So, you've decided that you want to make your own watch and sensibly, you probably want to dip your toe in the water before diving right in. Therefore, it is likely you will want to create something personalised and unique but whilst doing so, not break the bank. In this article, I will give you some tips on how to source the parts that you will need to make your own personalised automatic watch, all for under 100 bucks.
Before we get started, lets take a look at the parts you are going to need to make your watch:
(Stem & crown)
Let's take a look at each of the parts and then get started in planning your purchases.
The starting point for your build is going to be your movement. This is the engine of your watch and the "base" to build the rest of your automatic watch. Your dial, hands, case and stem will all need to be compatible with your movement so it is important that you start with a movement that is going to give you the flexibility you need to make your personalised timepiece.
As we're building a watch for under £100, I am going to recommend that we go with an NH35 or NH36 movement (depending on the day/date window on your dial) as these can be sourced either from China (AliExpress) or on eBay for less than £40.
A search on either platform for "NH35 movement" or "NH36 movement" will give you a number of options to pick from.
Ok, now here is where the fun starts! The movement determines which dials we can go for and with the NH35 / NH36 movements you are going to have a lot of options. To ensure we stay within our budget, I am going to say we need to aim for a max price of £15 for the dial. Again, at this price range, we should focus our search on eBay or AliExpress. I would also recommend that if this is one of your first builds, I'd go for a 28.5mm diameter dial. Again, this will give you more options when it comes to deciding on the case.
I'll add that for a watch with a higher budget, there are many more stockists online to purchase an NH35 / NH36 dial from. The world really is your oyster when it comes to determining the style of your watch build.
A search for "NH35 dial", "NH36 dial" or "seiko dial" will highlight the options you have available to you.
TIP #1 - double check in the description that the dial you pick is for your chosen movement.
TIP #2 - keep an eye on eBay. It is a goldmine for great value dials and new ones regularly get posted.
In selecting your watch hands, you have an exciting opportunity here to further personalise your build. Keep in mind that the hands also need to be compatible with the movement. When you start the construction, the hands will need to be attached to the movement based on its configuration. With an NH35 / NH36 (or other Seiko movement), the watch hand hole sizes need to be as follows:
For our £100 watch build, I am going to say we need to keep to a budget of around £10. Again, AliExpress and EBay are going to be your go-to places to source a great value set of hands.
NOTE - You may need to compromise on lume strength for a cheaper set of hands (and dial for that matter). If you want to invest more into your watch, this is when you will probably be able to get a better strength lume. There are some great value hands with decent lume out there though in this price range.
You have options here depending on whether you are planning on building a dive watch (a real favourite with watch modders) or not. If this is one of your first builds, to stay within budget, I would either pick a plain fixed bezel watch case, or if you are going to go for a dive watch, one with a pre- installed bezel.
To keep within budget, I would say we need to aim for a watch case costing up to about £35. If you're going for a fixed bezel case, this is achievable (although you may need to hunt) from eBay. If you are going for a dive watch, head over to AliExpress or alternatively be prepared to spend a bit more elsewhere.
TIP #1 - When I have my dial, hands and watch case picked out, I take some screenshots, put the pictures together and take a look at them together to get a better idea of what the end result will look like before I click "purchase".
TIP #2 - Make sure the size of the dial you have chosen fits the size of the case. In the description it should advise you what diameter watch dial it will allow.
Ok, we're running out of budget to build our £100 watch, so you may have to trim back on your max budget somewhere. Maybe you've found a movement for £30 or a dial for £10, maybe even a case for £30. Wherever the budget has come from, your £100 watch parts are almost complete. To finish the watch, you just need to find your strap.
With the strap, you have a lot of options. You may decide to go for a classic stainless steel strap, a mesh strap or even a nato - the choice is yours!
Ebay again has loads of affordable options, especially if you're looking for a rubber strap, a perlon strap or a nato. If you're looking for a leather strap or a steel band, you may need to head back over to AliExpress. Whatever you choose to do, there are some great options out there!
I have also added spring bars, a movement stem and a crown to the recommended list. In reality, when you buy your movement you should also receive an uncut stem and when you buy your case you should also receive the compliant crown and spring bars.
A replacement crown is slightly more complex to source due to it needing to fit the specific case, but replacement stems and spring bars can be picked up super cheap if needed.
Inspiration for your build
If you're looking for some inspiration, feel free to check out some of my own watch builds, all coming in at a total cost under £100:
I always find sourcing the parts one of my favourite bits. Starting from a blank sheet of paper and an idea in your mind, sourcing the parts to match your inspiration can take you off in a lot of fun directions! In fact, a lot of my other builds have come from finding alternative parts when doing my searches.
So, with that, I wish you the best of luck in your search! The fun starts now...