The Lapinist Watch Studio is a well-known source for case restorations of vintage Grand and King Seiko watches. Aside from his work, Kamil Rybarczyk, the Lapinist himself, also handcrafts display backs for these watches. Today, we’re pleased to report that his newest project is ready, and it should be sweet music to the ears of collectors. Sapphire crystals are now available for select vintage Seiko models.

The Lapinist Watch Studio, located in Poland, does some incredible work on intricately shaped vintage Seiko watches. More impressively, he has developed a technique that mimics the incredibly flat Zaratsu polishing found on so many of these pieces. In 2021, Kamil expanded and began machining screw-in case backs with display windows. This provided a much-needed salve to many collectors with beautiful vintage Grand and King Seiko watches who had a missing or rotten case-back medallion. Plus, it’s never a bad idea to show off one of these movements! Now Kamil is at it again, and he is bringing sorely needed sapphire crystals to the market for some of our vintage pieces.

Sapphire crystals for various vintage Seiko models

Finding the right crystal has become increasingly difficult for collectors of vintage Seiko watches. Only 10 years ago, it was child’s play to find NOS Seiko crystals for less than €10. Since then, however, vintage Japanese watches have become more popular, supply has dwindled, and prices have gone up. This is doubly true for more desirable models from Grand Seiko, King Seiko, and even some of the more exotic Seiko references. Then, throw in a funky faceted-crystal model from the ’70s, and it becomes a real challenge. Aftermarket solutions exist in certain cases, but the quality and exactness are often a crapshoot. At best, they are a stand-in.

During the ’70s, Seiko used a mix of acrylic and Hardlex mineral crystals. Understandably, acrylic crystals can often be polished and restored. My experience with Hardlex, though, is that it’s nearly impossible to remove scratches. Kamil has decided to offer exact sapphire replacements for key models, and I hope this is just the beginning.

Lapinist sapphire crystal 300V04GNS

Key details of these new crystals

Currently, the Lapinist offers six different sapphire crystals. Each is listed along with the original Seiko part number. Usually, whenever I’m trying to locate the correct crystal number, I use a site like Boley to look up the various part numbers associated with the desired Seiko reference. Then, with the crystal part number in hand, I can search for sale ads on eBay or in Japan. However, it’s also now possible to look on the Lapinist website to see if a sapphire option exists. As a double-check, Kamil lists all of the references that use the selected crystal. So, why choose a sapphire crystal instead of holding out for the original? In my view, finding an original can be incredibly difficult, and if a perfectly constructed substitute in a better material exists, why not take it? Plus, with a company like TrueDome finding acceptance in the vintage Rolex world, the Lapinist should have no issue.

Lapinist sapphire crystal 300V04GNS

The tie-in to machining

Aftermarket sapphire crystals have been available for certain Seiko models for ages, but there’s a catch. These crystals are just crystals, which are only suitable for some references. Other references use a metal frame attached around the base of the crystal. This metal frame is where the Lapinist enters the picture. The frame on vintage Seiko crystals is chromium-plated brass, which can corrode over time due to moisture. Kamil machines 316L stainless steel to the exact dimensions of the originals and glues these rings to the sapphire crystals with official Seiko S-314 UV adhesive. The result is a higher-quality replacement that should last forever.

Some of the key references and pricing

Collectors will be happy to hear that sapphire crystals now exist for the King Seiko 5625/5626, 45-7000/1 (models that both Balazs and I own), and 4500 series. For Grand Seiko, the 4520/4522, 5645/5646, and the faceted 6145/6-8050 are covered. The Seiko Lord Matic 5605/5606 series and the Seiko 7018-7000 have options as well. All are priced at €120 except for the faceted crystal at €150. That’s not inexpensive, but it certainly beats not finding a replacement for an otherwise lovely watch.


Final thoughts about the new sapphire crystals

Vintage cars have a dedicated cottage industry for nearly every model. I love seeing this type of dedication and focus for vintage watches as well. The Lapinist has come with sapphire crystals that should make a lot of collectors happy. It also may allow new collectors to consider buying an otherwise nice vintage reference with a badly scratched crystal. For that matter, if the case needs refinishing and a new crystal, Kamil should be able to help. If you own one of the references covered by these crystals, what are your thoughts?

For further details and how to order, visit the official Lapinist Watch Studio website.