The Best Methods for Changing Up Your Watch’s Look
Changing your watch’s bracelet or strap is a great way to update your timepiece and give it a fresh look. The safest way to change your bracelet or strap is to have it done professionally. You could use an authorized dealer or trusted watchmaker. However, with the right knowledge and tools, you can learn to change your bracelet or strap at home.
Before you change your bracelet or strap, there are a few things you’re going to want to have. First, be sure to have a nice soft surface for your timepiece. This will help keep the watch crystal and case from scratching or sliding. You may also want to add some painter’s tape to the lugs to prevent scratches. Next, you’ll want to make sure you have a quality tool to change your bracelet or strap. The key to changing most watch bracelets or straps lies in a good strap-changing tool or spring bar tool. There are some exceptions, but generally, this is the tool for the bulk of timepieces. Finally, of course, you’ll want your new bracelet or strap close by.
Removing a Watch Strap
Now, you’re ready to change your bracelet or strap. The first step is to turn the timepiece over, dial side down on your padded work surface. Then, open up the existing bracelet or strap. We’ll start with changing a watch with a strap.
First, notice if your watch has holes drilled all the way through the lugs or not. If your watch does have drilled lugs, push the pointed tip of the spring bar tool through each side. This will depress the ends of the spring bar. While pushing with one hand, use the other to slide the strap and release the spring bar from the lug. After both ends release, gently remove the strap. If your watch doesn’t have drilled lugs, use the bent fork end of the spring bar tool. Slide the flat side of the fork against the watch case between the strap and lug. You’ll engage the small ridge of the spring bar. Once it engages, use the leverage of the fork to pry the spring bar free with one hand. Then, carefully push the strap forward to free the spring bar from its hole with the other hand.
How To Change a Bracelet
If your watch has a bracelet instead of a strap, you’ll also use the bent fork end of the spring bar tool. This will remove the existing bracelet. Fit the fork end into the notches on the inside of the bracelet. Free the spring bar end with one hand. Then, apply upward pressure to the bracelet end link with the other hand. Keep in mind that removing a bracelet can be more difficult than removing a strap.
Finally, if your watch has screwed lugs, simply use a jeweler’s screwdriver. Push firmly into the screw slot and loosen the screws by turning counterclockwise. Some manufacturers use glue to reinforce their screws. If a screw will not loosen, don’t force it or else you might strip the screw head. At this point, we recommend taking it to a professional.
Installing a New Strap
Now, it’s finally time to install your new bracelet or strap. First, it’s important to know which side of the bracelet or strap to install. As a rule, the side of the bracelet or strap with the buckle will go at the twelve-o’clock side. Alternatively, the side of the bracelet or strap without the buckle will go at the six-o’clock side.
For a strap using a spring bar, start by fitting a set of spring bars into your new strap. Make sure that each end sticks out evenly on both sides. Then, slip one end of the spring bar into one of the lug holes. Hold the other end of the spring bar against the opposite lug, lined up with the hole. Using the fork end of your spring bar tool, engage the small ridge on the spring bar. Then, push it in against the strap until the end of the spring bar slips down into the lug. Gently move the strap up and down until you hear the spring bar click into place. Lastly, you always want to do a tug-check to make sure you’ve securely fastened the new strap. Gently pull on each end of the strap to ensure the new strap is in place.
Installing a New Bracelet
For a bracelet, install the spring bar in the end link and rest it across the width of the lugs. Next, push in on the end of the spring bar and carefully ease it down until it’s inside the lug. Be sure both ends click into place, and do a tug-check just to be sure. For a watch with screwed lugs, reverse the process you used to remove the strap to install the new one. Finally, to install a NATO strap, start by installing the spring bars without the strap. Use your spring bar tool to depress the spring bar and fit it into the hole. Repeat this on both sides and check to make sure that both spring bars are securely in place. Then, slide the NATO strap through the spring bar on the twelve-o’clock side. Pull it across the back of the case and back through the spring bar on the six-o’clock side. Lastly, a NATO strap has a securing element. Run the strap through again to make sure the timepiece doesn’t slide on the strap.
Watch 101 is Here for You
With the right tools and a little practice, you can easily change your bracelet or strap and give you watch a whole new look. If you need more help changing your strap or bracelet, be sure to check out Watch 101. We created this special section of our site just for watch owners. Here, you’ll find how to videos on how to change your bracelet or strap and much more.