To date, changing of bezels and bezel inserts remains as one of the most popular modification on SEIKO dive watches such as SKX, Turtles, Sumo, and more. Not only is this modification easy, it also preserve SEIKO's DNA with its dial and is selectively non-invasive (i.e. no opening of watch and exposing the movement). What's more, a simple modification of the bezel and bezel inserts can drastically alter the visual appeal of the dive watch. Additionally, aftermarkets parts for SEIKO dive watches, especially SKX007 & SKX013, have a constantly growing myriad of varieties where most will be spoilt for choice.
In this tutorial, we will demonstrate in detail one of the most popular cosmetic modification on SEIKO watches - Changing The Bezel and Bezel Insert.
**Applicable on most SEIKO watches.
*The toughest part of this mod would be removing the bezel.
This is a type of bezel that snaps in and out. A protruding ring around the watch case that allows bezels to snap onto the watch. Generally, a uni- or bi-directional rotatable bezel that is common on dive watches.
Here, we used a Snap Back Case Opener Tool and a Dremel vice. Using a strong solid and sharp prying tool is essential, else you might damage the watch and/or tool. Another optional but recommended equipment to have is a vice, helps to hold the watch while you have two hands to work the bezel out.
Here, the watch is held in position with a vice. Since the bezel is first point of contact when clamped, a plastic crystal press die about the size of the SKX013 crystal is placed on the crystal before clamping down. As it does not scratch the crystal, any item can be used to replace the plastic die. This allow the bezel free rotation and ample space for removal.
With SKX007 or SKX013, their bezels have teeth protruding below the bezel. What you will see when lightly rotate and pull apart are actually teeth of the bezel. This is an important note because inserting any sharp prying tool in between to pry open the bezel from watch frame will have the tool hitting the bezel teeth. Objectively, you will want to lift it high enough to insert the sharp prying tool below the teeth. This will give you enough leverage force to pry open the bezel.
Lastly, once the sharp tool is inserted between the bezel teeth and watch frame, removal of the bezel can be done by twisting the sharp prying tool. At this stage, the bezel should pop open. Notably, the first time removal of bezel from a new watch is relatively tough/tight. After a few placement and removal of several bezels on the same watch, removal of bezel will only get easier.
Once the bezel is out, there is a bezel click spring sitting on the watch case frame. It is important to take great care of this bezel click spring as it plays a key role in bezel rotation. Without it or any minor dent to it may prevent the bezel from rotating.
TIPS: In between the bezel and watch frame is a bezel click spring. Rotate a few mm before it the click actually lifts the bezel up. Not significant but a little force up can ease the process of bezel removal.
IMPORTANT: Any sharp tool(s) used to pry open the bezel from the watch case should be done between the lugs. Thus, avoiding any visible cosmetic damages.
This is a type of bezel that holds onto the case by friction. Holds onto the watch case extremely tight and is non-rotatable. Common examples are Rolex Datejust fluted bezel and SNK80X series bezels. Note: Generally, friction-based bezel mod are invasive as crystal sits on the bezel and when the bezel is removed, the entire dial, hands and movement will be exposed (with the exception of SEIKO dive watches).
Unlike snap-based bezels, removal of friction-based bezels requires an additional tool - A Watch Bezel Remover Tool.
Turn the knob of the watch bezel remover tool until it allows you to place the watch case face down and flat with the lugs sitting on the four angled blades. Now proceed to turn the knob until you observe the blades going into the gap between the bezel and the case. Continue to turn until the bezel is push down from the case.
From here, if the bezel does not drop off, use a snap back case opener tool to simply separate the bezel and the case.
Friction-based bezels can sometimes be extremely tough to remove. E.g. Our big bang and pilot bezels for SKX013. In this case, approaching in a careful manner, a hammer can be used to separate the bezel and watch case frame by using it to gently hit the snap back case opener tool that is angled in-between the gap. This approach is definitely not for the faint-hearted or inexperience.
Removing a bezel insert is straight forward and there are multiple approaches. Notably, the bezel insert is held in place by double sided adhesive tape. Hence, the adhesive can either be physically or chemically removed.
One of the most common physical approach is to embed a sharp penknife from the inside between the bezel insert and bezel. Then have the penknife gently work the way through around the bezel insert track to disrupt the adhesive. This would loosen the bezel insert from the bezel and prime it safe for removal.
IMPORTANT: As metallic bezel inserts are susceptible to bends and ceramic bezel inserts are brittle, care should be taken when removing the bezel insert after disrupting the adhesive.
Here, we are using a crystal rack press similar to Bergeon 6173. Alternatively, an economy crystal press would also suffice. The only difference would be the effort force required to produce the same result. With the crystal rack press, it is extremely easy to fit any type of bezel onto the watch case frame. Just like pressing a crystal, use the correct size die that sit firmly onto the bezel and apply appropriate pressure. Once a click sound is heard, the bezel is fitted in. Notably, while all snap-based bezel produces a click sound when fitted in, not all friction-based bezel produces a click sound when fitted in.
IMPORTANT: For Snap-based bezel, ensure that the bezel click spring is on the watch case and properly positioned prior to pressing the bezel down. For Friction-based bezel on dive watches, ensure that the bezel click spring is removed. Since it is non-rotatable, bezel click spring is not required.
TIPS: Use plastic die when pressing bezel to avoid scratches on the bezel. Additionally for friction-based bezel, if the crystal press used does not provide high leverage force, it will be tough to fit the bezel onto the watch case frame. For bezel that requires bezel insert fitting, it is also highly recommended to fit in the bezel WITHOUT the bezel insert. This would allow a better alignment of bezel insert in the next step.
After fitting the bezel onto the watch case frame, it is important to clean the bezel's inner surface where the bezel insert sits. Here we use cotton swap soaked with 70% v/v ethanol solution to clean the bezel's inner surface. This will remove all residue dirt and dust, leaving a clean surface for bezel insert adhesion.
TIPS: If there are adhesive residue from the removal of previous bezel insert. It is important to remove it, either by scraping it with a penknife or using an adhesive remover (e.g. 3M Adhesive Remover Citrus Base).
From here on, apply the double-sided adhesive onto the back of the bezel insert. (Our bezel inserts comes with adhesive already applied onto the back of the bezel insert.) Gently rotate the bezel anti-clockwise and then clockwise to feel the firm block. Here, place the bezel insert with its 12 o'clock marker in parallel with the dial and chapter ring markers.
Listed here are some of tools that we are used. Depending on individual, some tools might be different or might not be necessary. While in terms of cost, they are generally affordable if you do not mind using "China Made" tools. Swiss Made tools can cost anything to thousands of dollars. Of course, when it comes to quality, it is a huge difference. Either way you go, they both get the job done.
It is also important to wear gloves or finger cots to avoid direct contact of our fingers on the watch parts and, especially, the movement.
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WARNING: Modification and/or customisation of a watch will generally void its warranty.