BLOG 4 - Prototyping

Ever since I first started modding watches one of the main areas I tended to focus on was the physical case itself. I felt it was never enough to simply change a dial, a bezel, or a set of hands. I would spend hours meticulously sanding down metal and reshaping case designs to get that perfect look I had envisioned. When I first entered the watch modding “scene” there really were not a lot of case options available. A few vendors dominated the eBay and AliExpress venues while the state-side modding inventory was virtually non-existent.

So, I learned early on that in order to build and create that perfect watch I envisioned inside my mind’s eye, I would need to heavily modify the watch case itself. Luckily, I have always been very adept with tools and creating one-off pieces of work (building a custom Willy’s Jeep desk, upcycled lamps and steel pipe art, woodworking, building custom cars, etc.) and I was able to make do with the tools I had on hand. The dremel (my favorite tool) became a trusty companion on my journey to case perfection. I labored over cases, reshaping lugs, adding chamfers, sanding down bezels and filing coin-edges. I no longer came to view stock cases as final pieces of the watch building puzzle that could be used to plug and play, rather they were blank slates for which I could mold my ideas and build from my imagination.

 (Photos of the custom 12 and/or 6 o'clock crown case I built. This was by far one of my most involved and difficult builds (including having a 3D-printed metal adapter built for the bracelet to fit))

I say all this to provide context as to how I arrived at designing the Royalguard 200 case shape. Because it, like many of my prior builds, is absolutely one of a kind and unlike anything available “off-the-shelf” or even from other brands shelves (including high-end luxury brands). Naturally, as a modder, my first “prototype” was built by my own two hands. I started with the case first, which was this generic, vintage Rolex-inspired sub case I had in a drawer from a prior AliExpress order.

(Photograph of stock Rolex 5513 "milsub" style case. Frequently used by watch modders and available for purchase on eBay and AliExpress.)

I set to work first reshaping the case. I aggressively thinned the lugs (and when I say “aggressively” I mean aggressively). I knew I wanted very thin lugs and I may have a gone a bit overboard on this prototype (you could slice an apple with these things!) but what you do see in the final, production Royalguard 200 is a continued emphasis on thin proportions in the lugs, with a still very aggressive taper to meet the bracelet and links.


I then worked on fine tuning the case, adding chamfers, ensuring symmetry, and smoothing out any rough areas. After, I turned to the bezel where I removed the bulk of the material and then used a checkering file to add a coin edge.

When all was said and done, at the conclusion of the case and bezel rework, and the countless hours spent sanding and reshaping the design of the case, I ultimately took the case down from a 40mm submariner-style case with crown guards and thick lugs, to a now 38mm, coin-edged case with extremely thin lugs, chamfers, and no crown guards. The case, in my eyes, was near perfect (ask any designer/creator and I don’t think they will ever say they reached perfection. There is an old saying that at some point a company has to kill the designer and go to production otherwise the designer will sit there and reiterate and obsess over every detail forever.)

(Here we see the addition of improved and tailored lugs, coin edge bezel, big crown, and chamfers) 

Once the case was complete I designed my dial. I took design cues from the vintage skin-divers of the 1950s and 1960s and sought to create something unique, yet classic (this included inspiration from Tressa, Eberhard, Yema, and many other vintage skin diver brands/models). I am very pleased with the result, especially with the hand choice pairing and the perfect symmetry and balance achieved. My first Imperial dial I created was a true-gilt dial that I printed and built myself (for more on “true-gilt” dials please click here). I had been making gilt-dials for only a little bit leading up to the Royalguard and I was very happy with the results I was attaining. The dial turned out spectacular! When the light catches the brass showing through the black paint, it is unlike any other dial you generally see in the market today.

(Photo of the first Imperial Watch Co. "true-gilt" dial. Made by yours truly.)

I cased up my new creation and added a faded/patina’d insert. The second I put everything together and held the finished watch up, I fell in love. I knew right then and there I was onto something and this was what I wanted to bring to the watch community. I had been working on countless designs and iterations of prototypes, each built on the same principles I spoke on above but unique in their own right, yet none afforded the same feeling of joy and satisfaction as this design.

(Something about a straight end link bracelet with those lugs...ooof!)

I could barely contain my excitement and I actually set about immediately creating a second dial to test out in other design configurations. Here you see my second design in a 36mm explorer-style case.

All in all, the creation of the Royalguard 200 and its case was not an accident, nor are any elements of the case not intentional. The case was designed to be elegant, wearable, and purposeful. Aesthetics, functionality, and wearability are all factors woven into the case design and I hope this write-up on how I arrived at the final concept was enjoyable and insightful (for those who made it this far :)

I look forward to continuing to design and build (I am always thinking of new ideas and new designs) and I hope you join me on this journey with Imperial Watch Co. and wherever it may lead. One thing I know for certain, there will be many cool, unique, and gorgeous designs to come throughout the adventure. See you out there!