Seiko watches are popular since they're equipped with very reliable mechanical movements for a super cheap price. As your Seiko collection grows, there will inevitably be a time where you feel the need to distinguish yourself from other collectors.
This is easier said than done, considering Seiko watches are mass-produced and there are very few limited editions. The perfect way to personalize your Seiko is by modding it.
There's a small problem though: not every Seiko timepiece is good for modding. In this article, I will explain which models are ripe for mods, and why you should mod them.
Best All-Around Seiko for Mods
SKX007 / SKX009
If you're a Seiko fan, you've certainly heard of the SKX007/009 before. This is one of Seiko's most iconic and popular models, and it's also a modder's favorite.
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The reason why the SKX is so damn popular is mainly because of its looks. It has a great diver styling, backed by the 200m water resistance and screw-down crown. Also, the 42.5mm case diameter and 46mm lug-to-lug make it a good match for almost any wrist size.
Initially, it was very popular and ubiquitous because of its affordability, but this has gone out the window since being discontinued by Seiko. Ever since, the price has been steadily climbing.
Why do People Mod It?
1- Low-Quality Crystal
The presence of a mineral crystal is acceptable for any affordable watch (<200$), but you often expect more from a mid-range timepiece. Due to a shortage of supply, the Seiko SKX will run you well above $300 nowadays, which makes the mineral crystal underwhelming.
The first mod done by collectors is often to swap the crystal. The most popular option is to use a sapphire crystal, which will be virtually unscratchable. In other rare cases, enthusiasts use an acrylic crystal to give a vintage feel to the piece.
Once you've chosen your crystal material, you still have to choose between domed or flat. Also, you can select a crystal with anti-reflective coating on one or two sides of the crystal.
The Seiko 7s26 automatic caliber used in the SKX is a super reliable movement, but it does come with a few flaws. For instance, it isn't very precise when compared to other 300$+ watches. Also, it doesn't allow for hand-winding nor hacking (seconds-hand halt).
A solution to this problem is to swap the movement for something more technologically advanced. Two common swaps are the Seiko 4R36 and Seiko 6R15 movements. Both of these offer hand-winding and hacking, with the 6R15 being a bit more precise than the 7s26.
3- Everything Else!
The Seiko SKX is such a great modding platform, you can pretty much change every bits and pieces you can think of. Instead of elaborating on the subject in this article, I encourage you to head over to my "7 Best Seiko SKX Mods" article for a full rundown.
Best Vintage Seiko for Mods
Considering the fact that the Seiko SKX is the most popular platform for modding, you shouldn't be surprised to see its predecessor win the "best vintage Seiko for mods" category. The Seiko 7002 is an iconic diver's watch that first appeared in 1988 as a replacement for the classic 6309-72xx model.
The 7002 made a near 10-years run before being discontinued in 1996 (to be replaced by the SKX), and it developed a cult-like following throughout the years.
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The Seiko 7002's 41mm case is just a bit smaller than the SKX's, which is expected from a vintage timepiece. It is equipped with a flat Hardlex crystal that is very similar to the SKX's crystal.
Since the 7002 is a diver's watch, the water resistance is very important. When it was first released in 1988, Seiko's technology only allowed for 150m of water resistance (considering the low price).
After a couple of years of production, Seiko developed a few changes around the crystal that finally allowed the piece to reach the much-needed 200m water resistance. To complete the diving style of the 7002, Seiko used a 60 minutes bezel that can rotate bidirectionally.
Why do People Mod It?
1- Restore Worn-Out Components
Since the last version of the Seiko 7002 was released in 1996, the latest model you can find will still be over 20 years old. Considering the rough environment these watches had to endure (humid, hot, etc..), you're almost certain to find a few worn-out components.
Some purists want to retain the original styling/specs of the watch, without changing anything from the OEM parts. Since it is near impossible to find an original 7002 that still works flawlessly, you almost have no choice but to buy new parts which replicate the OEM design.
Fortunately, some third-party manufacturers specialize in recreating as good as possible replicas of the original components. Your best bet to find these is to browse eBay.
2- Mix & Match Pieces
During the 8-years production run of the 7002, Seiko changed a lot of the components of the timepiece. For instance, some models are equipped with a flat bezel insert while others have an inclined insert. Also, there are a lot of different cases and dials combinations that were available over the years.
Some collectors like to mix & match pieces from different eras to create a unique timepiece that truly represents their personality. For instance, some enthusiasts will replace certain seals & gaskets on earlier models to increase the water-resistance from 150m to 200m.
3- Lume Deterioration
Even if Seiko is recognized for its high-quality lume, 20+ years of absorbing and emitting light certainly takes a toll on the luminous phosphorescent. As a result, most 7002s available today will have almost non-existant lume application, and what remains is often grey in color and grainy in texture.
The common solution to this problem is to remove carefully the original lume to replace it with a brand-new application that will glow brightly for a long amount of time.
4- Cheap Movement Parts
The 7002 was introduced during a cost-cutting period of Seiko's history. To compete with the rise of quartz movements, mechanical watchmakers had no choice but to use cheaper materials to stay competitive.
Accordingly, the 7002's movement had downgraded components compared to the 6309 caliber it replaced. For example, a lot of parts were stamped instead of machined, a lot more plastic was used and the finish was less precise.
To solve this problem, some collectors will take on the daunting task of swapping the movement. Most common swaps include the 7s26 or 4R35 movements, but this comes with a few issues, such as an unaligned date display.
Best Affordable Seiko for Mods
Seiko 5 (SNK809)
The Seiko SNK809 is bound to find its place in pretty much any "Best Seiko" list I make. Recently, it was crowned as the "King of Beater Watches", in my Best Seiko Beaters article.
Not only is it a good beater, but it's also the perfect modding platform considering its cheap price and the wide array of aftermarket parts available.
The Seiko SNK is the smallest timepiece on this list, with a case diameter of 37mm and a 43mm lug-to-lug length. This means it will look good on people with wrist sizes between 5.75" to 7". Also, the case is 11mm thin, which makes it very easy to wear with long sleeves dress shirts.
The rest of the specs are pretty similar to the aforementioned SKX: 7s26 automatic movement and Hardlex crystal. The big difference is the water resistance, which is only 30m on the SNK.
Why do People Mod It?
1- It's a Strap Monster
Whether changing the strap is considered a mod or not is a debate for another day. For now, let's just consider the huge range of straps that look amazing on the SNK.
Above, I've put a couple of examples of great-looking straps on the SNK. No matter if you use a leather band, a Nato strap or a metal bracelet, the SNK will inevitably look good.
2- Brushed Finish Isn't For Everyone
Since the Seiko 5 is a beater/field watch collection, both the fixed bezel and the case sides have a brushed finish.
Considering the highly polyvalent design of the SNK, some collectors like to wear it as a dressier watch, which makes the brushed finish out of place.
A common solution is to polish the bezel and case yourself (or pay a professional to do it), and the results are usually outstanding.
3- The SNK is Too Common
As of the time of writing this article, the Seiko SNK is by far the watchmaker's most sold model. This has its upsides, such as easy access and low price.
Unfortunately, there are also downsides, the main one being the unoriginality of this timepiece. About every watch collector has one of these in their collection, and they all look the same.
The key to differentiate your SNK from the rest is to change up a few components. The most common changes are dial, hands, and crystal swaps, which are all available in tons of variations.
Best Homage Seiko for Mods
The Seiko SNZH series is a mid-range watch that was built by the Japanese company up until the early 2010s. The styling of this timepiece is loosely based on Blancpain's Fifty Fathoms collection, which is a pillar in modern diver watch history.
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The SNZH's 43mm case diameter makes it one of the bulkiest watches in the Seiko 5 collection. Since it is part of the mid-range category, it uses the 7s36 movement.
In actuality, there is no real tangible difference between the 7s36 and the entry-level 7s26, except for two extra non-working jewels, which only serves aesthetical purposes.
One true improvement over the entry-level Seiko 5 is the water resistance, which is upgraded to 100m, allowing for shallow water snorkeling. The extra money might be worth it depending on how you use the watch.
Why do People Mod It?
1- Fifty Five Fathoms Mod
The most common mod done to the Seiko SNZH is undoubtedly the Fifty Five Fathoms homage. Even if this Seiko already resembles the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, some collectors will take it up a notch by swapping different parts of the watch.
Depending on your level of commitment, there are different mods you can do to get as close as possible to the original Blanc Pain. First and foremost, you should swap the dial to get the "Fifty Five Fathoms" script as well as the correct indices/numerals.
While your SNZH is opened, you might as well swap the OEM sword hands for the ones found on the Blanc Pain. Next, you should probably change the bezel insert, since the layout is different from the original FF. This is a great opportunity to get a ceramic insert to improve scratch and fade resistance.
The two final steps are not recommended unless you 100% know what you're doing. The stainless steel case back of the SNZH can be swapped for an exhibition case back. Also, some enthusiasts will swap the 7s36 movement for a 4r36 caliber to get hand-winding and hacking (like the original Blanc Pain).
Even if the FFF mod is ubiquitous online, it is not the only homage mod available for the Seiko SNZH. Another collector's favorite is the Omega Seamaster Spectre homage.
Once again, the main objective of this build is to swap the hands, bezel, and dial to get as close as possible to the original piece. Above, you can see one built from Yobokie's parts, and the result is fantastic.
Best Custom Seiko for Mods
If you want to take customization to the next level, your best bet is to build a FrankenSeiko.
What's a Frankenwatch?
If you're not familiar with this term, a Frankenwatch is a custom timepiece, built from an amalgam of components took from different watches. It can either be built from scratch or built up from a donor watch platform.
Where do Parts Come from?
There are three main sources for components used in FrankenSeikos.
1- First, the most popular way to get parts is to salvage them from pre-owned watches that don't run anymore. You can either use one of your old piece that isn't valuable enough to service, or buy one for a cheap price on eBay.
2- The second source for parts is to buy brand-new components from third-party companies. A great example is Namoki Mods, which is a website that sells every single part you would need to build a watch from scratch. These are high-quality components that are often better than the ones found on OEM Seikos.
3- Finally, the last place to gather parts for a FrankenSeiko is a bit obscure.
Every once in a while, companies like Seiko or Orient will close down a factory for a variety of reasons (relocation, lack of profits, etc.). These factories will then be abandoned for a few months, leaving plenty of time for looters to collect as many left-over parts as possible.
These parts are rarer as time passes since Seiko is aware of this trend, and minimizes as much as possible the number parts left behind.
A Few Examples:
Our first FrankenSeiko is a fully custom build created by Reddit user Dr_Peanut_Chicken. This is a prime example of a timepiece built from scratch using brand new third-party components.
The full parts list goes as follows:
Above is a FrankenSeiko built upon a 6105-811x base. Reddit User K12_Kuburban started this custom build with a few mods (listed below), but he still plans on adding plongeur hands and maybe changing the dial.
As opposed to the first custom Seiko presented, this one almost exclusively uses OEM Seiko parts. This makes for a more authentic experience, but the downside is the wear & tear of those parts.
I hope you enjoyed today's article, and I encourage you to leave a comment below if you feel like I forgot one of the best Seiko for mods!
Here's a summary of the 5 best Seiko for mods:
Best Seiko for mods
Tons of "plug-and-play" mods
Vintage Styling, Historical Timepiece
Super affordable, Easy to mod
Perfect Blancpain or Omega homage