What is Watch Modding?

Article By: Logan Hannen

Aug 28, 2018

What is up, watchfam?! Today, we’re going to take a quick trip into the world of watch modding, one of the most popular sub-communities within the greater watch community at large.

Let’s start with the definition – “modding” is short for “modifying.” In essence, it is the idea of changing something about your watch from the way it came to you from the factory to the way you would more prefer it to be, often aesthetically but, as we’ll get into in a minute, also mechanically.

One of the most popular motivations for watch modding is trying to fix something you don’t like about one of your watches. Take Seikos, for example, that run the 7S26 movement. It’s a powerhouse, workhorse of a movement, but it lacks hand-winding and hacking capabilities which, for some people, is a big deal. I tend to agree with those people, but that’s another issue entirely. Therefore, what some people do is they’ll take their Seiko watch, drop a different movement (such as the 4R36) into the piece and – WHAM – you have hand-winding, ladies and gents.

Seiko Fifty Five Fathoms
Source: WIRED

By a landslide, the most popular watch mod in the game right now is the Seiko Fifty-Five Fathoms, a piece designed to evoke the spirit and design of the classic Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, but at a much more manageable price tag. The base for this piece is a Seiko 5 “dive” watch (put in quotes because, with only 100 meters of water resistance and no screw down crown, I have a hard time really considering it a diver), and once it’s been overhauled, it’s almost unrecognizable.

Invicta 8926 Pro Diver Modded to Homage a Tudor Black Bay Burgundy
Source: Stefan Vorkoetter

If you feel like tackling the challenge of modding yourself, you can pretty easily acquire parts for a majority of the most commonly modded watches (Seikos and the Invicta Pro Diver being among the big ones). If you’re not as hands-on, though, don’t fret – the man, the myth, the legend, Yobokies (Seiko Boy spelled backwards, FYI) offers not just the parts, but the service of actually performing the mod (at least, he did…he’s a bit elusive, to be honest, so figuring out how to order from him is definitely not my strong suit). That means you won’t even have to get your hands dirty in the process. Pretty good deal, yeah? There are, if you scour forums, plenty of other people who will also do the modding for you, but since I’ve never engaged in the process with any of them, I don’t wanna start naming names without references, y’know?

Seiko SKX007 Mods
Source: Gear Patrol

There is, ironically, one more traditional kind of modding that, in all likelihood, you’ve already participated in at some point – changing your strap. Yeah, that’s right, changing your strap is considered a modification of your watch which, when you think about a mod as simply changing your watch in some way from how it left the factory, that actually makes sense. Changing your strap is an excellent way to completely shift the appearance of your watch, in many ways making it feel like a totally new watch altogether. We’ve talked about replacing your strap before, as well as several different strap options (including vegan ones), so be sure to peep those articles for more information, but at the end of the day, this is the easiest, most infinitely changeable, and most direct way to mod your timepiece. Now to be fair, this is a bit technical, and broadly speaking, modding is more so to do with the changing of other, more specific things like dials and hands, but since it fits, and it gives people the chance to dip their toes into the world of “modding” without needing to go overboard, it more than warrants mentioning.

So should you mod your watch? Well, that depends a lot on what the goal of your mod would be. There are a number of wonderful WatchUSeek boards dedicated to all facets of the modding process, so it might be worth giving them a read before going all in but, if any of you do decide to go ahead and do it, be sure to drop a photo or two in the Theo & Harris Watchfam Facebook Group and, as always, keep it classy, watchfam.