You know, I do realise that this thing here, this documentation of activity spanning the past 14 years, skirts the borders of unhealthy obsession but at the same time, conversely, I reckon it keeps me relatively sane. However, in recognition of the mismatch between time available and time required to make a dent in the backlog, for most of this past year I have consciously pulled back from adding further to the ginormous pile of pent up vintage Seiko potential and have limited myself, mostly, to the purchase of parts, as required, and the occasional tool. Between January and October 2022, I made no watch purchases at all but since October, I’m afraid I have slipped and eight additions have been added to the pile, although interestingly, none of them Seiko (watch this space). One of those projects is turning into a bit of a protracted exercise for want of freely available parts and so to fill the gap, this present post aims to provide a little light relief from twiddling of thumbs and impatient tapping of feet.
Those of you who have delved back into vaults will know that I enjoy the occasional foray into the world of watch modding, although in recent years my indulgences in modification have tended to focus on the engine room rather than the body-work. Traditionally, watch modding largely concerns the transformation of an existing retail watch into something more bespoke. However, the recent cottage industry growth in producers, not just of dials, hands, bezel inserts and crystals, but importantly of complete watch cases, bezel turning rings, case backs, crowns and other assorted casing parts has meant that it is relatively easy these days to build a complete watch from new parts. I surveyed a number of suppliers of such parts in a recent post in which I re-created an old Seiko 6105 mod from newly available parts. Having whetted my appetite with that project, I have been browsing options to make a smaller-footprint diving watch that is more in keeping with the modest dimensions of my wrists.
Last month I assembled a small collection of parts from far flung locations to the east and west of GMT as well as one or two components sourced from UK suppliers.
In a sense, this is a supremely lazy project because the case is complete, including crystal, case back and crown and so the only additional components required were the movement, a stem, the dial and handset. The case is a 38mm diameter diver’s case, with a 120 click uni-directional bezel, a screw-down crown and supposedly rated to 200m. It was sourced from the DS-WATCH MOD store on Aliexpress.
The movement is an SII NH36M, sourced from Cousins UK and the dial and handset are from Tokeilab in the USA. The case takes inspiration from recent Seiko homages to the 62MAS, although on a smaller scale, and the dial and handset are clearly inspired by recent Tudor models. The dial is more or less sterile, if you view the circle T as a nod to the old tritium lume designation rather than as a branding icon of Tokeilab. I rather like the katakana rendering of Automatic Diver’s between the centre hole and the 6 marker.
The movement is the day/date NH36, a low-cost, low-beat, base automatic Seiko movement but one equipped with seconds hacking and a hand-winding facility in addition to quickset calendar operation. The dial has a date-only aperture at the three o’clock position and so I will be removing the day calendar components before fitting the dial.
The day-disk is secured to the hour wheel using a circlip and so the first job is to remove that and then lift out the redundant day disk.
The only other component that needs removing is the plastic day-date corrector wheel.
The dial was supplied with four dial feet to allow you to fit it to cases with the crown at either 3 or 3.8 o’clock.
I snipped off the latter and pressed the dial into position.
The hour/minute hand holes were a little tight and I needed to broach them first to get them to fit comfortably.
With that done, the movement can be fitted to the case.
The final remaining fiddly operation is to trim a new stem and fit it to the screw-down crown.
With some lubrication applied, the stem can be fitted to the movement and the screw-down crown operation and action tested.
Everything appears to be as slick as you might hope, even allowing for the modest budget of this build. I wound in a full wind of power, regulated the movement, greased the case back gasket and fitted the nicely sterile case back.
The final task is to select a strap. In the interests of comfort and neutral visual impact, I opted for a smooth natural rubber strap.
I reckon that this is a pretty successful result. The watch case itself is of surprisingly good quality, with very crisp lines and excellent finishing. I would say comfortably better than the 6105-style case I used in another recent watch build project. In particular, the bezel action is very nice, not dissimilar to standard modern Seiko bezel feel.
The case width and length fits very well on my wrist but it is perhaps a little thick.
I imagine some of you might be wondering how much this all cost. Well, here’s the breakdown:
Case complete: £70
Dial & Hands: £58
NH36 movement + stem: £38
All prices including shipping and taxes where applicable. If I’d sourced separate casing parts from specialist suppliers, I would probably have had to add another £120.
If nothing else, this has provided an amusing diversion while I wait for the arrival of a pallet fork from half way across the world. More on that to come soon I hope.