DIY Watch Club - Watch building kits (a review)

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DIY Watch Club - Watch building kits (a review)

Post by Stif »

I mentioned in another topic that I'd spent my morning today building (well assembling really) a watch, so figured I'd start a topic on it as there was some interest in hearing a bit more (figured 'other brands' is the right place for this, but mods, feel free to move!)

I can't remember where I first heard about diywatch.club, possibly an ad on Facebook or Instagram, but my there was something about the promise of putting a watch together myself that was very appealing, so after watching a few videos on YouTube reviewing their kit (they clearly sent out samples far and wide!) I casually mentioned it to my wife, who then kindly obliged with some gift vouchers for Christmas.

I then took these and purchased one of their bundle kits, which consisted of their dive watch case (with the sapphire crystal option), three bezel options and four straps along with their standard tool kit, which consists of a loupe, blower, finger cots, hand setting and removal tools as well as a nice wee 'leather' pad to work on and a small plastic phone stand, to make watching their tutorial videos easier (a nice wee touch, although I just used my laptop!)
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In addition I ordered an orange second hand (they send hands in pairs, incase you damage one) and a custom rotor, because I thought it would be cool to add a bit of personalisation (isn't that the point?) In addition I added a couple of extra tools - a quality screwdriver for the rotor swap a wee watch case cushion to work on and a CNC machined movement holder (was very glad to have this when setting the hands).
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Ordered on Christmas day, this all arrived in the UK (from Hong Kong) a couple of weeks later, in early January.
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I didn't take any great pictures of the packaging, but the main package was a nice enough nylon zip case, encompassing the main toolset and core watch parts. All of the additional bundle parts, custom parts and additional tools etc came in nice small black cardboard boxes, carrying the DIY Watch Club logo - overall fairly nice presentation if nothing too exciting.
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I had the day off today, so with the kids at school and my wife at work I had decided today was the day to put things all together, so around 10:30am, with coffee in hand, I sat down at the dining table with my laptop and the various pieces and set to work...
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I'll not go into too much detail, but at its core the task consisted of: affixing the dial to the movement; the hands to the dial; fitting it all into the case; fitting the bezel insert; swapping out the rotor and finally fitting a strap.
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Whilst that can easily be summarised in a quick sentence, it wasn't quite so simple! In essence it really is just like a very small, delicate Lego kit... a Lego kit that's very easy to damage irreparably and incredibly difficult to see! :lol:

Most of it wasn't too bad though, and credit to DIY watch club, their tutorial videos and instructions were great - the whole 'course' was broken into short, bitesized chunks that were easy to navigate. Videos were mostly 3-5 minutes long with chapter markers that made jumping back through them easy.

The hardest part was setting the hands - the hour hand went on very easily, lulling me into a false sense of security - the minute hand was a little tougher, and I needed to make some post fitting adjustments to stop it rubbing the hour hand... and the second hand was an absolute nightmare, although I think I surprised myself by staying calm and not calling it any of the names I justifiably could have ;)
I suspect the fitting of the second hand took the longest of any of the elements of the build - or rather the fitting, and then adjusting (as I was convinced I'd killed it and would need to restart the whole hand installation!)
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Whilst fitting the hands there was lots of turning the crown to watch how they behaved, and I was definitely happy that I'd spent a little extra to buy the movement holder - it made me less nervous about how I was interacting with the movement and kept things nice and flat.

With the hands on, it was time to give everything a nice clean and pop it all into the case, and then fit the custom rotor - I'd been dreading that, but in reality it was probably the easiest part of the whole thing and took 2 minutes!
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...and with that, it was onto a strap for the final money shot:
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(and a wee bonus one of the lume!)
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So what about the watch itself? Well, it's a Seiko NH movement, a steel case (which I'd call a 'lightcatcher-lite' - it has some nice machining almost reminiscent of the CW cases, but certainly not to the same level!), sapphire crystal (with a mineral case-back, which I suspect is fine given it's out of harms way!). The bezel has a nice smooth action and I went with the ceramic insert (although I also got an embossed steel and an aluminium option).
Overall I think I paid around £400 (which includes import tax when it arrived in the UK, plus the extra bits I ordered - you could easily knock £100 off that if going for one of their base kits only) - I'd say the watch (if not the quality of the assembly ;) ) is probably on-par with watches in that price range, but the experience and the story that goes along with the build is surely priceless!

I suspect there are plenty of YouTube tutorials and websites that provide a great introduction to modding, and you can definitely get the tools for very little outlay from Amazon etc, but the big selling point with these guys is the way they've encapsulated it all into a nice, easy-access bundle - as such it made a fantastic gift and was a great way to spend a morning! (oh, should have said - they suggest it takes about 2 hours, I reckon it took me 2.5, but I wasn't rushing!)

Anyway, that's more than enough rambling on! Has anyone else built up one of these (or know of any alternatives?)
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Re: DIY Watch Club - Watch building kits (a review)

Post by jkbarnes »

That’s a wonderful review, thanks! It sounds like this could be a fun project. I’ll have to go check it out. The watch looks great, and the idea you assembled it yourself makes it that much better.
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Re: DIY Watch Club - Watch building kits (a review)

Post by Dickchins »

Awsome write up, many thanks. And very well done!!!!

Im certainly going to look in to these based on your experience and write up. The watch itself looks spot on. It really is a looker! To know its your own spec and built by your own hand is superb =D>
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Re: DIY Watch Club - Watch building kits (a review)

Post by asqwerth »

Brilliant post and pictures. Love it.

You're right that it's a great introductory package to watch assembly and modding. And the ability to get add-ons like a customized rotor is cool.

The watch itself looks pretty good. The only thing I'm scratching my head over is why the pointer end of the seconds hand is shorter than the counterweight portion. At first it thought it was read from the longer end, but then I saw the Lume shot with the lume on the shorter end.

It's still a good looking diver, and I think there should be no issue reading the seconds. Plus it's fully customized to your preferences, so it's YOUR watch.

Well done.
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Re: DIY Watch Club - Watch building kits (a review)

Post by dan_1981 »

I got a very similar kit from the during lockdown. Really enjoyable process, and as you say nice to have something you 'made' yourself.

Haters will say it's just basic assembly but for an intro to modding I think it's great... Here's mine!
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Re: DIY Watch Club - Watch building kits (a review)

Post by Stif »

That looks great Dan, is that the aluminium bezel insert? I think one of the ones I got was a dark blue version of that - the bundle actually came with three bezels + inserts, so should be possible to change them for different styles which I thought was cool (and apparently they're compatible with Seiko divers!) Hope you had as much fun building yours as I did!

@Asqwerth good spot re: the seconds hand - the way I've fit it, the long end is certainly the bit telling the time, so the 'pointer' counterweight will be useless in the dark! :lol:
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Re: DIY Watch Club - Watch building kits (a review)

Post by Bahnstormer_vRS »

Excellent write up and great that Mrs Stiff has helped you disappear down the rabbit hole of watch building and WISdom.

The end result is a pretty decent dive watch.

Presumably the 200m WR is untested. :wink:


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Re: DIY Watch Club - Watch building kits (a review)

Post by Amor Vincit Omnia »

Great story and a brilliant result. Good for you – I would never manage that in a month of Sundays!
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Re: DIY Watch Club - Watch building kits (a review)

Post by nbg »

An excellent write up. Looks like a fun project. :clap: :thumbup:

Having the lume on the counterweight of the second hand is the norm on many Seiko dive watches. It does though look different on the DWC, as it is an arrow, rather than the usual blob.

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Re: DIY Watch Club - Watch building kits (a review)

Post by iain »

Great little overview of the process, thanks for putting it together and sharing.

I’ve not heard of this company before but have considered buying a cheap old Seiko and modding that as an introduction to watch making. Sounds like this has everything all bundled up in one handy package as an alternative.
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Re: DIY Watch Club - Watch building kits (a review)

Post by Stif »

Bahnstormer_vRS wrote: Sat Jan 15, 2022 8:57 am
Presumably the 200m WR is untested. :wink:
Oh absolutely! Given I was tasked with fitting the gasket myself I'm not sure I fancy trying it out :lol:

Having said that, the crown screws down nicely, as does the case back, so sure it's got a decent level of water resistance even if I did screw that up!

Might be fun to get a pressure tester to give it a go, but not the kind of expense I could justify just for 'fun' :lol:
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Re: DIY Watch Club - Watch building kits (a review)

Post by nbg »

Stif wrote: Sat Jan 15, 2022 10:16 am
Bahnstormer_vRS wrote: Sat Jan 15, 2022 8:57 am
Presumably the 200m WR is untested. :wink:
Oh absolutely! Given I was tasked with fitting the gasket myself I'm not sure I fancy trying it out :lol:

Having said that, the crown screws down nicely, as does the case back, so sure it's got a decent level of water resistance even if I did screw that up!

Might be fun to get a pressure tester to give it a go, but not the kind of expense I could justify just for 'fun' :lol:
Ah what you need is a bit of DIY pressure testing:
magicman wrote: Wed Jul 21, 2021 4:06 pm Might give this a go. Seems simple enough.

https://youtu.be/qBZbLdotrG0

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Re: DIY Watch Club - Watch building kits (a review)

Post by Stif »

Ha, that's not a bad idea! I thought he was going to full the jar with water, then pressurise it and I was wondering how he'd know how many ATM of pressure he was testing to (and was wary the jar would go 'pop' and send glass everywhere!)

Makes far more sense seeing he's just doing a wee test on the seals!

Happy enough that this will be a desk-diver for me though, I'm not sure I have the energy to open it all up and mess with the seals if there is a leak :lol:
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Re: DIY Watch Club - Watch building kits (a review)

Post by Amor Vincit Omnia »

Stif wrote: Sat Jan 15, 2022 12:16 pm Makes far more sense seeing he's just doing a wee test on the seals!
That’s downright unhygienic, and I don’t think the forces involved would prove very much. And think of the poor old seals, not very nice for them is it? :-k

Seriously, it’s a swimming watch. Get it tested and if it passes go impress your friends at the local pool or on your next beach holiday. :thumbup:
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Re: DIY Watch Club - Watch building kits (a review)

Post by Stif »

On a meeting this morning, and I often like to tinker during meetings (helps me think) so swapped out the strap and bezel on the watch - pleasantly surprised how easy it is to swap them out, and think this steel bezel with vintage leather strap combo is more suited to a day 'in the office' (For info, I work from home, so my office is a desk in my house :wink: )

Pretty happy with the straps that came with it. Not sure how to assess the quality of a parachute strap, but the leather straps (this one and a black variant) are decent enough - out of the box they had a bit of a plasticy feel to them, but I think that's down to a water-resistant treatment, and I think they're starting to feel better with just a little use (wore the black one over the weekend). The buckle is quite nice (looks/feels like it's been machined) and the keepers are nice and tight.

I had the rubber strap on yesterday and it's very comfortable and seems like decent rubber.
Only thing to note is that they're a bit short - I've got a fairly average 7 (and a bit) inch wrist and only have 3 extra holes when on comfortably. They're a perfect fit for me (brilliantly so - I'm almost always between holes on buckle straps!), but might be a bit short for those with larger wrists!
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