So you’re ready to dig into your SKX and make some changes, but where should a budding watch-modder start? Bezels, bracelets and dials?
Knowing which SKX mods are within a beginner’s scope and which might be too much of a hassle is no small task. It takes a lot of time and research to know which parts, tools and techniques to employ.
Modifying a Seiko SKX is one of the most common ways enthusiasts get into the world of watch-modding.
The SKX is an affordable watch with an approachable design. It’s easy to work on and mods are plentiful thanks to such a supportive aftermarket. Best of all, an SKX responds so well to mods that it can pass for a watch worth 10 times as much.
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This article is meant to provide a clear overview of the possibilities of Seiko SKX mods:
- Different types and parts you might need
- Level of difficulty
- Which tools will help
A (Very) Quick Overview of the Seiko SKX007 and Its Variants
If you aren’t already familiar with the Seiko SKX, that’s okay. You’ll get a brief introduction right now.
The SKX is an affordable dive watch produced by the massive timepiece manufacturer Seiko. It has an automatic movement, a day and date function and features a 200m water resistance. It has a uni-directional diving bezel and super bright lume. It’s a legit diver.
There were several variants of the SKX produced, beginning in 1996:
- SKX007 – Black dial and bezel insert
- SKX009 – Blue dial with a red and blue bezel insert
- SKX171 – Black dial with applied markers and an aggressively-styled bezel
- SKX011 – Orange dial with a black and orange bezel
- SKX013 – A scaled-down version of the SKX007 (perfect for smaller wrists).
There are a few more odd-ball models, but they’re far less common and probably should be left stock. Of all the models, the SKX007 is the most common.
That being said, all of the mods discussed in this article apply to all of the models save for a few exceptions related to the SKX013’s size.
The SKX line uses an automatic movement (no battery) known as the 7S26. It’s an in-house movement, meaning Seiko manufactures it. It’s been in almost all of their entry-level automatic watches since it was released in 1996. It’s a perfectly acceptable and robust movement, particularly at this price point.
Watch Modding Tools
If you’re going to crack open the back of your SKX, you’re going to need some tools. You can purchase perfectly useful tool kits with most of the tools required (spring bar tools, tweezers, case back opener, etc.) from online dealers like Amazon.
There are a few tools that will need to be purchased separately from most kits. Here’s a fairly straightforward list of tools that you’ll need to accomplish most tasks for amateur modders:
- Multi-piece watch tool kit
- Crystal press
- Air puffer
- Watch hand removal tool
- Micro Cloth
- Rodico (sticky, pliable compound for cleaning dust and fingerprints, plus many more uses)
There are some nice-to-have tools to consider as well. A pair of calipers for measuring lug-to-lug, strap width and case width is a fun tool to have. Also, if you really get into watch movements it’ll be handy to have a timegrapher. At a beginner’s level, however, a timegrapher is not necessary.
Types of Seiko SKX Mods
One of the most exciting things about owning an SKX is that literally every part of the watch can be modded:
- Straps and bracelets
- Bezels and bezel inserts
Some SKX mods are easy to do yourself while others can be a little more challenging, but that’s also part of the fun. You should go for it anyway. That’s not to imply that your SKX is an easily replaceable watch but with its price point, this timepiece is far less intimidating to dig into than a Rolex or Tudor.
1. SKX Straps and Bracelets
The quickest and easiest way to put your stamp on your SKX007 is to swap out the strap or bracelet.
Your SKX probably came on a cheap-feeling rubber strap or a lovable but equally cheap-feeling metal bracelet known as the jubilee. Popping a couple of spring bars and throwing on one of the following types of straps is all it takes to get a fresh look for your diver.
NATO and Zulu Straps for the Seiko SKX
There’s a lot of history surrounding NATO and Zulu straps, but the concept is fairly simple.
These are one-piece nylon straps with metal buckles and retainers. They slide between the spring bars and case of the watch with very little effort. They do sometimes come in leather or other materials but the defining characteristic is the one-piece design.
The market is flooded with some amazing designs and patterns, most of which are downright inexpensive. They can also be swapped in literally seconds. You can go from a subdued navy blue Zulu strap to a bright, multicolored NATO strap in less time than it takes to tie your boots.
Rubber and Silicone Straps for an SKX
The rubber strap that your SKX probably came on doesn’t bring a whole lot to the table. It’s not particularly soft or comfortable and it looks just as bad. The good news is that there are manufacturers that produce top-quality rubber and silicone straps to meet your SKX-modding fancy.
It’s very easy to find an inexpensive rubber or silicone strap for your SKX.
The cheap straps are fine if you prefer to have a large selection of colors. Just be aware that the quality of fitment cannot compare to some of the premium rubber or silicone straps available. Some of these straps even have pleasant scents infused like vanilla.
SKX Bracelet Mods
Plenty of SKX owners love their original jubilee bracelet and don’t seem keen on changing to anything else. There’s nothing wrong with that, but in an article about watch mods, that mindset’s got to go.
If the metal-look is your thing, there are a lot of options out there.
Most of these bracelets mimic the style of popular high-end divers. These aftermarket bracelets’ quality either matches or surpasses that of those luxury brands. Their materials and finish are second to none. They also have awesome features like screw-in links, solid end-links and milled clasps.
Leather Straps on SKX (The Sacrilege)
There are those among us that shun a leather strap on a dive watch. Sure, leather and seawater don’t mix. On the other hand, leather sure looks good paired with an SKX.
If you’re okay with a few dirty looks from the snobbiest of watch collectors (which you should be, shame on them) then leather straps can add a new depth to your horology style.
2. Seiko SKX Bezel Mods
Bezels are usually the one feature that comes to mind when someone thinks of a dive watch. Not only do they help the genre stand out in the horology crowd, but they’re also a great way to mod your SKX. The right bezel can really bring a watch to the next level.
There are a few types of bezels available on the market, but some of the most popular are coin edge, submariner or sub-style and even a blank, sloped bezel known as a pilot style.
It might not seem like a little bit of texture on the side of the bezel would make a difference, but checking out a few styles will say differently.
The bezel insert is where things with the SKX really start to take off. There are different colors, materials and styles that you can purchase for your timepiece to give it a whole different personality. These include:
- Submariner-style to mimic the Rolex it’s named for
- Planet Ocean-style to mimic the Omega Seamaster
- Black and blue “Batman” inserts for clocking dual time zones – A Rolex Inspiration
- Blue and red “Pepsi” styles – Also a Rolex Inspiration
- “Fifty-Five Fathoms” meant to mimic the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms
- 24-hour bezels, meant to mimic GMT-function watches and used only for style
Those are just a few popular choices. As you can tell they mostly get their style from other popular, and far more expensive, timepieces in the genre. The most desirable inserts are made of ceramic or even sapphire, while less expensive metal options are also available.
Seiko’s known for its awesome lume (known as LumiBrite), but factory SKX bezels have very little (just the pip at 12 o’clock). If you really want to light up your SKX bezel mod, look for a lumed bezel insert. They’re bright, look incredible and make your watch more functional in the dark.
Bezel mods are fairly easy to pull off on your own. Unless something catastrophic happens, you won’t compromise your water resistance rating or the movement’s function.
Generally speaking, they require a tool that can fit between the bezel and the case, a pick that can pull off the old bezel insert and some contact cement. There are plenty of guides online to show you how.
3. SKX Crystal Mods
One of the most popular mods for the SKX is a crystal swap and it’s for good reason. Seiko uses another one of its own proprietary materials for the crystal. Known as Hardlex, it’s a mineral crystal, not sapphire like most watch-lovers prefer.
Hardlex scratches easier than sapphire, but Seiko uses it because it’s cheaper to produce and more resistant to shattering.
Several companies that offer Seiko mod parts sell beautiful sapphire crystal replacements. They offer domed, double-domed, top hat and flat styles, each providing their unique degree of eye-pleasing distortion.
Even nicer yet, you can buy these crystals with anti-reflective coatings. The AR-coatings make your watch super legible in nearly any sunlight condition.
A crystal swap is upping the ante a bit in regard to difficulty. The case back has to be opened, the movement removed and a crystal press needs to be utilized carefully to ensure the right fit. Don’t let that deter you though.
With a little patience, research and courage, a crystal swap is definitely possible for a beginner.
4. Seiko SKX Case Mods
The fact that an SKX looks good on a smaller wrist owes a lot to the case design. As the modding bug takes over, you’ll see the case as an opportunity to improve the watch while also showing appreciation to the design.
Searching quickly for SKX cases might not reveal quite the variety you were expecting though. They all look the same.
The devil is in the details though, especially in this case (no pun intended). A closer look at these cases will reveal small features the average person wouldn’t even notice, like drilled-through lugs, brushed finishes and even helium release valves.
Minor details like these are very impressive upgrades to those who notice and appreciate them.
Another popular SKX case mod is to have the case Cerakoted. Cerakote is the same finish used for firearms. It’s incredibly tough but difficult to do well at home. It’s certainly easier to buy the case already coated.
Once you’ve learned to swap the bezel and crystal, swapping out the case isn’t so hard. It requires the same steps, just with the addition of replacing some gaskets. A good Cerakote job may be outside of a beginner’s skillset at first, however.
5. SKX Hands and Dial Mods
To create a truly premium feel with an entry-level watch, you can’t forget the hands and dial. After all, this is exactly where you’re supposed to be focused on when you check the time. The dial and hands are the stars, the other mods are the supporting cast.
There’s truly no shortage of unique dials available for the SKX. As one of the easier things to manufacture, almost all Seiko mod parts suppliers have a line of dials available. They come in any color you can think of, with applied markers, logos, designs and a lot of other custom touches.
You can even use dials from other watches in the Seiko lineup for an “OEM-Plus” look.
If you’re already digging into your dial, don’t miss the opportunity to swap the hands out on your SKX. The great thing about this mod is you have three hands to customize. You can mix and match to achieve the exact look you’re going for. Some popular styles include:
- OEM hands from other Seiko models like the MarineMaster
- Modified SKX hands that have been refinished in several colorways
If you intend to replace your dial, you’ll have to remove your hands first. You might as well do both mods at the same time.
While neither is a particularly difficult job, you will need a watch hand removal tool and hand press to complete the job. Be patient, careful and methodical: You could easily scratch your new dial or bend the hands when you press them on.
6. Movement Mods for the Seiko SKX
As mentioned earlier, the SKX comes with Seiko’s in-house 7s26 movement. It’s a reliable workhorse that keeps decent time. The issue is that it lacks a few features that watch aficionados covet: hacking and hand-winding.
Luckily for you, Seiko makes a few movements that “drop-in.” These movements aren’t inherently more accurate but they are more feature-rich.
Swapping your 7s26 for a 4r36 or 6r15 will give you both of those cherished attributes that the 7s26 lacks. When you pull out the crown, the second hand will stop (hacking). You’ll also be able to wind the movement by hand.
These movements are more-or-less drop-in, but they are the most difficult and technical mods on the list.
To pull this mod off, you have to source a compatible stem and a new crown. Your old 7s26 stem won’t work with the new movement, and the new stem needs to be cut to the correct length. They also require swapping date wheels with near-surgical precision.
For these reasons, the movement swap is the pinnacle of Seiko SKX mods. If you’re especially keen to have a look at your new upgraded movement, a sapphire display case back is a nice touch.
The possibilities are truly endless when it comes to modding SKXs. Hopefully this guide has given you the confidence you need to jump in and start putting your personal touch on your diver.
Whether it’s a GMT bezel on a jubilee bracelet with snowflake hands or a truly off-the-wall customized dial on a NATO strap, go and create something that you’ll be proud to wear on your wrist.
Brian Millard says
Rather than MOD I would like to build from scratch. Buy case, crown, crown ste, case back, movement, crystal, bezel, chapter ring and strap/bracelet. I am confused about how to make sure I have the right case for the movemen. Happy to go with a nh36. Does this mean I must/should go with a case that has a 3 oclock or 4 oclock crown? If I buy a nh35 will I need to use a different (grey/black) spacer? I presume it means that I must have a day and date dial, correct?
Thanks for a very interesting article. Where would you suggest purchasing a SKX007 or SKX009? Approximately how much should I expect to pay?