Sizing a Link Bracelet

Timepieces:Education & Repair

Sizing a Link Bracelet

These basic techniques allow you to fit a bracelet to the wearer's wrist

By David Christianson
Certified Master Watchmaker
President, American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute

The rigid link band is the mainstay bracelet for most fine watches. Sold in many textures, styles and link formats, bracelets require sizing to the owner's wrist and repair from time to time.

As with mesh bracelets (Professional Jeweler, October 1998, p. 86) and leather bands (September 1998, p. 78), knowing how to repair and size link bracelets are critical services that – with practice – you can perform quickly and efficiently.

As a result, your store appears more professional with on-site sizing, and customers are clearly more satisfied and likely to return.

When To Remove Links
The rigid links in these bands are typically interconnected with pins or screws. Sizing often begins with the clasp and the use of its adjustment holes (October 1998, p. 86). You can simply move the spring bar in one direction or the other to size many bracelets without removing any links

. But for optimal fit, it's better to remove links if you find you must shorten the buckle by more than three holes. The reason: the opening end of the buckle tends to sag or hang away from the band while in use, catching on coat sleeves and table edges. This can cause it to snap open unexpectedly.

The bracelet manufacturer usually provides several links on either side of the clasp that can be removed or replaced by using a special clip that slides into the links and locks in place. Some are identified by the hole or slot in the clip; others are noted by the dimple (rather than a hole) in their underside.

Many clip designs are used, but all are removed and replaced in a similar manner. (Several bracelet models require removal of pins rather than clips. Ask the vendor or your watch supply house for a special pin-removing tool to size these bracelets.)

Bracelet and watch vendors and watch supply houses also can provide a specially made plier to simplify replacing links. Consider asking your supervisor for permission to buy this tool for your bench. Below are instructions for using basic needlenose pliers.

Removing the Links
If the link has a dimple underneath, simply push down on the link behind the dimple and slide it out.

If the link has a hole or a slot in the clip, use needlenose pliers to remove the clip. Some benchworkers use a screwdriver, but this can slip easily and scar the bracelet or cut your hand. Place one point of the needlenose pliers into the hole or slot provided by the clip and place the other point of the pliers into the adjacent link (see illustration left). Rotate the pliers counterclockwise to lever out the clip far enough to grab and pull it out with the pliers. If the clip is stubborn, grasp it farther up in the jaws of the pliers, place the pliers against adjacent links for fulcrum support, then pull the clip (as shown below).

Finally, several bracelets use links with holes opposite of where the clips are removed. Here, place one tip of the pliers into the hole, rest the other tip on the inside of the adjacent link and twist the pliers to push out the clip. With the clips removed, the links can be separated from the bracelet.

Fit the Bracelet
When fitting the watch bracelet to the wearer's wrist, hold it somewhat loosely, particularly if he or she wears the watch next to the hand rather than above the wrist bone. When the wrist bends, the muscles there expand. This places pressure on a tight-fitting, rigid bracelet, creating the possibility the spring bars will break and links will wear and break prematurely.

To replace a clip after the correct number of links are added or removed, reinsert the clip into the link end, press in with the flat side of a knife blade and tap it home with a striking hammer as the band rests on a bench block.

Generally, the cheaper the bracelet, the more difficult it is to replace the links. You may need to begin the link-removal procedure with a screwdriver and then grip the clip with pliers. Use pliers whenever possible to save wear and tear on you, your tools and the bracelet.

In some cases, replacing the entire bracelet may be more efficient for you and more cost-effective in the long run for the watch owner. This is especially true if the owner prefers a new, good-quality watch bracelet rather than an inexpensive one that is time-consuming and costly, if not impossible, to adjust.

David Christianson is fourth-generation owner of Christianson Jewelry, Kendallville, IN. In addition to serving as president of the American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute, he is a certified master watchmaker and a fellow of the British Horological Society. He discusses watch repair for the sales staff in this column each month. Send questions, suggestions and comments toProfessional Jeweler,1500 Walnut St., Suite 1200, Philadelphia, PA 19102;

Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


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