WS 21 How to use a Spring Bar Fork tool

Removing a leather strap

"Piece of cake" you say and make a crash landing on the barn like Waldo Pepper... There are leather straps that are really easy to remove and then there are the more difficult ones. And there are a couple of tricks that you have to know in order to make your work easier.
But let us begin with the standard procedure first. Use the wider fork to squeeze the leather strap and if the spring bar has a nice shoulder you will be able to loosen it and lift it out in one go. The picture on the next page shows how the watch is held preferably to squeeze and watch band made of leather or rubber. Please use the browsers back button to come back here.
I would never try to squeeze a 20 mm strap into a 19 mm lug width simply because it will be no fun to try to take that watch band off again. And with leather and "smell bacterias" that will be due in a couple of month if you are a sweater. Better to go with the right lug width.
Turn the watch 180 degrees and perform the same squeezing and releasing on the other side and your leather band is removed.
Now comes my best trick: take the new leather strap and take a watchmaker's screwdriver or an ale and widen the hole at the ends of the leather strap. This will allow you to easily insert the spring bar and it also allows you to insert the spring bar into the lug hole much easier. To put the spring bar back in place, hold the watch case again in the left hand. Place the lower end of the spring bar into the lug hole and then use the thin fork of the thumbnail to compress the spring bar and then listen and hear the audible click that the spring bar is in place.

Also I suggest you pull a newly replaced leather strap with a reasonable force to make sure that it is securely fastened.

Variation for shoulder-less spring bars

I have observed that inexpensive watches often come with spring bars without shoulders. There is just the tube containing the spring and the two pins sticking out of it on either side. No groove to safely park the fork. I have made good experience to use a small Japan cutter or the sharp blade of the watchmaker's knife and simply drive it into the brass pin (most spring bars are made of brass) and then squeeze the pin. Also if the thin fork is still sharp and in good condition, it will probably allow you to "dig" into the softer material of the spring bar. I always try to scratch the spring bar and spare the case if I encounter problems. Never use the lugs as a rest for the tool when preying and squeezing. Polishing a watch case is a tedious and expensive task. A spring bar costs next to nothing.
Some people also simply use a wire cutter and cut trough the old watch band and spring bar if the watch is expensive and worth that little extra loss. Of course you first cut the watch band to a short length so you get a good access with the wire cutter. And then you make sure that the wire cutter does not touch the watch case when cutting through the rest of the leather band and the spring bar
As always, practice makes the master. And you will soon find your preferred work technique. As with all my articles, I would simply like to inspire you to do more of the basic watch works yourself. Because it really is a lot of fun!

Click on the picture to read on please >>>

Jianbo sent me an email and suggested the intended use would be to turn the wider fork 180 degrees to push back the leather and free the ends of the spring bars from a leather bracelet. I think there are many correct ways how to do this. I have however always avoided to rest the wider fork on the inside of the lugs and then push the leather band back in order to get access to the spring bar. I have noted that resting the fork on the inside of the lugs could leave visible tool marks. That is why I prefer to hold the wider fork as shown in this picture and then "work the leather back" and hold the "squeezed leather" back in its position with my left thumb and index and then grip the shoulder of the spring bar with the THIN FORK to remove it out of its hole. As always with watch work, procedures are often quite personal. You will find your preferred way too!