Why We Mod #16 - Simon (@SeikoModsDubai)
For the 16th edition of our ongoing interview series, we talk to Simon (@SeikoModsDubai) whose IG feed is a long list of flawless divers, dress watches, GMT pieces, and more, with that characteristic Dubai bling.
Glen: Hi Simon! Could you tell our readers a bit about the man behind @seikomodsdubai, and how you ended up in Dubai?
Simon: Hi all, thanks firstly for featuring me and my mods! I’m Simon, I’ve been based in Dubai, UAE for the last 8 years now, originally from the UK. I’m a Design & Technology teacher by day, but around 3 years ago I discovered I could take my interest in watches to the next level and make almost any watch I could imagine with Seiko based parts.
Since then, I began offering mod services here and it really took off since at the time, I was the first one to do it in Dubai. It was actually namokiMODS who helped spark my passion initially as I came runner up in a mod competition you guys ran with my design for a watch made for teachers.
Glen: What’s it like being a watch lover in Dubai? I’m guessing the watch scene there is a lot more luxury focused.
Simon: Dubai has a great watch enthusiast scene with many collectors. Fortunately I get to meet many interesting clients who have amazing high-end watches, but interestingly, many still go for my Seiko Mods too - they tend to like the personal connection, the accessibility and I get to build some truly unique ideas. You can find almost every notable watch brand for sale here now, there is even occasionally Dubai Watch Week - a small expo for watches specifically where I also got to meet some amazing watchmakers and independent brands.
Glen: What got you addicted to the hobby of watch building/modification?
Simon: I remember initially it was because I realised even with relatively basic knowledge and tools, I could make a watch that didn’t exist, something truly innovative and unique and that I could be proud of.
I was impressed at the variety of parts on offer and the options are really limitless. Why buy a mass produced timepiece everyone else has when you can either make your own, or have a private maker do it for you - a real ‘piece unique’. It seems like a win-win.
More recently, since developing my process and online store I take joy from helping other enthusiasts access the world of Seiko Modding from my base in Dubai, UAE.
Glen: What watch in your collection has been getting the most wrist time recently?
Simon: I have been wearing my modified SNKP21J1 watch the most lately, it’s a really simple design with just a few parts but I love the depth of the NH72 skeleton movement and the case size really suits me at 42mm with the large double dome sapphire.
I actually find most of the SKX/SRPD lines I make for clients often too small for my own larger wrist size. I have a few luxury watches too, my current favourite is the Tudor Black Bay, I can just seem to grab it and go for any occasion or activity its super versatile and the higher end watch I recommend to everyone.
Glen: Your website says that you’re a “fully-licensed” store - could you share what that means? What kind of licensing is required?
Simon: Last year I decided to take the leap and set up my own brand and company in the UAE, this is what the license is for - to ensure I can offer a professional service to my clients, take payments by credit cards and have a proper online store where people can browse and buy my watches even if I’m not by my phone or computer. Eventually I may look at a retail store too, but this may take some time yet!
Glen: What watch brands and/or specific watch models do you find most influential/inspiring in your design process?
Simon: Well I think it’s pretty clear that Rolex plays a big part. It's the world's most recognisable watch brand with timeless designs, and naturally everyone wants a piece of it. That said, I've also done builds inspired by Sinn, Omega, Breitling, Tudor, AP and Patek.
I like to try to take inspiration of course but keep my designs Seiko in equal measure and one key rule I never break is to only use original (OEM) Seiko dials where possible. I’ve found some of my mods end up looking a bit OEM+, taking the best of Seiko and adding higher end materials such as sapphire and ceramic, unusual cases and quality straps.
Glen: What are some lessons you learned while building Seiko Mods Dubai as a brand? Were there any “growing pains” when making the transition from casual hobbyist to business owner?
Simon: One key lesson is that simply it takes time - it took me years to develop my identity in the Seiko mod world and I am still very much learning. There’s no need to rush it, and if you’re planning to do it just to make money alone it’s really not the right path.
I also found that once I got used to making 10-20 watches a month, the process does start to take over your life a bit, so it’s important to take breaks and make time for other things you enjoy too - we get inspired from all sorts of places.
I really haven't regretted any major development I’ve tried, such as starting a licensed company or developing my site and YouTube - these were all risks at first, but they all work well together and my process has become more efficient and my clients can get their watches made faster and better than ever.
Glen: You are active on a few channels, Instagram and YouTube for example. Is there any particular channel that drives more leads for you?
Simon: It’s hard to put an exact figure on it but I would say a major drive is YouTube, especially initially. I spent many hours myself watching other channels, it’s really a place for enthusiasts, and I find people get a far better appreciation of my ideas and work when I can show them on an extended video.
My most popular videos are always the full builds, where I show the full mod process, I’m intending to focus more on this type of content now too. Trust is incredibly important, and I feel Youtube can really help build trust with clients internationally too.
Glen: Are there any watch modding parts that you’d like to see and work with, but aren’t currently available on the market? Cases, bezels, new movements, for example.
Simon: Since my very first custom watch idea (the teacher’s watch I mentioned earlier) I’m still hoping for a countdown bezel in a clear and functional design. If you don’t already know, it’s just a regular diver bezel but with the numbers backwards. Let’s say you want to time a task in a classroom or see how long’s left in a football game - you can do it more easily with this simple tool.
I can’t wait for SSK GMT parts to hit the market too - I love the new Seiko 5 Sports GMT and wish it was easier and cheaper to modify these models too. Being inspired by some independent watchmakers I want to eventually develop interesting parts like a wandering hours module for Seiko movements - and solid gold parts such as bezels, cases and so on. I believe they are all possible, so watch this space!
Glen: What’s the next watch that you’ve been eyeing/planning to add to your collection?
Simon: From Seiko it’s got to be the new 2023 SPB358 GMT’s, but I’m yet to try one on - I love the textured sky blue dial and the size seems perfect for my wrist. I’m always on the lookout for a Breitling Navitimer (46mm) as this was always one of my dream watches - as is the Rolex Seadweller 43mm.
And for something truly wild - a Konstantin Chaykin Joker - I was lucky enough to get his recent “Time Eater” model - a collab with Louis Erard. AP’s Royal Oak is also on the grail list and another crazy one is the Genus Watches Wandering Hours complication - some inspiration for what I hope to be able to develop.
Glen: Would you call yourself a “car guy” as well? I saw a video where you semi-featured your 981 Boxster. If you are, what would your ideal garage look like (ie. what cars would be in it)?
Simon: Yes I do love cars too, currently I still have the Porsche Boxster S (981) in Dubai and a Mk2 Mazda MX5 in the UK for my summer breaks. I’d love to do more watches inspired by cars.
My boyhood dream car is the Ferrari F355, but life moves on and I’m sure I’ll have to settle for something electric soon enough, but I hope I'll still have room for a roadster of some sort.
Glen: Why do you mod? In other words, what do you think drives this desire to modify/build your own watch instead of buying one off the shelf?
Simon: I mod because I want to share my passion and allow others to experience the simple joys a truly unique watch can bring - especially if they are also eager to learn and understand mechanical watches and their parts more.
Many of my clients are looking to buy their first mechanical watch - and I’m always honoured to help them. How else can you design your own idea and watch it being made? Even the ‘elite’ won’t get this sort of experience from luxury brands. Do you know who made your watch? I do, and so do my clients. This is something that makes Seiko Modding stand out in the watch world - simple parts, big impact and a personal connection.
I mod because no one else in my area did, I wanted to enable people in the UAE to access these awesome designs, at reasonable prices and give everyone the chance to work with their own trusted watch builder. I have made great friends and connections on this journey and it’s also inspired me to continue making this part of my future plans with the regular support I receive from my clients, followers and suppliers like namokiMODS!
Glen: Thanks for the time, Simon! How can people connect with / find out more about you and your custom watch services?
Simon: Very welcome! Here are my account links: