like reverting back to stock. In that case, you’ll need to purchase the bezel and insert from an online seller. I have experience with DLW and Namoki, both with excellent customer service and aftersales experience. I’ve compared the stock I get from DLW / Namoki with some generic stuff I got on eBay and it’s night and day.
- Bezel removal tool (these can be found in those cheap watch toolkits from eBay)
- G.S. Hypo Cement (required to adhere the new insert to the bezel)
- Crystal press or a stack of books to press the bezel back on
- Silicone grease (to lubricate the bezel gasket)
Next, I’d say replacing the case, chapter ring and crystal are all in the same league, as this requires more or less the same equipment and will mean you need to open the watch, which for the first time is absolutely terrifying.
Replacing the chapter ring requires the crystal to be pressed out, so I usually do the crystal and chapter ring at the same time to avoid rework.Tools needed to replace the crystal:
- Case back removal tool & a case holder (cause they are screwed down tight from factory)
- Something sharp like a spring bar removal tool to press down on the lever to release the crown and stem, in order to remove the dial / movement assembly from the case
- Crystal press
Installing a new crown. I thought this was as simple as just ordering the applicable stem for the desired movement and then popping it in, but like a lot of people I was quite surprised when I inserted the new crown and stem only to find that the stem was sticking out of the case by about 7mm. When you buy a crown and stem, often it won’t be cut to size and will require a little handy work. Not to worry, I am absolutely useless and have sized 3 new crown and stems to date with no issues.There are a few really handy videos on YouTube that detail this step by step, so I’ll link that here
- Digital calipers
- Diamond file
- End cutters
I found all of these items at Bunnings (local hardware store) and you can also pick these up online. The video I link above details places to buy also.
Now I haven’t ventured into the next phase, which is replacing the dial and hands. I do have a set of MM300 hands in the mail though, so look out for a few snaps on Instagram when that happens. I did want to mention however, a very easy hack to upgrade the movement / look of your SKX without the hassle of doing that additional / slightly more risky work. This is something RandomRob featured on his channel, whereby you can actually just swap out the dial / hands / movement assembly from a Seiko Turtle and put it directly into the SKX case.
The only caveat, is that you will need a new stem to fit the 4r36 movement, which can be easily found on DLW and the like. You’ll hear some people refer to this as a SARB059 stem and crown, which was a Seiko OEM crown and stem that would fit the SKX case with the 4r36 movement installed. A lot of major sites just started producing their own crown and stem with options for different movements, so make sure you select the applicable stem for your mod.
Modding is a great way to bring new life to an already amazing hobby. Start small and take the time to research each step, ensuring you have the appropriate tools to get the best result possible. You will likely scratch the case, break a gasket, break a cheap crystal press, regret buying certain parts as they look different in person. It’s a journey. Enjoy!