Timepieces:Education & Repair
Sizing the Bracelet
The Foldover Clasp
Sliding clasps make mesh bracelet repairs simple and user-friendly
By David Christianson
Certified Master Watchmaker
Having covered how to size and replace leather bands and mesh bands (Professional
Jeweler,July 1998, p. 82-83, and August 1998, p. 88), we move on to
one part of the metal bracelet that appears frequently at your showcase
in need of repair or replacement: foldover buckles.
Several areas on the buckles are most problematic: the center hinge pin
and the solid pin that holds the buckle assembly to the six o'clock side
of the bracelet. When the customer arrives with his or her watch in hand
rather than on the wrist, chances are the buckle center pin slipped out
or the clasp connection pin is bent, broken or missing.
If the watch fell onto a hard surface, your customer may appreciate a
quick damage survey. (If the bracelet is a mesh style or one that uses a
snap-and-lock type of clasp arrangement, read ahead to "Sliding Clasp
The Hinge Pin
Locate the correct-size replacement center hinge pin, available as an assortment
of steel wire from your watch material supplier. Often a standard paper
clip can fill the need in a pinch: the wire is often just the correct diameter.
In either case, cut the pin or wire half a millimeter longer than the
hinge. Tap one end of the pin with a hammer while the buckle rests on your
bench block. If you then cut the wire or pin with nippers, you'll need to
hammer the ends to flare them. The end will hold the pin into the buckle.
File each end smooth so they don't catch on shirt sleeves or skin.
The Buckle Pin
If this pin is missing, it often requires a new spring bar or solid pin.
The end of the buckle on the 12 o'clock side uses a solid pin; the other
uses a special buckle spring bar. Get the correct size from your materials
supply or watch company. Measure the distance between ends in millimeters
and select a pin with a snug fit.
Place one end of the bar in the appropriate hole and grasp the pin with
needle-nose pliers or other grip. Flex the opposite wall of the buckle just
enough to slip the other end of the solid pin into the opposite hole without
distorting the wall.
For the buckle spring bar, which has shorter ends than the normal type
of spring bar, insert one end into a hole, retract the other and slip it
into the opposite hole.
Sliding Clasp Replacement
Many thinner units, typically used with mesh bracelets, include one locking
section and one sliding section. The sliding portion can be replaced with
a screw or solid pin with riveted ends. The locking portion sometimes requires
a spot weld that's not feasible. It might not even be necessary.
It's unnecessary because many of the locking clasps can be replaced more
effectively with a fold-over clasp unit. The unit, sold by any watch material
supplier, will make your repair simpler and quicker and will result in a
nicer clasp for a mesh-style bracelet.
The new unit eliminates the "tail" of the mesh band creating
a more tailored appearance. These units also provide the clasp with a safety
chain, which is a selling point owners appreciate.
Cut the band more deeply in the center.
Here, the jaws of the new clasp will bite into the band.
The clasps require you to first measure the customer's wrist. Lay the
watch and band around the wrist and place the replacement clasp in position
on the wrist. Using the inner measurement, mark the ends of the bracelet
that need to be cut off. Be sure there's enough bracelet to insert into
each side of the new clasp. Use a cutting disc in your flexible shaft machine
or other cutting tool.
Now, with the cutting disc, cut a slit into the underside of each end
of the bracelet, about one-quarter inch from each end. Then deepen these
slits into the center of the mesh or link itself. Be sure this slit doesn't
reach the sides of the band so the bracelet retains its strength. This cut
provides the area into which the jaws of the new clasp will bite into the
band (see illustration above). Complete the clamping procedure into these
slits and the new clasp is ready to use.
David Christianson owns Christianson Jewelry in Kendallville, IN,
and is president of the American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute. He is
a Certified Master Watchmaker and a Fellow of the British Horological Society.
Christianson discusses watch repair for the salesperson in this column each
month. Questions, suggestions and comments can be sent toProfessional
Jeweler,1500 Walnut St., Suite 1200, Philadelphia, PA 19102; e-mail to
Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.