Why We Mod #007: Matt (@mlswatches)
In our seventh edition of Why We Mod, we spoke to Matt (@mlswatches on Instagram). Based in the UK, Matt has build a name for himself in the modding scene by providing custom modding services.
Let's dive into the interview to understand more about Matt, his mods and his opinions on the modding market!
Glen: Hi Matt! For people who aren’t familiar with who you are - please introduce yourself.
Matt: Hello readers and fellow watch enthusiasts, my name is Matt and I am the modder behind MLS Watches.
Above: Coast of North Sea in Scotland – beautiful. (Source: Best Tourism)
Matt: I live on the coast of the North Sea in Scotland and, aside from my passion for watches, I also play drums, go mountain biking and drink lots of coffee. I am a qualified Mechanical Engineer and now in Project Management for the Energy industry.
Above: SKX x Sumo mod made by Matt. (Source: Matt aka MLSWatches)
Matt: I have been modding and creating custom Seiko watches since 2018, both building watches to satisfy my own addiction and also providing modification services to fellow addicts around the globe!
Glen: What’s the first watch you can remember that made an impact on you? It doesn’t have to be a watch that you’ve owned, just the first watch that piqued your interest in watches.
I always feel naked if I’m not wearing a watch.
Matt: As far back as I can remember, I have always been a guy who has to wear a watch. That doesn’t mean I’ve always had nice watches. When I was younger I didn’t, but I always feel naked if I’m not wearing a watch.
Above: The SNZF21 played an important role in building Matt's interest o watches. (Source: Watch Charts)
Matt: There are two watches that really stand out in my mind for piquing my interest in watches, on an enthusiast level. The first was a Seiko SNZF21 (a gunmetal cased Seiko 5 watch, with 7S26 movement and 100m water resistance). I wore that watch everyday on a brown leather strap, and never wanted for anything more, I was totally happy with it…
Above: The Rolex Oyster Speedking is simple yet an elegant looking wristwatch (Source: Matt aka MLSWatches)
Matt: I also inherited a 1950’s vintage Rolex Oyster Speedking from my late Grandfather, who purchased it whilst he was with the Royal Navy. Over time, my grandfather had the watch serviced by non-Rolex watchmakers and it no longer had it’s original crown.
For any Rolex geeks, this watch was made during a limited 2 to 3 year window where Rolex tried to replace their screw-down crowns with push-down crowns, dubbed “Super Oyster” crowns. Needless to say, they were a failure and they switched back to screw down crowns ever since!
Above: The 17 rubies movement on the Rolex Oyster Speedking (Source: Passions)
Matt: Anyway, I decided to replace the crown with the correct original crown and managed to source one from the USA. Martins of Glasgow fitted the crown back on the watch, and I really enjoyed the hunt of sourcing the crown and also the thrill of seeing the watch after some restoration!
Glen: That Speedking is beautiful - what an awesome family heirloom. Since you were into watches from a young age, how did you get started on watch modding?
Above: SKX009 Yachtmaster mod – Yachtmaster builds are always a favourite. (Source: Matt aka MLSWatches)
Matt: I purchased a Seiko SKX009 in 2018, as a bit of an everyday beater, with no intention of modifying it.
As I’m sure all the readers can appreciate, it arrived with a slightly misaligned chapter ring which really tested my Engineering design brain and love for alignment. I researched online about how to correct the alignment, and bought myself some cheap tools to give it a go.
Above: A common issue with the SKX - misaligned chapter rings! Once you see it, you can't un-see it. (Source: The Watch Site)
I was successful in correcting the alignment, but at the same time fell down the rabbit hole of Seiko mods… and here we are today several years later with hundreds of modified Seikos under my belt.
I get really excited when I come up with a new design in my head, and have to see it through into a custom Seiko watch!
Matt: To me, I love conjuring up new designs and seeing them through into the final piece. I get really excited when I come up with a new design in my head, and have to see it through into a custom Seiko watch! I also like being able to help others achieve this same elated feeling, by providing modification services.
I also am really enjoying seeing the community grow, with continual improvement to mod parts and the explosion of certain YouTube and Instagram pages.
Glen: This isn't the first time I've heard someone get into watch modding because they had to fix their SKX's misaligned chapter ring 😂
I’m sure you’ve lost count of how many watches you’ve built, but if you HAD to pick out a favorite build (either for yourself, or as a commissioned build), what would it be and why?
Matt: That’s a tricky one, and I feel it is made more difficult because of the constantly evolving community and supply of parts. I feel that at several points over the years I have made a ‘favourite’ watch, only to later discover a cool new case or bezel insert design has become available that will become my new favourite!
Above: Matt's recent build – A black MM300. (Source: Matt aka MLSWatches)
My personal tastes in Seiko mods lean more towards the more OEM designs, which celebrate Seiko and Japanese design.
Above: If you think black is too dull, try this grey-orange build! (Source: Matt aka MLSWatches)
Matt: My personal tastes in Seiko mods lean towards the more OEM designs, which celebrate Seiko and Japanese design. Two builds I have managed to complete recently, and love, are a black MM300 (in tribute to the SLA035) and a grey and orange Seiko Zimbe mod (using the rare SRPA19 dial and pushing the design a little bit further).
Glen: That Zimbe build is wild. What's the hardest/most frustrating part about being a “commissioned watch modder”? What would make your life easier?
I try not to make anything too hard or frustrating for myself because then I will lose that passion and enthusiasm, so I have quite a relaxed and chilled approach.
Matt: Watches and Seiko modding are hobbies for me. I try not to make anything too hard or frustrating for myself because then I will lose that passion and enthusiasm, so I have quite a relaxed and chilled approach.
What would make my life easier? Instant access to OEM Seiko dials at reasonable prices, an online tool that imports images of seiko mod parts and lets clients develop their own designs (like how you can spec your own car online, change the colours, wheels, interior…), and an end to import taxes and customs delays! Can you arrange that for me please Glen? Cheers.
Glen: What kind of aesthetic/style do you try to go for when designing a watch for yourself? Does your own style influence the way you modify a watch for clients, or do you just execute on whatever design they want?
Above: Did you know that the first Seiko diver watch was produced 56 years ago? (Source: Seiko)
Matt: I love Seiko as a company, I love their designs, I love their completely integrated production model, and I love their history. That’s why I love to design around the classic Seiko diver look, but with a few improvements that I want to have. If I wanted a Swiss watch, I’d buy a Swiss watch. I like that Japanese watches offer something different.
The beauty of Seiko modding is that everyone can have their own taste, and can create a unique timepiece that is specifically to their own taste.
Matt: The beauty of Seiko modding is that everyone can have their own taste, and can create a unique timepiece that is specifically to their own taste. Therefore, I do not try to influence clients too much, unless they specifically want my opinions. I have had some clients that have proposed designs that I would not wear myself, but it’s their watch and they will be the one to wear it so they can tell me to make whatever they damn well want!
Glen: Besides watch modding/building, do you have any other hobbies that are hands on, or involve tinkering?
Matt: I think I mentioned it earlier on, but I have quite a few other hobbies besides watches and I love the variety that brings. In terms of ‘tinkering’, mountain biking and road biking are definitely hobbies that you can swap out parts with and upgrade. I also have tool boxes with bike specific tools from over the years and when I was younger I would pretty much replace every part on a bike leaving only the frame as an original part!
Above: The sleek grey-orange Seiko Zimbe. (Source: Matt aka MLSWatches)
Matt: Watch modding is certainly a more delicate hobby, and the tools are a lot smaller. But I suppose it shares a similar approach to upgrading and improving designs that other hobbies have.
Matt: I have always said to myself I would like to take up painting. Maybe that can become a future hobby for me to get into.
Glen: What’s one item/product that you would love for mod part suppliers to bring to the market?
Above: Swatch's watch customisation as an inspiration. (Source: Hodinkee)
Matt: I would love to see a fitted rubber SKX strap that works with a diver style deployant clasp. Another idea I had is to be able to upload an image and get a dial or a bezel insert with that image printed on. A bit like how Swatch let you select part of an artwork and have it printed onto the rubber strap!
Above: The beautiful Kurono Classic, designed by Hajime Asaoka. (Source: Watchuseek)
Matt: I would also really like to see a selection of aftermarket dials using Japanese script instead of English on the dial. Like Kurono Tokyo watches, but take it further so there’s no English on the dial. As I said before, I really like the Japanese style, and this would make for a cool dial that doesn’t have to worry about copyright infringement!
Let me know if you want to collaborate on any of these ideas?
Glen: Love the idea! Judging from the popularity of Kanji day wheels, I'm sure Kanji dials would be a hit.
Do you have a "grail watch"?
I have been fortunate to own a lot of watches and I feel like I have experienced a lot of the watches or brands that I have desired to.
Matt: Hmm that’s a tricky one to be honest. I have been fortunate to own a lot of watches (Seiko and otherwise) and I feel like I have experienced a lot of the watches or brands that I have desired to.
Above: Hand-made dial with one-of-a-kind movement. (Source: Watchesbysjx)
Matt: I wouldn’t be much of a British watch enthusiast without saying I wanted a Roger Smith watch, but as he only makes about 14 watches per year (and the price!) so that’s not going to happen.
Above: The verdant green dial detail sets this Grand Seiko apart from other dive watches. (Source: Watchesbysjx)
Matt: I guess I could say the watch I want, and don’t think is available, would be a Grand Seiko diver with modest proportions and a Spring Drive movement... without the power reserve indicator on the dial. That would be real nice. The quality and attention to detail of Grand Seiko is insane.
Glen: If you had to answer the question “Why do you mod”, what would your answer be?
I cannot stop creating new designs in my head, and I cannot rest until those designs come to life.
Matt: Because I have to. I cannot stop creating new designs in my head, and I cannot rest until those designs come to life. It’s a curse. Send help.
Actually, just send more mod parts.
Glen: Finally - plug yourself! Facebook links, email address etc, just go for it.
Matt: For custom watches or mod inspirations, please follow my Instagram page: MLSwatches.
If you like funny watch podcasts, check out: Scottish Watches.
If you want some good YouTube content, check out Scottish resident Adrian’s channel: Bark and Jack.
Thank you Matt for the thoughtful responses! If you'd like to be featured in this series, just drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to indicate your interest. We love getting to know the community better.
As always, happy modding, modfam!