Why We Mod #11: Chris (@seikomods_de)
For our 11th edition of our long-running Why We Mod Series, we talk to Chris (@seikomods_de on Instagram), a trademark/copyright law student who picked up watch modding as a hobby and turned it into a professional business. His Seiko and Orient mods are always calculated and well put-together - signature of products Made in Germany.
Glen: Hi Christian! For people who aren’t familiar with who you are - please introduce yourself.
Chris: Hey, my name is Chris, I am 22 years old and from Tübingen, a town in southern Germany near Stuttgart. I am currently in the final semester of law school, and in the middle of preparing for my first bar exam. I run “Seikomods Deutschland” as a side job in my free time.
Glen: What was your introduction to the Seiko/watch modding scene? How’d you get started?
Chris: I always loved Japanese cars, my first one was a 1992 Mazda Miata, Canada Import. There is a huge modding and tuning scene around these as well, and I spent entire summers wrenching away on that car.
When I picked up watches as another expensive hobby, I didn’t get far without finding out about Seiko. If you know about Seiko, you also know about Seiko modding. I think it’s the same principle around modifying your “cheap” Japanese watch and your "cheap" Japanese car.
It makes sense - there’re a million Japanese eco-box cars around, and everyone and their mom has one, so many people naturally want to modify them to make ‘em uniquely theirs. Same thing with those Japanese divers watches.
I signed up to the Seiko Mods subreddit very shortly after it was created around November of 2018 (I think?) and had been a silent reader for a year or so. I always wanted to build myself an SKX007 with a SKX171 dial and a few tweaks, but in the end bought myself an Orient Ray II when I passed my big midterm exam in semester three.
I found out about its mod-ability too pretty quickly and finally made it my own after passing my pre-bar exam on antitrust and intellectual property law. Afterwards, I kind of spiralled out of control for a little bit and built too many watches for my budget, until I decided to just make a side job out of my hobby to finance my own watches and studies.
Glen: You do commissioned builds - your tagline is “Mods Made in Germany”. As a car guy myself, the term “German engineering” has always been a signifier of quality and attention to detail. How does that translate to “German-made” watch mods, in your opinion?
Chris: “Made in Germany” was actually introduced as a sign of inferior quality during the industrial revolution. The British had better looms and a huge textile industry and didn’t want the then cheaper produce from Germany to tar their reputation.
Nowadays “made in Germany” is a sign of quality, and that’s what I’m trying to latch onto by using the tagline. Most of the parts I use are Japanese and Singaporean engineering, but I assemble the watches here in Germany. I try to steer clear of eBay or no-name parts wherever possible, to guarantee the highest quality possible. I pressure test all my watches, and offer warranties, and generally try to get the modded watches as close to perfect as possible, so that the customer receives a quality piece.
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 usually execute on whatever design they want?
Chris: I usually execute whatever design they want. I want the customer to be happy with their watch, so I don’t interfere much. I like to give helpful tips or advise on styles that go well together, but in the end the customer pays for a custom watch, so custom after their preferences it is
If I design for myself, I like to go for a “sleeper” look. I think my exit-watch, for the time when I will step away from commercially modding, will be an SKX007 - very stock looking, but with a 4R36 movement, a titanium case and of course sapphire crystal and ceramic bezel inserts. I like an OEM+ look.
Glen: Tell us more about your day job and background. How does that influence your approach to Seiko modding?
Chris: My background is the legal field, or law school to be precise. So I made sure to know the laws behind modding before I started, and don’t infringe on any intellectual property laws.
Glen: Why do you think Seiko (up till now) has adopted such a laissez-faire attitude towards trademark infringement? Case in point: the many “aftermarket” dials that boast a Seiko logo.
Chris: I don’t think they know how deep the problem runs to be honest. I think they don’t really care about the modding scene, maybe they even think it’s great. But I think they’d be less than pleased if they’d check eBay for an afternoon and found out that ⅔ of “Seiko Mods” available for purchase are just trademark infringements.
The Japanese are very proud of their products and industries, and trademark infringements slander a brand's image and value. So I can’t imagine they’d be happy with the way this scene is evolving at the moment.
Maybe they do know, and it’s just hard to take down fake-factories. Countries like China, where a lot of these dials are produced, make it intentionally hard for foreign companies and trademark holders to enforce their rights - even if the production of these fake dials is also prohibited in china.
Glen: What can aftermarket part sellers and modders do to protect themselves/keep them on the right side of the law?
Chris: Use OEM Dials. Or at least sterile dials or dials with another branding. Companies like namoki, DLW and yobokies all produce high quality aftermarket dials with their own branding.
The punishments even for buying fake dials are severe, and If your parcel with fake dials inside get caught by customs, it’s gonna get expensive. Even more so, if you are modding as a business.
Glen: Besides watch modding/building, do you have any other hobbies that are hands on/involve tinkering?
Chris: Modifying my cars, but I kind of swapped that for watch modding. Way cheaper and takes up way less space. Your hands don’t get nearly as dirty as well.
Sometimes I dabble in game modding too, but that’s mostly just texture work for some games, nothing groundbreaking. For example I just started a career mode on the latest F1 game from Codemasters, and I really really wanted to use a custom helmet. So I made a texture for it. Stuff like that.
Glen: What’s your favorite product that we sell on our website and why?
Chris: I like the custom rotors. They are super pointless, but oh my god do they look great. Really nice upgrade to the bland NH-Rotors.
Glen: As a follow up question, what’s an aftermarket part that you wish to see?
Chris: GMT Modification Kits for NH-Movements. Some ETA movements got additional “GMT-Modules” that made them four-handers. I’d love to see that for the NH Series.
Probably very difficult to manufacture, but I’d love that. Although I heard rumours that Seiko is about to release a 5KX Version with a GMT function.
Glen: What’s your favourite “trend” in the watch modding community currently?
Chris: I really like the diversity, not really a trend. But people build what they love on the Seiko platforms, and that is great to see.
Glen: Conversely, what’s your least-favourite “trend”?
Chris: Fake “Seiko” Submariners. It’s super overdone.
Glen: Do you have a "grail watch" - and if you do, what is it?
Chris: I started my business to pay for my studies and save up for a watch to buy after passing the bar exam. Currently I'm looking at a Tudor Black Bay GMT, maybe a new Omega Speedmaster or a Breitling 806 Re-Issue. Don’t really know if I have an all time “grail”. There are so many cool watches I’d want, I couldn’t decide.
OEM+ is the way to go.
Glen: If you had to answer the question “Why do you mod”, what would your answer be?
Chris: Make what Seiko could have made, if it weren’t for budget caps or different limitations. OEM+ is the way to go.
Finally - Plug yourself! Facebook links, email address etc, any call to action you want to include.
Be excellent to one another. Make peace not war.
Follow me wherever you want, currently running a promotion where I’ll donate a percentage of my personal income from sales this month to the German Red Cross for humanitarian aid in the Ukraine.