Straps and Bracelets – Sizing up the Basics
The appearance of a watch can be transformed in minutes by simply changing the strap or bracelet. For some, changing straps is part of the fun of collecting. On most watches, changing the strap is straightforward and can be done at home with a few simple tools and a little practice. Here are some strap fundamentals and a short list of tools you need to begin doing it yourself.
Size/Length: How big is your wrist? Most straps and bracelets will fit someone with an average wrist size of approximately six to seven inches in diameter. Bracelets often allow for more precise adjustments by incorporating extensions and half-links. Some brands offer extra-long or extra-short straps, and of course custom strap makers will build your strap to the exact length you choose.
Lug Width: The lug width is the distance (in millimeters) between the two lugs. Using a strap that is an exact fit is important; if it’s too small, there will be an unsightly gap and if it’s too big, it’ll appear squeezed and may bend awkwardly. You can measure the lug width yourself using a ruler. Most watch straps are tapered, becoming narrower at the clasp end, while some hardier straps maintain an even width from end to end.
Clasps: There are two primary styles of clasps. The first is a traditional buckle, sometimes referred to as a tang buckle. (The tang is the pointed projection at the center of the buckle that fits into the strap hole.) The second is a “deployant” clasp (or, as some prefer, “deployment”), which connects to both sides of the strap and closes by way of a folding mechanism. There are numerous styles of deployant clasps on the market. Bracelets always connect by way of a deployant clasp. Usually buckles and deployant clasps are made from the same metal that is used to make the corresponding watch case.
Tools of the Trade
Some brands have quick-change systems and other proprietary mechanisms to swap straps and bracelets in and out. But the simple spring bar is still the most common way of attaching them to watch cases. Here are a few of the basic tools required to change and resize most bracelets and straps.
Spring-bar tool: Used to unhitch the spring bars from their holes between the lugs and again to put them back in. This tool has at least one forked end, which is used to release the spring bar and remove or remount the bracelet or strap.
Screwdrivers: Some bracelets require screwdrivers to remove links and some spring bars actually have no spring at all; instead, they tighten and loosen by way of a “screw bar” and thus require a screwdriver to fasten and unfasten. Small flathead screwdrivers designed for watches allow you to hold the screwdriver in place with your index finger while turning it with your thumb and middle finger. They come in different sizes and are relatively inexpensive so buy a complete set if you are unsure which size you need.
Pin tool: These have a thin cylindrical end that is used for pushing pins in and out of a bracelet to add or remove links. The pin tool is also useful for pushing out spring bars on watches with external lug holes.
All of these tools are readily available for purchase online from specialty vendors or your favorite auction sites. Quality and costs vary: consider the brand and source before you buy. In some cases, an inexpensive tool does a fine job, but refinements are noticeable in higher quality products.
If you are concerned with scratching your watch, use masking tape to cover the exposed areas of the lugs and case when you are changing a strap or bracelet, or take your watch to a certified watchmaker or authorized repair site instead.
Changing straps is not like changing batteries or attempting to make repairs. Opening a watch can damage the parts, void the warranty and negatively affect the watch’s water resistance. For repairs, always have your watch inspected by an authorized watch repair center.
About Gevril Group
Gevril Group is the exclusive US representative for select European watch brands, distributing and servicing luxury, fashion and sports timepieces at a wide range of price points. Gevril Group also operates a full-service watch repair department staffed by master Swiss watchmakers. Contact Gevril Group by email or by calling 845-425-9882.
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