Safety First: How to Keep Yourself and Your Watch Safe While Modding
Turning an ordinary watch that everyone else has into something completely unique and different with Seiko mods can be such an excisting prospect that people sometimes overlook an aspect that demands your attention right from the start: safety.
You’ll be working with sharp and pointed tools, and dealing with delicate metals that are friction fit together that also happen to have easily scratchable polished finishes in all or part of its body. The movement, the mechanism that powers the watch, is also not immune to shocks and mishandling.
In this article, we'll delve into the essential topic of safety in watch modding. We're not here to rain on your parade but to ensure your modding experience is both enjoyable and secure. From understanding the inherent risks to protecting your watch and yourself, we'll cover it all.
There’s quite a bit to cover so let’s get right into it, shall we?
Caution and Awareness
Seiko modding is not exactly a dangerous hobby. There’s more potential harm to befall your tools and parts than yourself to be honest, but it doesn’t hurt to be cautious. You’ll mostly need to protect your hands, and you can do so by putting on some finger cots which are tiny gloves that go on your individual fingers. They’re actually designed to prevent you from scratching the watch parts with your nails, but they also do the job of protecting your fingers while handling sharp tools or putting on a particularly stubborn bracelet on a case.
You’d also want to put on your glasses and work in a well-lit room so you don’t accidentally lose any small parts, especially if you’re modifying parts of your movement.
Protecting Your Watch
The dial is the most prominent part of any watch, and it is also one of the easiest parts to mess up when you’re not yet that experienced with watch modding. The greatest chance of damage is when you’re removing or installing new hands, as you’ll be using metal tools for these. To avoid damage, you’ll want to use a dial protector which slips just under the hands which will cover the dial from the sharp points of the hands remover tool.
Speaking of hands, they tend to have a polished finish, and due to the thinness of them, they can easily get scratched or bent when picking them up. While the more experienced modders can install hands with tweezers without a hitch, you can also just use a piece of Rodico to pick up the hands without putting them at risk of scratches.
Bezels are one of the more commonly modded parts of a watch since it doesn’t require opening up a watch, it doesn’t strictly require the use of special tools, and there are a lot of part options that can really shake up the look of a watch. You can easily pry off a bezel with any blade you have at home, but of course there’s a risk of scratching the case, and you can also cut yourself if you’re not careful. If the bezel is stuck to the case due to very tight tolerances and you force it off with a regular blade, you also risk bending the bezel which will make it useless.
If you really have no other tools and don’t want to spend extra, you can always lubricate the gap between the bezel and case with some penetrating oil first like Screwloose. This should lessen the effort needed to detach the bezel. If you can make a bigger gap between the bezel and case already, it’s best to put on some tape to protect the case from scratches. The safest way to go about it though, is to use a special bezel removal tool which inserts a blade from multiple directions, applying even pressure and popping off the case without risking scratches to it.
Source: Karl M. / Seiko Mods FB Group
Most aftermarket Seiko mod crystals are already made of sapphire, a mineral glass that is much more durable than Hardlex that you usually get with the entry level Seiko divers. As such, it’s difficult to scratch or damage the crystal yourself. What could potentially get damaged during a modding session is the anti-reflective coating, which is a very thin coating on the underside of the crystal that reduces glare. Be careful not to touch it with sharp tools.
When installing the crystal into the case, it’s also best to make sure that the crystal is evenly seated on the case before pressing it in. If it’s a bit crooked and you proceed with the crystal press, you’ll most likely crush your crystal gasket – a source of frustration for newbies and veteran modders alike.
Seiko modding casebacks are quite easy to take off and put back since you just need to screw it on and off. No particularly dangerous tools needed for this task, but you can still potentially damage it if the caseback is not threaded in properly and forced in, getting it stuck. It may be an easy step that even a kid can do, but we would advise against rushing it anyway. If the caseback stops threading in and there’s still a gap, it’s better to just unscrew the caseback and start again instead of forcing it in.
In the watch modding hobby, mistakes are inevitable and are inherently part of the process and are something to learn from. That doesn’t mean you have to make the mistake yourself though! The tips shared in this article came from experience so you don’t need to waste brand new parts if you don’t have to.
If you want to start modding safely, be sure to check out our tools section to get the protective tools suggested above, and don’t miss out on our regularly-refreshed catalog for premium watch mod parts.