Why We Mod #003: Marcus Leong (@marcleong)
We're kickstarting a series of interviews where we speak with modders in the community and try to figure out the answer to the question - Why do we mod?
In this edition of Why We Mod, I speak to Marcus Leong (@marcleong on Instagram). Looking through his Instagram page, you'll see plenty of wristshots showing off his tastefully modified Seikos, as well as some fully custom builds. Pretty inspiring stuff.
Let's find out a little bit more about who Marcus is, and what tips he has for beginner modders!
Glen: What was the very first watch that got you into watches as a hobby?
Marcus: My first watch was a used SKX007K2 (2012) which was in pretty decent condition. The previous owner kept it for almost 5 years in his closet. Since it wasn't getting much wrist time, he decided to sell it off.
Above:The gateway watch for many a Seiko modder: The legendary SKX007 (credit: Marcus Leong)
Glen: What first got you interested in modding watches?
Marcus: My used SKX007 had minor scratches on its mineral crystal which bothered me quite a lot.
So, I started searching on tutorial videos to swap the crystal and I coincidentally found out about watch modding – and that is where it all started.
Above: Marcus's first modified Seiko. Beautiful SteelKX build (credit: Marcus Leong)
Glen: Seems like a common way for people to get into the hobby. Fixing something "broken", and then realizing the limitless possibilities.
You live in Malaysia - could you share with us what the watch modding scene is like there?
Marcus: The watch modding community in Malaysia has been growing pretty healthily in the past 1-2 years.
A lot of modders are doing minor mods, but not many modders are into fully custom builds yet. I hope that I can help grow this hobby in Malaysia too.
Above: Marcus' first modified Seiko. Beautiful SteelKX build (credit: Marcus Leong)
Glen: What kind of aesthetic do you go for when modding a watch? What inspires you?
Marcus: I like subtle themed watches, and I always try to do classic designs. I take inspiration from luxury brands.
Above: Sea Urchin BB58 mod. Squeaky clean. (credit: Marcus Leong)
Marcus: I did quite a few ‘homage’ Seiko mods (like the BB58 mod on the Sea Urchin) in the early stages – I wanted to pay homage to the classics; I wasn’t trying to ‘copy’ them.
I believe these classic designs never die. I love how timeless they look, and wouldn’t mind wearing them every single day.
Glen: What's the hardest part about modding a watch, in your opinion?
Marcus: If you’re a beginner, setting that ‘seconds hand’ on the movement would be a nightmare – you would definitely need steady hands.
Above: Installing hands is tricky - especially the seconds hand. (Credit: Esslinger Blog)
"But here’s a tip – don’t be afraid to break parts, because that’s where you start learning."
Marcus: The trial and error process when fitting crowns and stems on a movement would take some time.
Pressing crystals is quite challenging too. You have to align the crystal to ensure that it's flat during the press, to make sure you don’t ruin more crystal gaskets.
(Editor's Note: Misalignment of crystals during installation will mercilessly crush your crystal gaskets. Shameless plug - if you're a victim of destroyed gaskets, you can get some spare parts here).
But here’s a tip – don’t be afraid to break parts, because that’s where you start learning.
Above: Second iteration of Marc's Sea Urchin BB58 mod. Always a work in progress. (credit: Marcus Leong)
"Modding watches, in some way, changed my life."
Glen: What's something that you wish people who weren't into watches/modding watches knew about our hobby?
Marcus: Well, for me – watches aren’t just a hobby. It’s more like a ‘bridge’ to connect people from different industries and walks of life.
Above: We're a big fan of these OEM-looking mods, and Marcus has created some fantastic examples of this. (credit: Marcus Leong)
Marcus: Modding watches, in some ways, changed my life. I started meeting more random people interested in the hobby. I get to listen to their interesting stories, which I feel is quite fun.
Glen: Any dream mods or builds that you want to do, but haven't got around to yet?
Marcus: I would like to re-create a chronograph watch – like the Panda or Daytona. I don’t see any mods involving chronographs watches to be honest, or maybe there is? Would definitely like to try it one day, hopefully.
Above: The lovely Seiko Panda Chronograph 6138-8020. (credit: Hub City Vintage)
"That’s when you know it's really a hobby - you get lost in time working on it."
Glen: Do you have any other hobbies that involve tinkering?
Marcus: I did. I was a car guy. I customized my car’s bumper, which was a project that took me about 10 hours to complete.
That’s when you know it's really a hobby - you get lost in time working on it.
Above: Marc's Grail - a birth year Rolex Sea Dweller (credit: Fifth Wrist)
Glen: Do you have a "grail watch" - and if you do, what is it?
Marcus: Yes, I do. The 1989 Rolex Sea Dweller 16600. Why 1989? Well, I was born in year 1989.
Thank you Marcus for speaking with us. We love getting to know the watch modding/building community better, and we hope that it's interesting for readers to learn a little bit more about our hobby through another lens.
Happy Modding, Modfam!