|Timepieces:Education & Repair
Sizing a Link Bracelet
These basic techniques allow you to fit a bracelet to the wearer's
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
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
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; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.