For this project, I wanted to take what I learned from building the Bellingham Bay, but go a little more simple and practical.
Enter the Seiko skx007 and its workhorse 7S26 movement. The watch is an icon for all watch enthusiasts. A no nonsense watch, built like a tank, but by today’s horological standards seen as a bit dated. This movement has no hacking, no handwinding, but this watch has one huge thing going for it; community.
A shout-out to Jason Heaton and James Stacey and “The Grey Nato” podcast for highlighting the skx007 and mentioning the community of modders surrounding it. Their podcast inspired this mod.
A whole community of amateur watchmakers and modders have sprung up to support this iconic dive watch. It can practically be modded to look like anything its wearer would like. It is a springboard for many into the realm of mechanical watches, and the realm of modding and watchmaking. For me, I wanted a everyday watch with a date, day, and 12 hr bezel to track a second timezone. After building the Bellingham Bay, this seemed easy enough with some basic tools.
Having a second 12hr scale, or referred to as a CMT (or Cheap Mean Time) bezel, is an affordable way to track a second timezone without having the watch movement have the 24hr GMT complication . I have a GMT watch that I use for travel, but with it being a pilots watch style and a burly 46mm case, I have found it less than ergonomically ideal for my wrist. The skx is a comfortable (for my wrist) 42.5mm case size and with a CMT mod, would give me an easy way to track a second timezone. I am not a diver but as an avid adventurer, I have come to appreciate a rotating bezel as a a great ‘app’ for a watch as with a twist and a glance you can get the information you were looking for. From counting global timezones (with a worldtime insert) to setting a 12hr marker- it can be helpful tool.
Having friends abroad, and one in Tokyo time that I frequently call, being able to look down and see if I’m accidentally going to wake them up when I call is handy. I have also found as a new parent, that having a bezel that you can mark the last time you feed your newborn is a huge plus for my wife.
I stumbled Dr. Seikostain (and also goes by One Second Closer), a Poland based Seiko and Vostok parts maker and modder who makes some incredible mods. I ordered two bezel inserts (aluminum) one that was just a 12hr bezel named “the Death 12”, and the other that has both 12hr and minute markers named “the Scandi One”. After seeing what each would look like on the case, I settled on Scandi.
I also ordered a second used bezel from another Seiko enthusiast seikoparts.com, as I wanted to keep the stock bezel and insert intact in case I completely botched this mod up; or wanted to quickly change to having a diving bezel
Seiko uses an adhesive to adhere the bezel insert to the bezel ring. The bezel itself uses a compression fitting by way of a o-ring that sits inside a groove in the bezel ring pressing on the case below the crystal. Underneath is a unidirectional ratchet spring with two tangs that create the 120 click rotating bezel.
I boiled some hot water and poured it into a Pyrex measuring cup to soften the glue under the bezel insert. While that was happening, I took a case opening blade with a cloth (to protect the case from scratches) and pressed it in between the case and the stock bezel. After a few presses, I felt the bezel release from the case and I gently lifted it off and set it aside.
Pulling the other bezel out of the Pyrex, I used a small Leatherman tool blade, and slipped it behind the bezel insert and the face of the bezel. With the glue hot, it was much easier to get the insert out and with a lot less damage and warping. The insert did get bent slightly, but after it came off a few taps from the back of a screwdriver easily flattened it out.
From there, I cleaned up the bezel and prepped it for reapplication to the case. Inside the bezel I took a new o-ring and greased it using a speed lubricator, and set it inside the groove where it compresses against the case. The only difficult part was putting the bezel back on the case. Even after using o-ring lubrication, it still took quite a bit of force to get it to snap on. I see why some modders say it is easier to reapply this bezel using a crystal press. Once I checked to make sure the ratchet spring aligned back up with the bezel, it was super easy to apply the Scandi insert using the provided 3M double sided adhesive.
This mod took maybe 25 min. to do. I put it on my hand made leather strap from the Bellingham Bay watch project and it has been on my wrist ever since.
I think for anyone interested in watch making or modding, the first stop is learning about the SKX and the 7S26 movement; before diving into a Swiss movement or as I did building our own using off the shelf parts. Not because of affordability (although that can be part of it), but because of the community. So many folks have modded these watches, and because of that there are much more part options and resources available. And if something breaks, or fails, much of this watch and its parts are about a quarter the cost of what I put into my PNW built Swiss watch.