Building “Budget” Custom Watches Isn’t Cheap

Cerakoted Watches

The offending SNZG can be seen here, on top of the pile with its “gaudy hands” & “cheap strap.”

I recently had a comment left on a page that I have been rolling ’round in my head, thinking how to best answer without sounding too defensive, or like a condescending jerk. I typed this out a while ago, and then was forced to do actual work instead of examining every sentence, letter by letter. Upon review, I’ve decided that my time is best spent addressing other issues of import, and this response will suffice.


Q-“Why are your watches worth 5x the cost of what they are stock? Your cerakoted SNZG13 is simply a painted model with a new face, gaudy hands and a cheap strap. How and why is it worth $530? This is $426 more than I can buy a stock one for.”

Good question, despite the snotty tone with which it was posited. I’ll overlook the subjective comments on style and get straight to the meat. My list pricing on is (generally) the cost to recreate that specific project based on a set of prices for parts (many of which are the exact same prices anyone would pay), and labor, based on the time & level of skill and/or patience the process requires.

So how did I come up with $534 on that specific watch? Here is a list of parts and labor. Some parts may be a few dollars more or less in reality, or available for less at other vendors, but that’s not the point of this exercise- this is the actual formula from the spreadsheet I used to come up with the price when adding it to the site:

Watch & Parts
SNZG- $125
Dial- $35
Hands- $35
Domed Sapphire Crystal- $49
Strap- $25
Parts Total- $269

Cerakote (AHW list price)- $265
-includes all necessary supplies & preparation

Let’s see… 269+265… Ta-da! $534. If someone came to me wanting to build a Black as Sinn SNZG13/5, it probably wouldn’t cost that much.  I use my list pricing as a very loose guideline, I am known to discount projects for any number of reasons, one of which may be, “This is $426 more than I can buy a stock one for.” Other reasons? Perhaps you’re veteran of the US Armed Forces, or maybe a member of a certain web forum, maybe it’s Friday and I’m in a good mood. If you’re Jonathan from eastern Maryland, though, I’m going to be less inclined to give you much of a break.

Some projects, like those including Cerakote, have some flexibility in the labor costs. For others, like the AHW007 (SKX Enhanced), the parts are the majority of the cost, so there isn’t much wiggle room. If you have a specific need for a project, and the costs aren’t aligning the way you’d hoped, let me know, and I may be able to suggest alternatives for parts or processes, or reduce some other costs.

Additional Qs, not from Jonathan:
Q- Why do you charge “so much” for Cerakote?

1. It’s expensive. There is no “enough for a watch” option when ordering, so I can either buy a sample size at high cost per oz, or buy a larger amount that I may or may not use for future projects.

2. Cerakoting requires several time consuming processes, and typically spans several days to ensure the surfaces are properly prepared and optimal adhesion is achieved. I don’t always charge full price for Cerakote, either, but considering what a pain in the neck that specific watch (SNZG13) is to Cerakote, I don’t know that I’m particularly eager to offer it for free.

Q- Isn’t Cerakote just overpriced paint?


Further, anyone who has had to remove cured Cerakote from a part can attest that it is TOUGH. I don’t know how long a part would have to be left in acetone for it to have any affect, but I can tell you it’s measured in weeks or months, ’cause days doesn’t do anything.

Q- Can’t anyone do this watch stuff?

Yes (well, most of it anyway). Even you… eventually.  Anyone who wants a pointer or advice for DIY stuff, shoot me an email, I am always happy to help. However, I’ve paid my dues over the years. I’ve been through messing up my own dials, hands, bezel inserts, etc. so you don’t have to. I don’t know how many hours I’ve invested in honing my techniques. I don’t know how much money I’ve invested in tools/equipment/supplies… and then new tools to replace the ones that really aren’t up to the job. I’m on my 4th crystal press. I probably don’t even want to know at this point.

Q- Why shouldn’t I send my watch to (insert name here), they can do it for less?

– or any number of other reasons-

You should totally send your watch wherever you are comfortable, there are several great options out there. One of my clients has had watches with MCWW, NEWW, and here AHW all at the same time. AHW is not my primary occupation, but I sometimes end up devoting nearly a full work week’s worth of hours at my busiest. My time is valuable, and I have priced my labor out so that I am willing to exchange it for your project. Even the simplest project can go sideways in hurry, and I take responsibility for your watch and parts when I crack that case open. Aside from any real or perceived liability, I strive for perfection. It’s rarely possible. However, I’ll keep working until the project is as close to perfect as I believe is possible. If you are looking for someone who cares as much about your project as you do, I’m your huckleberry.

If you have any further questions regarding specific projects or pricing, please feel free to email me at, or get in touch on FB, IG, whatever.


Just realized I didn’t even include the labor for the dial & hand swap in there. Looks like it’s a steal at $534.


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