WS 14: HOW TO resize the most common bracelets

Please also see the newly added article WS 23: "Adjusting Clasps"

Scope of article:

There is a huge variation of bracelet types out there, I am going to cover the most common bracelet types. I will not cover specialties like some IWC Porsche designs that come with their own tools, those are actually really easy to resize, since Porsche makes great mechanical stuff! I will concentrate on the most common bracelet types found on lower and mid tier watches.

  1. Screwed bracelets - link pins are screws (normally found on more expensive watches)

  2. Split pin bracelets - the most common variant (found on most watches in the lower to mid price tier)

  3. "Casio" bracelets - the least expensive variant (lower end Casios, Citizens, Seiko 5s often feature those bracelets). The link pins are not really pins but rather a flat metal sheet that you will push out to separate the links

  4. Bracelet with link collars - used on Seiko Monsters SKX779K/781 follow this link please (opens new window)

  5. Expansion bracelets (flex bracelets) - see the separate article WS 24

For an overview of all the bracelet resizing tools in my toolbox, click here please.

How to differentiate split pin and screwed bracelets?

Most split pin bracelets will have ARROWS on the under-side of the bracelet, then you know that there are split pins. If there are no arrows, take a loupe and check the holes carefully. If one side is a solid rounded head and one side has a slot, then you most likely have a split pin bracelet. Screwed bracelet pins often have slots on both sides as they often consist of two parts.

1. Screwed pin bracelets

Easy if the factory robot did not use a high torque to give the screws the final fit. If the screws do sit tight and if you do not have high-grade steel precision screw drivers, consider bringing the watch to the watchmaker/jeweler to avoid the frustration of a scratched bracelet or butchered screw slots.

Step by Step: screwed pin bracelets

1. Secure the bracelet in a vice. Make sure you have plastic inserts for the vice so your bracelet does not get scratch. Of course 18K bracelets require extra care. Gold is a lot softer then steel.

2. Try one screwdriver first. If the bracelet turns, what the opposite hole and check whether the other end is turning too.

3. If that is the case, use a second screwdriver to old the opposite end (preferably with the left hand) and use the screwdriver in the right hand to unscrew the pin.

4. In the rare case that the thread is directly cut into the link and one side only looks like a screw, you have to use only one screwdriver.

5. Tightening screwed pins holding the bolt with the screwdriver in your left hand and closing the screw with the screwdriver in your right hand.

Note: Please note that if your screwdrivers have "chewed" blades, that is how the screws will look like afterwards too. Also those China Made precision screwdriver sets (10 piece set for USD 3 typically) have very soft steel blades that might not be sufficiently stiff to unlock factory tightened screwed pins. Seek the jeweler/watchmaker and save yourself the stress.

General rule for screwdriver size: the width of the blade of the screwdriver should match the length of the slot. Small screwdrivers will make the screw look "chewed" or "butchered". Also the thickness of the blade of the screwdriver should allow the screwdriver to enter the screw slot. Otherwise the blade might slip out during applying torque and leave ugly marks.

 

2. Split pin bracelets

First the basics. Split pin bracelets are very popular, probably the most popular form of connecting links.

Basic Rule for split pin bracelets
OUT: Press on the non-split end in ARROW direction
IN: Push the non-split head into the bracelet against ARROW direction


I added this picture in May 2007 for additional split pin illustration - as you can see, my eyes are getting older, the drawing above is a couple of years old ;)
(Please note that I changed the color for the IN - direction from Red to Yellow because the color "Red" looks really awful in compressed JPEGS)

Tools:

A bracelet sizing block and pin pushers. This set can be purchased as Swiss Made or Taiwan Made. The price difference is quite remarkable. The set in the picture is a Taiwan Made set for ca. USD 10 If split pins are really stuck, additional tools might come handy

Split pin bracelets step by step

OUT:

1. Place the bracelet inside the bracelet sizing block. Make sure the ARROW points towards the table. Consider removing the spring bar in the deployant at 12 o'clock. While I almost never did this in the beginning, I find now working with an open bracelet is a lot easier and faster. Reinserting the spring bar in the deployant gets really easy if you have done it a couple of times.

2. Place the pin pusher carefully over the rounded end (no slot visible) of the link pin and first try by simply pushing the pin pusher in. Be careful: you do not want to drive the pin out with big force and leave a mark on the bracelet by the pin pusher's shoulder. So always press the pusher in a very controlled way.

3. If the link pins are stuck use the small hammer and carefully hammer down on the pin pusher driving the split pin out. Sometimes link pins on the same bracelet almost fall out, others are very tight. This depends on the manufacturing tolerances of the holes, but mainly on the manufacturing tolerances of the split pins. Careful again! Once the split pin is almost out, you do not want the shoulder of the pin pusher landing on the bracelet with force leaving a mark on the side of the link.

4. If the pin is half out I sometimes prefer to pull it out with the pair of pliers. Because I do not want the shoulder of the pin pusher to land on the link.

Alternative: Using a bracelet sizing tool can make pushing split pins out really easy. Simply align the spindle of the tool with the rounded end of the split pin and turn the wheel and the tip of the spindle will slowly drive the link pin out. Follow this link or click on the thumbnail below to see a pictorial on how to use this clever little tool

Driving link pins out is really easy with this little tool.
Most of the time I prefer to remove the deployant, makes
working with this tool a lot easier.

New! An Asia Made version of this tool is now for sale on PMWC!

IN:

5. You have removed sufficient links. I prefer less links on the 6 o'clock side of the bracelet. This way, the deployant is more likely in the middle of the under-side of your wrist. Now make sure that you insert the rounded head against the ARROW direction. It is a common mistake to insert the split end in ARROW direction. And a lot of split pins have been destroyed by this mistake.

6. To find the correct end position of the reinserted pin, please heave a look at the illustration below:

3. Casio and similar bracelets without pins

Folded link bracelets without pins come in a huge variety of forms. The sample below is a drawing from the bracelet of a Casio Multi-Lingual Database that sells for ca. USD 40. Of course you cannot expect an expensive bracelet on a USD 40 watch. Yet I have seen many of those bracelets being 20 years or older without too much bracelet tear. It would go beyond the scope of this article to describe many different types of those bracelets because all of them work in a similar way. There the metal sheet that needs to pushed out is normally showing a spherical elevation and a recessed or cut out area where to place the marker. Then simply push in ARROW direction. I found that pushing with the pusher slightly tilted to the back helps to apply more force.

I have marked the location in green at the opening where you place your pusher to push the metal sheet out that connects the links. The shapes vary from bracelet to bracelet. Even from the same manufacturer. The elevated nibs on the metal sheet hold it in place resting in the circular cut-outs of the folded bracelet sheet. To re-insert, simply push them against the arrow direction. Again the disposable plastic cigarette lighter makes in inexpensive pusher, or any PVC block you might have handy.