Beginner's Guide for How to Choose and Install New Watch Hands
Changing the hands of a watch may sound simple, but if you’re a newbie to the watch-modding world, you’ll quickly find that it could be a little more complicated than you think. If you’re not paying attention, your work could end up wrecking the watch.
On the left, a movement with the seconds hand post missing. Source: Watchuseek
Watch hands are the most visible and functional part of a mechanical watch. The hands translate the mechanism behind the dial into an indication of the time, and make a watch useful. If you want to drop a new set of hands on your watch, we are here to help!
Replacing the hands on a watch is done for a few reasons. The biggest one is style. With a new set of hands, a watch gets a subtle but noticeable update. In other cases, hands can be replaced because they are damaged, or the lume is already old.
What Makes Hand Installation Difficult
At first glance, the process of changing the hands of a watch may be a seemingly straightforward process, but it can quickly become complicated as there are many potential sources for problems that can cause aesthetic damage or even break your watch in extreme cases.
You must be careful to ensure that the hands can freely move around the dial as intended, and that you protect the dial when installing them. You must also caution against applying too much force or you may break the posts on the movement where the hands will connect to.
One of the top things when changing hands that you need to be concerned about is selecting a new set of hands that should fit the movement of the watch. Thankfully, when it comes to Seiko movements used for modding, the size of the hand posts are uniform so it is easy for suppliers to produce compatible handsets.
As the lengths of the hands chosen for a particular watch should be carefully considered, there’s a good general rule for you to follow. The tip of the hour hand will need to reach or touch the inner edges of the hour markers.
The tip of the minute hand will need to reach the outside of the hour markers or the inside of the minute markers. The tip of the second hand will need to reach the same range as the minute hand or to the outside of any seconds markers on the dial.
Not only that, but hand height is also directly related to the performance of the watch. There’s a certain distance from the dial to the bottom of the crystal, which is how much space the hands can occupy.
So, if the hand height is too high, the topmost hand (usually the second hand) will be touching the bottom of the crystal, which slows down or even stops the watch. Otherwise, if a hand is too low, then it runs the risk of coming into contact with the dial markers, or the other hands.
Any of these issues will hamper the proper performance of the watch.
But don’t worry, there’s a simple method that you check for hand height to first set time so that the hands are directly on top of one another, then view them from the side.
Follow the rule that the hand should be as low as possible without touching any other elements.
Firstly, you should check the hour hand, it should be as low as possible without coming into contact with the dial. The minute hand should stay close to the hour hand without touching it, to leave space for the second hand. The same goes with second hand.
In other words, there should be at least a gap the size of the thickness of a hand in each case.
Tools Needed and Safety Precautions
As always when working on watches, make sure that you have the right tools for the job to be comfortable completing each step of the process. To remove the old hands, you’ll need a set of hand removal tools (Presto tool). For hand installation, you’ll need a hand installation tool and a pair of tweezers or Rodico to pick up the watch hands. A loupe is also recommended.
For an hour and minute hand installation, choose the tip that your hand installation tool has the center hole slightly larger than the post of a minute wheel because you’ll have worse control and risk bending the watch hand when the hole is too big.
Otherwise, if the hole is too small, you won’t be able to set the hour hand.
Be aware of how small and delicate the smallest post is and be careful not to bend it during the hand installation process. In addition, the second hand installation can be very challenging for most beginners as you can run the risk of damaging the movement if you do it incorrectly.
When propping up the movement and dial, make sure the bottom side of the movement, the stem, and the crown are not taking any pressure during the installation process.
Removing the Old Hands
First of all, you’ll need to remove the bracelets from the watch, then the case back. Next, unscrew the crown and press the pivot down with another tool such as a toothpick, and pull the crown out. When that’s done, the movement will be removable.
Once that’s all done, all you need to do is flip the watch to take the movement out.
Optional but recommended for beginners: insert dial protectors to make sure you don’t scratch the dial in the process of removing the hands.
Carefully place the Presto tool on top of the center of the dial. Squeeze the Presto tool while watching the center of the tool press on top of the center of the hands, then slowly pull back to remove the hands.
Installing the New Hands
The first to be installed will be the hour hand, followed by the minute, then the second. There are multiple ways to pick up a watch hand. You can pick it up using a pair of tweezers or a piece of Rodico for more control.
If your watch has a date display, you'll need to put back the crown and turn carefully just right when the date changes. Then, remove the crown.
With the tools in your hand, place the hour's movement under the tool. Place the hour hand facing the midnight position, then press down on the watch installation tool. Next, repeat for the minute and second hand.
Finally, you’ll also need to correct alignment and set the hand to its desired height, and you’re done. You should also try winding the hands using the crown to make sure the hands are not hitting each other, or hitting elements of the dial.
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Check out all the watch hands we offer for Seiko movements, and think about the perfect set for your next mod. With our help, you can create almost anything you can imagine.