Fifty, or Fifty-Five, Fathoms?
Modding Your Seiko 5: Secrets of the Subculture
In our series Want This, Get This, we profile one wildly desirable, largely unattainable item and one similar item that costs far less. In fact, that’s exactly what watch modification, or “watch modding”, is all about. Now, given enough money, any watch can be modified. Just witness the huge market for blacking out and blinging out Rolexes. But there’s another subculture out there, one whose sweet spot isn’t a $25,000 watch, but rather a $50 to $250 watch — the ubiquitous Seiko dive watch.
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The old stock car champion driver Junior Johnson once said, “I like Chevys ‘cause you can make ‘em run with p’duction parts.” Jeeps are the same way; you can build just about an entire Jeep CJ7 from scratch by ordering aftermarket parts online. That’s how it is with Seiko watches. They’re modularly designed so that dials, hands, and movements are often interchangeable. Add the fact that a zillion of them are made every year, and you’ve got a huge repository of parts out in the world.
On top of that, getting creative with dial painting and bezel printing, especially on dive watches, can produce nearly any look a wearer could want. Want a Blancpain Fifty Fathoms on a Seiko diet? No problem. Pick up a Fifty-Five Fathoms custom dial from Yobokies and modify your Seiko 5 Sports diver model SNZH59 for about a fortieth the cost.
Can’t afford a DOXA Sharkhunter? Put together a SOXA (see what we did there?) with that old Seiko 6309 “Turtle” you picked up at a yard sale. An orange dial is DOXA-cool, black is classic for the Sharkhunter, but you just love the Caribbean blue dial on the Sub 1200T NUMA — and the real thing costs an arm and a leg. Again, no problem. Contact your favorite aftermarket dial modder and order it up for your Seiko.
If you aren’t crazy enough to do the work yourself — it involves pulling the movement, removing hands and dial and then putting it all back together again without leaving fingerprints, dust or bent parts — or don’t want to drop more on watchmaking tools than the watch itself, there are plenty of guys who will happily do the work for you.
Meet the Modders
Jake Bourdeau, the Canadian-born owner of Hong Kong-based Dagaz Watch Ltd., is among the best known of mod suppliers. He’s got a full line of dials, bezel inserts, hands, and other goodies. Plus, he’s branching out into homage watches, too.
Harold Ng of Yobokies (SeikoBoy spelled backwards), a Hong Kong-based supplier, is yet another well-known expert within the modding community. Operating with an extensive Photobucket account (lots of pictures) and an e-mail account, Harold serves clients all over the world with customer service second to none.
Monster Watches, based in The Netherlands, is your European connection. His specialty, as you might guess, is the Seiko SRP Monster.
North East Watch Works will handle just about any mod and has perfected the art of bead blasting to produce a high quality matte finish on stainless steel.
International Watch Works offers a full line of watch service, restoration, and modification.
The boys at Detroit-based MotorCity WatchWorks offer a full line of service, including several levels of matte finish bead blasting. They’ve also got a great looking Cerakote ceramic coating process that adds a unique look in your choice of ten different colors.
If you’re looking for niche items like case parts and especially crystals, Jonathan Koch, Mr. Seiko on eBay, is your guy.
Need a replacement bezel (not the insert)? Dave Murphy’s Murphy Manufacturing moonlights machining custom bezels.
Whether you decide to get your hands dirty with parts watches and home alterations or send off to the modding experts, the end result will be the same. When the guy behind you at Starbucks asks, “Say, is that a Fifty Fathoms you’re wearing?” you can puff out your chest and say, “No, it’s a Fifty-FIVE Fathoms. I put it together with parts I bought on the internet.”
Want this, get this, indeed.