Welcome to the second edition of our recurring series on watch mods! One thing that surprises people new to watch modding is just how many components in a single watch can be swapped out and exchanged for something different! Today, we’ll show you how to change two of the most visible components – the dial and the hands! It takes the right tools, a steady hand, some patience, and compatible replacement parts but once you’ve finished, your watch will look completely unique! Follow along as we demonstrate how to make some major upgrades to your Seiko!
Today, we’ll be modding the same SRPD79 from our earlier blog post where we upgraded the bezel insert/rehaute. For this mod, you’ll need some familiar tools like a flathead screwdriver and a blade (like a scalpel). You’ll also need some more specialized tools like a hand press, a dial protector, hand-remover tool, and a movement holder. Once you’ve gathered your tools, you’re ready to get started!
NOTE: The following photos show the movement being held by hand. This is for demonstration purposes only. You should always use a movement holder to keep the movement secure and level when performing watch mods and to prevent damage to the sensitive components on the bottom of the movement.
With the stem/crown inserted, pull it out to adjust the time.
Adjust the hands so they are stacked up. This makes removing them easier!
Slide the dial protector beneath the hands, taking care not to damage the indices and logo which are applied to the dial. As the name implies, the dial protector ensures that tools used to remove the hands don’t scratch the dial.
Using the hand removal tool, place it against the dial protector and squeeze the sides of the tool. The tip will compress down to stabilize the hands while the teeth will slip beneath the hour hand. This will help the hands come free from the post. Keep in mind, the hands should lift straight up when they’re ready to come off – no need to wiggle side to side.
Set the hands off to the side in a parts dish. With the hands out of the way, remove the dial. Use a fine tipped tool (like a scalpel) to lift the dial up from the movement.
Now that the dial is removed, it’s time to figure out how to install the replacement dial as well as make any adjustments necessary. Laid flat side by side, you can see the original dial (on the left) has just 2 feet while the replacement dial (on the right) has four. What’s up with that? Well, some replacement dials are designed to be used with a variety of movements and, depending on the movement, the installation positions might be slightly different. Here, the original dial has feet at 3:30 (one foot is halfway between 3 and 4 o’clock) and 8:30 (halfway between 8 and 9 o’clock).
So now we need to identify which feet need to be removed. Looking at the original and replacement dials side by side, it’s clear that the replacement dial has one foot on the left side that is too high and one foot on the right that is too low, when compared to the OEM dial.
Having identified the feet to remove, it’s time to get rid of those suckers! We’ll use a flathead screwdriver to push the foot to one side and then rock it back the other direction. By doing this, the bond will weaken and the foot will come off. Remember – measure twice and cut once! You don’t want to accidentally remove the wrong set of dial feet!
Now, align the dial feet with the holes at the edge of the movement to install the dial.
You’ve installed the dial! Now let’s install the hands.
For this build, we’ve chosen some awesome Mercedes style hands that will accent nicely with the watch’s black case. Keep in mind while installing hands that they are made of extremely thin metal and bend easily. Use light pressure and go slow when working with hands.
For this next step, you’ll need to prepare your hand installation tools. Our hand press tool uses soft nylon tips with different size holes. To explain how they work, imagine the hands sitting atop the movement’s post, which extends up through the hole in the middle of the dail. The nylon tips have openings large enough to accommodate the post, but small enough to press the hands down, creating a snug fit. In this way, when the post rotates, the hands will also move. Because they’re securely fit to the post, they won’t fall off when you move the watch around.
We’ll pick up the hands using a special material called Rodico. Rodico is handy because it is slightly adhesive yet doesn’t leave a residue. Since it’s putty-like, it can be used to pick up small components easily. We’ll start by picking up the hour hand.
Place the hour hand over the post and nudge it into position so it’s pointing straight at the “12”
Now, let’s take the hand press tool and press the hour hand down. How much pressure to use? Imagine you have a piece of paper laying flat on a table and are using an eraser to rotate the paper. Use the same amount of pressure here so you don’t bend the hands but still ensure they fit snugly on the post.
Be sure to use even pressure or else your hands will be a bit lopsided like this. If that happens, use the dial protector and hand removal tool to remove the misaligned hand(s) and try again.
That’s better! You can see the hand is parallel to the dial and not bent. Go ahead and install the minute hand following the same steps.
Let’s install the second hand. Instead of fitting around the post like a bracelet, the second hand fits on top, like a hat. In order to install it correctly, you’ll need to use very careful, precise application since the top of the post (and the corresponding opening on the second hand) is very small. Usually, this is the toughest part of the mod, so go slowly and use lots of magnification and light so you can see what you’re doing. Once you’re confident the second hand is sitting atop the post, use the hand press tool again to press it down with less pressure than before. You won’t feel it click, but if you push the crown/stem in, the second hand should start moving, indicating it’s installed correctly.
Voila! The hands are installed! Go ahead and rotate the hands a few times to ensure they are not rubbing against one another. If you feel them rubbing, remove them and reinstall. Hands rubbing against each other will cause problems over time.
Join us on the next edition when we replace the chapter ring and crystal!
About The Author: Tom Roth
Born in Washington state, Tom developed an interest in photography during college at University of San Diego. There, he got started in music journalism, interviewing artists and taking photos at concerts. A life-long tinkerer and collector, it wasn’t long before Tom became fascinated with fountain pens and watches.
Those interests collided in November 2020 when Tom started at Feldmar Watch Company where he lives out every watch geek’s dream: photographing and writing about timepieces. When he’s not tinkering with his watch collection, Tom can be found traveling, biting his nails while watching PNW sports teams, and taking flying lessons.