Special Report

Resto-mod...watches? The build on your wrist overlaps with the one in your garage.

by Conner Golden
9 December 2022 5 min read

Does Singer Vehicle Design build Porsche 911s?

Legally, no. That Instagram-baiting candy-colored coupe is a Porsche 911 Reimagined by Singer Vehicle Design, regardless of what that Porsche crest on the schnoz says.  It’s not a “Gunther Werks 911” either. Those widebody carbon-fiber motor-sculptures are 911s Remastered by Gunther Werks. It’s a representation—and a perfection, in the eyes of the person who commissioned it, anyway—of the original. As those into watches may know, there’s a parallel path among timepieces. Let me explain.

Underneath all of Singer and Gunther Werk’s micron-precise coachwork lies the heavily reinforced bones of a 1990s aircooled Porsche. I can personally attest to this; during visits to both ateliers, I noted the presence of a few stripped-down rolling chassis waiting for the $750,000 magic touch, like a roasted chicken carcass ready to be tossed in a pot of boiling molten gold.

Conner Golden

No matter how complex and blueprinted the final product is, the core comes from a production car, making the hot rods emerging from Singer and its ilk comprehensively engineered and exquisitely coachbuilt restomods. That’s a contentious word in 2022, with most ultra-high-end workshops instead ascribing legalese word-candy like Singer’s “reimagined” and Gunther Werks’ “remastered” to make that half-mil bank transfer sting a little less and to give the proud new owner some extra ammo at their next Cars and Coffee.

For some, saying “restomod” conjures the mental image of a glossy 1969 Camaro on the Barrett-Jackson block, complete with a full interior swap, modern LS engine, big Pioneer head unit, and gleaming chrome wheels at all four corners. Hardly a waking nightmare, but this doesn’t gel well with these coachbuilder’s Pebble Beach customer base that would prefer their car suggest superiority to passersby, rather than trumpet it.

Gunther Werks

Even if you seek a build with roots in Detroit rather than Stuttgart, constructing cohesive restomods and, ah, reimaginations is big business—even after the car is long removed from its shop and the person who commissioned it. At the height of the market, we noticed an alarming number of extensively modified C2 Corvettes trading hands for massive figures, accompanied by other well-executed remixes of collector muscle staples bringing hefty premiums.

And, if you were one of the lucky 450 who secured a build spot with Singer, congratulations on your investment. Most of the “Classic” builds carve around $500,000 from the commissioner’s checkbook, but bidders can expect to double this if you take aim at one of the few that makes it to public auction.

Hey, perfection is rarely cheap. That’s what these flush folks are buying, after all. Personal perfection—or at least the self-idealized version of their favorite car. It’s not a one-size-fits all process, but behind every Reimagined 911 and ’57 Chevy dropped on an Art Morrison chassis, there’s a cooing owner hungry to tell you about what makes their particular build so special and personal.


So let me tell you about my restomod! I don’t make quite enough cash to commission my dream $1.8 million Singer DLS build—eh, they’re sold out anyway—but the recent sale of my dear 1998 Volvo left me with some walkin’ around money, and I got the itch. Not for another car, as I sold the sweet Swede specifically to downsize, but for a new watch. In the end, like the same folks who modernize T-Birds, Land Cruisers, and Broncos, I took an existing watch and juiced it up to my own specifications.

This itch happens once every couple of years. I discover a small hole in my modest collection of mostly affordable watches, and I scratch, poke, and rip at that hole until I must—I must—pick up something token to fill the gap. Almost a year ago, I discovered an affinity for titanium watches, and I quelled that urge with a mechanical, titanium-cased $300 Citizen diver that is fun but oversized, aesthetically brutal, and rather blunt in its feature set.

The itch returned within six months, and it screamed for more of the 22nd element around my wrist. I looked at a number of watches both affordable and, uh, less affordable for a few months.  I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for; that is, a quality titanium sport watch from an established brand under $1,500 that isn’t ugly or too big.

Even from Seiko, it was slim pickings. There were a few steel watches that checked all the boxes, but no dice—I gotta have that lightweight case. Here’s the thing—there is a massive watch modding community operating in very much the same way as the automotive aftermarket. If I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted on the existing market, I’d build my own. Sound familiar?

SKX007 pictured on the right, replica titanium case on the left

Truthfully, this watch is less reimagined 911 as it is a fiberglass RepliCobra. Aesthetically and dimensionally, the watch’s case—or the chassis and body, as it were—is a 1:1 replica of the Seiko SKX. If Seiko is the horological analog to Honda, the SKX is the watch community’s Civic Si. It’s iconic, versatile, reliable, fun, plentiful, and serves as a blank canvas for your personal taste and imagination.

The discontinued SKX is so popular, there’s an entire industry dedicated to supplying made-to-fit bolt-on components that transform the watch into anything you want it to be. If you don’t like something, swap it—there are millions of plug-and-play dials, handsets, chapter rings, and bezel inserts ready to personalize your Seiko.  

There are even replica cases. I sourced a recreation SKX case, bezel, crown, and caseback cut from grade 5 titanium, something never offered by Seiko. The “big picture” stuff proved trickier; I reached out to the watchmaker (unsponsored shout-out to Nathan at Four Forty Four PM) I tapped for the project’s ultimate construction for aesthetic advice. He suggested I pull an OEM dial from a different Seiko diver, and to aim for a matte-black ceramic bezel insert—jargon for the graduated ring that slots in the rotating bezel located around the edge of the crystal.

Much like a restomodded Mustang, parts came from everywhere. The dial—SPB143, for the nerds—came from one supplier, the handset ($14) from another, and the crystal ($45), bezel insert ($45), and chapter ring ($18) from a third. The case, bezel, and caseback ($240 bundle) came from a fourth supplier, as did the NH35A movement.

Limitless combinations, but you are confined to the same canvas, more or less. And unless you want to pay big bucks for a small batch of bespoke parts, you’re limited to what you can find in the deep archives of the watch modding community. You’re also quite restricted when it comes to the mechanical heart of the watch; as the dimensions are mostly set in stone, the majority of modified Seikos pack the same $35 Seiko NH35 or NH36 movement. This is the Japanese watchmaker’s wholesale “crate engine” supplied to other brands and, inevitably, the hungry Seiko mod community. It’s robust, simple, and keeps great time—it’s the Chevy smallblock of watch movements.

It took around three weeks for all the components to arrive, and three days of waiting on the assembly. All in, my dream titanium Seiko cost me close to a combined $600—a relatively affordable proposition in the horological hobby. And, much like the increased market appreciation for the outlaws and restomods, I’ve had nothing but positive reactions to my personalized project. As long as you aren’t trying to pass it off as something it’s not, the watch community doesn’t really care that you swapped-up your Seiko with new parts. As long as you’re having fun, dear.

Itch, scratched—for now.

A story about


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More on this topic

Hagerty Insider Newsletter

Your weekly dose of auction reports, market analysis, and more.

Thank You!
Your request will be handled as soon as possible
Hagerty Insider Newsletter
Your weekly dose of auction reports, market analysis, and more.