Differences of Bracelets and Clasps explained

This page does not claim to cover all the variants of straps, bracelets, links and clasp used. This is a page PMWC is offering to its online shoppers to gain a quick overview and help to make a good decision.

Table of Content

Straps

Folded-Link Bracelets

Solid-Link Bracelets

Hollow Links

Bead(ed) Bracelets

Overview of Bracelet Types

Integrated Bracelets

Clasp Types

End-Links

Bracelet Tear

Straps

Straps come in a variety of materials, leather mostly, nylon (NATO straps) or rubber. Besides the commonly used buckle (similar to the buckle on a wrist belt) a so called deployant clasp is used. See the online shop of www.equationoftime.com for samples of nice deployant clasps that can be fitted to any leather strap.

The picture shows an open Deployant Clasp. Any leather band's Buckle could be exchanged with a Deployant Clasp. The Deployant's Clasp features normally Push Buttons to open. Some do not have push buttons, you simply pull them open.

The closed Deployant Clasp
Advantage: strap can be opened with the push of a button and the clasp might help avoid tangling especially with knitwear
Disadvantage: the folding deployant adds to the height

Folded-link Bracelets - often on Watches below USD 100, e.g. most Seiko 5

Lower end watches, e.g. Seiko 5 watches, come often with folded-link bracelets. The single links normally consist of a metal sheet wrapped around a kernel with great pressure. If you look closely, you will see the gaps between the outer sheet and the kernel of the link. Some folded-links bracelets are so well-made it is almost impossible to see the difference to a solid-link bracelet! (Example 3)
It is a myth, that folded-link bracelets are cheap and all crappy. I have seen many folded-link bracelets here in Asia where they are very popular amongst the lower income classes. I have seen watches that were 30 years old and still hung on their original bracelets! And they sure looked as they had been worn daily! However if you tend to wear bracelet tights, then please consider a solid-link bracelet.
I am not going to discuss "hair puller" bracelets here. I am not that sensitive, that is why I do not feel competent to label this or that bracelet a hair-puller. I just want to mention that "hair-pulling" has nothing to do with folded-links, a solid-link bracelet can be the worse "hair puller". It really depends how sensitive you are and of course on the distance between the links rather then whether the links are folded or solid.

Lower Quality - big gaps
While the gaps on the links 1 and 2 are OK because those links are removable, the gaps on link 3 are too big and even worse, link 4 has no gaps. This is a tricky one. The bracelet looks heavy and chunky actually.

Medium Quality
This bracelet is thin, but offers a very consistent quality of the folded links and almost no gaps are to be found (sample of a Borel Military-style watch)
Higher quality folded links - small gaps
or gaps that are barely visible because the side of the bracelet has been polished. This one is folded links but if the picture is small or blurry, you would never know. Good online sites will always indicate whether the bracelet is solid-link of folded-link!

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Solid-link Bracelets

A solid link means that the link consists of a solid chunk of metal (stainless steel normally). Use a Dremel (hand-held drilling and polishing machine) to cut a spare link if you really want to be 100% sure. My watch friend Dan Byers in Texas simply cut a Sandoz Oyster-style bracelet in two pieces to confirm they are 100% solid links.

All links are solid including all removable links. See the section hollow and solid end-links further down for more information about those special links
 (sample is a 100% solid-link Oyster-style bracelet from the Sandoz Explorer)

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Overview of popular Bracelet styles

The three most popular bracelet styles used today are the merit of Rolex' designs. Oyster and Jubilee are probably the most popular bracelet styles today. The table is of course not complete, just tries to show popular styles.

Oyster-style Jubilee-style President-style
Beaded bracelet Meshed bracelet Fantasy bracelet: there are literally hundreds of bracelet styles out there, this table just lists popular styles

Integrated Bracelets

Integrated bracelet: changing to a leather strap is not possible for this type of integrated bracelet Integrated bracelet: Please ask Robmks or Jalle or Jimmy50 on the PMWF Main Forum on how to cut-out a leather strap and fix it to this kind of watch case.

Hollow Links

Those are luckily quite rare. They look like solid-link bracelets but consist of hollow links. You can not see the difference between hollow links and solid links. Only if the weight does not seem to be right (too light for the appearance) then there is an indication of a hollow-link bracelet being used. To sure, you will have to cut a spare link in half or weigh and compare with a watch with similar volume. Note that Titanium is 40% lighter then Steel, so please do not cut Titanium links in half!

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Bead(ed) Bracelets

Bead bracelets consist normally of two rows of solid outer links and usually 5 rows of hollow beads in the middle. Higher class beaded links consist of all solid beads.

Hollow Middle Links (Beads)
(EDOX is the sample watch)
Solid Beads on High-End Watches
(Jaeger LeCoulter Master Geographic)

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Clasps - most popular Types

There are a lot more clasp types out there, just a couple of samples to familiarize you with the watch lingo:

Simple Folding Clasp without Push Buttons and without Safety Lock. The least expensive version of a Clasp. Folding Clasp with Push Buttons but no Safety Lock. Picture from a Casio Giez G-Shock. It's a rubber strap actually but the picture shows the buttons and retaining prong nicely Folding Clasp with Push Buttons and Safety Lock
Integrated Butterfly Clasp often a characteristic of more expensive bracelets but can also found on less expensive quality watches like this Sandoz Day-Date This is how an open Butterfly Clasp looks. Picture from a Swiss Made higher-end Sandoz Power Reserve GMT watch. Integrated Folding Clasp with hidden Push Button (button is not visible, inside at around "I" from IWC)

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End Links

Solid end-links (the link that connects to the case and contains the spring bar) are often abbreviated as SEL and are normally a characteristic of more expensive watches. Most "Poor Man's" Watches feature hollow end links regardless whether the bracelet links are solid or folded. The links of a bracelet are normally connected by so called link pins. At the clasp and at the end-links you will find so called spring bars. They basically consist of a metallic tube, a spring in the middle and the two ends that match the holes in the clasp or the holes in the lugs of the watch case. Always be careful when removing spring bars. As the name suggests, they can fly away pretty easily.
This fact is simple to explain: a hollow end-link is quite easy to fit to a watch case. A solid end-link has to be manufactured with high precision to match the case exactly.

Hollow End Links Solid End Links (SEL)

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Bracelet Tear - Vintage Watches

Please be careful when buying used vintage watches. The bracelet might show considerable stretch or tear. The thin link pins might have been exposed to constant and continuous stress and thus be deformed. The tear or stretch can occur on all bracelet types. The thinner and more fragile the bracelet, the more likely it has so called "tear" or "stretch" after it has been worn for a period of time.

How to check visually
Check on the back of the bracelet for big or inconsistent gaps of the outer hull of the links or beads.

Online:
It is very hard to check this online guessing from a picture. Please observe the alignment of the links in the picture. If some of the links do not seem to align with the rest of the bracelet properly then that is an indication but no proof for tear. The bracelet might have simply a lot of play, this is quite common for Jubilee and hollow link beaded bracelets.
On the fleamarket:
Open the spring bar on the clasp. Place watch on flat surface and slightly pull and push the links apart and together. Note the play.

Folded Link Bracelet Sold Link Bracelet

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