How To Remove Watch Links for the Perfect Fit
Is that watch you received as a gift too big for your wrist? Are you trying to figure out how to remove watch links from a timepiece you inherited without visiting a jewelry store? Maybe you bought a vintage watch online that needs some TLC in the fit department and you’re not sure if your local jeweler will take on the job.
When it comes to wearing any accessory, personal preference and comfort tend to dictate your style choices. With watches, a leather buckle strap is easiest to adjust for the proper fit. With a metal watch—the “strap” or “band” is often referred to as a “bracelet” and getting it to fit comfortably and secure only your wrist can be tricky.
The standard watch band length measures at 6.75’’ to 8” (women) or 7.75” to 9.5” (men). If a metal watch is fitting too loosely on your wrist, you’ll need to remove a few links from the bracelet strap to ensure it fits comfortably and securely.
There are two approaches.
Let Your Local Jeweler Remove the Watch Links
Honestly, when it comes to removing watch links, this is something most people entrust to a professional. The best way to resize your watch band is to have it serviced by a watch repair shop or a reputable jeweler, ideally one who is also an authorized retailer of the brand that made your watch (i.e., Rolex or Breitling). Fees for such services are typically $10 to $15. If your watch is from a high-end brand, sizing is often complimentary and would happen at the time of purchase. The jeweler or store associate helps you set the right size (i.e. how many links to remove) and will either handle it on the premises or send your watch out to the manufacturer for servicing. The professionals can tackle the watch-sizing task with tools—and time—you don’t have and the job is either free or costs very little money. It can also happen quickly, like during your lunch hour.
DIY With a Watch Link Removal Tool Kit
No judgement, but the DIY route seems like something only a committed watch collector should pursue (multiple trips to the jeweler to get the watches resized would add up when you’re talking about removing watch links on a bunch of different styles). Why leave such an important task to your own (mediocre) watch repair skills? But we’re not here to judge, we’re here to break it down for you.
How do you determine the number of links to take out?
Position the watch on your wrist, fit it to your liking, and count the extra unnecessary links. Remember, you want to remove an equal number of links from each side of the clasp, so it’s not uneven or lopsided.
How do you know if it’s the right fit?
How it feels: the bracelet should not be dangling nor should it be so tight that it pinches your skin. And how it looks: For example, with a long-sleeved shirt, the general rule is for the sleeve hem or cuff to cover the majority of the watch when your arm is straight. But the watch should be visible when your arm is bent. Another tip is for the watch to always site under the sleeve, not over it!
How do you physically remove the links?
You’ll need special tools to remove the cotter pins securing the watch links. However, you might try household items such as an eyeglass screwdriver, a paper clip or a thumbtack to push out the pins. You’ll also need a small hammer (ball-peen or dual-head ), and a watch/bracelet holder. If you don’t have access to these items, there are various complete watch band link remover kits available for purchase on Amazon, ranging from $7 to $20.
Basic kits include:
- 1 dual-head hammer
- 1 watch band holder
- Multiple pin punches of various sizes
Most metal watches have links with arrows imprinted and have up to three links that can be removed on each side of the clasp or buckle - the arrows point in the direction the removable pins will slide out from. If there are no arrows on the watch, find the seam in the pin, turn that side up to gently tap the pins out using a small hammer.
Once you have the proper tools, how do you remove the watch links? Here are the instructions.
1. Make sure your surface area is well-lit and will not scratch or damage your watch.
2. Place the watch band in the slot of the watch holder or stand, with the tiny holes face up (arrows facing downwards).
3. Place the push-pin tool in the link’s hole.
4. Gently tap the push pin with your hammer until the cotter pin pops out and the individual link detaches from the watch band (some watches may also pop out a tiny tube).
5. Set the pins and the extra links aside in a safe place, in case you wish to reattach the links in the future.
6. Put the watch band back in the holder, with the arrows pointing upward. Insert the cotter pin back in the hole (the opposite way to which you removed them), along with any ferrules or tubes that fell out, and tap with the hammer until it’s fully inserted. Repeat this on the other side of the clasp to rejoin the ends of the band/bracelet.
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