Why We Mod #12: Benson (@modsmithwatches)
For the 12th edition of our Why We Mod series where we interview notable modders in the community, we talk to Benson (@modsmithwatches on IG). No simple watch modder, he is also a parts designer that creates designs that will surely pique your interest.
Glen: Hey Benson, please introduce yourself to our readers!
Benson: Hi all, Benson here, I am the part-owner, part-designer, part-watchmaker of ModSmith!
Glen: How did you get introduced to the world of watch modding? What do you love most about the hobby?
Benson: This is going to be a long one. Ever since I was a kid, I was tinkering with things like Tamiya cars, taking apart my toys and pissing my parents off.
I guess it just sort of grew into my current appreciation of watches, taking them apart, swapping out different parts to get to the design that I have in my head. So it’s just like before, only more expensive now.
This hobby allows me to work with my hands. To put my imagination and vision into something tangible that I can hold, enjoy and wear out!
I love it when a vision comes together, after the effort of designing in house, liaising with suppliers, the heartbreak when the part arrives and doesn’t fit, and the euphoria when everything fits like a glove. Nothing can compare!
Glen: How would you describe your personal aesthetic when it comes to watches?
Benson: I like watches that are more masculine. Think of angular edges, stainless steel everything, but with a touch of flair here and a flourish of colors there. This contrast can sometimes be hard to achieve but the journey to get to that balance is very fun.
Additionally, I love to work with exotic materials. Sapphire dials? Please, and thank you. Forged carbon? Yes, please! And shiny gems to round everything off. Did I mention meteorite??
Glen: Of all the builds you’ve ever done (either for clients or for yourself), which one would you say you’re proudest of?
Benson: My proudest build… I do enjoy helping bring clients’ vision to fruition. Nothing beats looking at a table full of parts from namokiMODS and thinking “Hmmm, will this work?” and be absolutely blown away once the watch is completed.
But my proudest watch has to be my SeikOak. So much blood, sweat, and tears went into it, coupled with endless iterations to get everything to play nice together. From hands clearance, to movement alignment with the crown…
Oh yes! One more pain point that I remember vividly. The grey plastic movement holder for the NH72!! I had to create a custom metal spacer that is thin enough to slip between the dial and the movement. When the spacers arrived from the supplier, the finishing was sub par… I had to air brush it with Musou Black (a very matte black paint) to save the project from imploding. Problem was, I did not have an air brush, I did not have a paint extractor, I did not have experience with an airbrush either…
It was my first attempt at something truly custom, a true nightmare, but super worth it in the long run. I learned a heck lot from this exercise!
Glen: As the owner of ModSmith… Does the whole “job” aspect of running a modding business take away from the “joy/passion” aspect of modding at all?
Benson: Not at all! I view it as a symbiotic relationship. The pains of having to balance the chequebooks, deal with difficult customers, shipping delays and such, allows me to have funds to chase the next design, that new case and new equipment and tools!
Glen: What’s a modding trend that you love?
Benson: I love that there isn’t a fixed trend in this watch modding scene! It’s always moving, flowing organically like a fish in water.
But one thing that stands out the most is "skeletonisation" of the watches. There is something just so cool to be able to see the intricacies of the watch movement, just moving along so you, the wearer, can tell time.
Glen: Conversely… What’s a build/trend that you’re tired of?
Benson: Haha, this is going to rub some feathers the wrong way, but I am quite sick of seeing tiffany blue everything…
Glen: You’re coming up with really cool custom modding parts. What inspires you, and is there anything cool you’re working on right now that you want to “soft launch”?
Benson: There isn’t a single source of inspiration I guess? But I can tell you one moment that stood out the most.
I remember there was a boom in Tiffany color-dialled watches right after Patek sold their tiffany and co Nautilus for charity… So after scrolling through the nth tiffany blue watch, a thought appeared in my head: “How different can I build the Nautilus?” And that’s when the gears start turning, resulting in a skeletonized Nautilus… with baguette gems for hour markers! That was version 1.
Mockup of version 1 before all the parts arrive
NautiKo vers 1 dial
Completed NautiKo Version 1
Right now I am finalising version 2, nicknamed NautiKo. It’s going to sport a sapphire dial, with minute markers laser etched. Set gems will then be placed as hour markers, rounding off the one of a kind dial.
Between the sapphire dial and the movement, is also a custom made metal spacer, airbrushed with Musou Black (one of the darkest paint you can buy), it acts to both mask out the movement holder of the NH movement, and to increase the contrast of the gems, making them sparkle more than they should.
Sneak peek of version 2’s sapphire dial!
Also, the case supplier promised better quality finishing and 50m water resistance, so you can say I am stoked about this!
Glen: As one of the more involved modders in the community, do you have any predictions where the modding hobby is headed in the next 3-5 years?
Benson: In the next 3 to 5 years, I feel that more styles will be brought to the table. It started out with Seiko and the SKX, and then gradually styles like Submariner got introduced to the scene, then B&R, Nautilus, Royal Oak. Gradually the modding scene will have conversion cases for all the big and popular brands!
Maybe in the future. Maybe... Source: Jacob & Co.
Glen: On that note - what are some cases (or parts in general) that you’d love to see that aren’t currently available?
Benson: I would really love to see the community moving to more movements from other brands. Miyota, ETA, Sellita, just to name a few. All these brands have movements that are compelling as well, and will provide a breath of fresh air for even more unique builds!
Glen: Besides watch modding, what other hobbies do you enjoy?
Benson: You can’t just build watches and not take pictures of your creation to show it off to the world! So the next natural progression is Photography.
Glen: Are there any other subjects that you enjoy capturing? Outside of watches, of course.
Benson: Haha, I am into aerial photography, shooting architecture and ships. Drones…. They are really revolutionary, giving the photographer a brand new perspective from the usual things they shoot!
Glen: Do you have a grail watch, and if so what is it?
Benson: Hublot… Hahaha just kidding. Right now? I don’t really have a grail watch that I put on a pedestal, it’s weird, because all the different marques have a few models that I absolutely love, and it’s tough to point out which one is the most special in my heart!
But when I close my eyes, the first watch that always appears is the Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711… that gorgeous dial… then when you turn the watch around, that movement and the finishing… It’s really a perfect blend of finesse and everyday usability.
Glen: In your own words tell us… Why do you mod? :)
Benson: I mod because it gives me a creative outlet to go crazy, to learn and relearn new skills and ultimately to bring a smile to someone’s face when they open the box to their new modded watch.
Glen: Thanks for the thoughtful responses, Benson! Here's your chance to plug yourself. Socials, calls-to-action, etc.
Benson: For more pictures, videos and such, head over to @modsmithwatches on Instagram! Help a brother hit a major milestone of 5K followers by year's end!
Come talk to me over there, share your vision with me, I am all ears! And lookout for the pre-orders to NautiKo!