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How To Size a Metal Bracelet Vol. 1: Screw-In Links

How To Size a Metal Bracelet Vol. 1: Screw-In Links

A Sizing Tutorial For Your Metal Bands
Published by: Samuel Ng
Aug 21, 2021

I feel indebted to our customers and supporters on a matter that seems to have been overlooked all through the years. Bothersome as it is, the team and I consensually admit that sometimes we take this diminutive issue for granted: that being the methods to size your own metal bracelets. Now, I finally got a chance to sit down and put up a methodology article for all of you, teaching you to size up your watch purchased from us or others. All by yourself.

(Sometimes, you need to remove the links on your own)

While most scenarios with metal bracelets are by no means one approach à la fits all, I'll be breaking them up into two volumes to demonstrate how to remove the two most typical metal band styles. And the first caters solely to screw-in links. If time allows me, I would be altruistically hellbent on jotting down other exemplary ways of sizing different types.

Before getting into it, I would introduce a few main bracelets' link types adhered to what we carry in our shop. On top of that, I would attempt to list those essential tools and kits you'd need - or actually don't - depending on the availability and the finesse of one's hands. That said, even with the right tools, you still need some practice to be adept at it.

Of course, even if it's a watch that's not from us, you might find similarities to ours with the sizing process. This article sets out to be innocuously helpful to you. To those who want to skip my loquacious preambles and jump straight into the action, you could head right down to the Tools and Steps sections below and get started right away. Although I urge you to check out my personal suggestions on a "perfect" size - It would provide a fillip to getting it right.

(The ubiquitous screw-in links)

Per the title, How to Size Your Metal Bracelets, the following article only applies to solid metal materials. Whether the conventional sports bracelet or the dressier ones like a jubilee style, all of which involve removing a certain number of links to fit his or her wrist perfectly. Things might sound and thus seem easy as of now, but trust me, when it's the first few attempts, things might get much trickier and more challenging than perceived. But with active practice and unfrazzled patience, you will get the links removed, like how you take off your shoes from your feet.

So if you have just purchased or considering getting your next Steinhart or Squale divers from us, be sure to bookmark this article as this sets out to be a detailed manual catered to you. Let's get on with the show.

Screw-in Links VS. Push Pins

(Steinhart's Ocean sports bracelet with screw-in links)
In the horology world, the variations of metal bracelets are as wide a gamut as the number of watches they are attached to. Historically, these ornamental bracelets set out to complete or solely prettify the attached watch as a set. Having a metal band strapped on your wrist also accentuates a certain kind of robustness that brings better reliability like no other. Even the softer and more malleable precious metals like yellow gold can be tangibly sturdier than, say, a silicon rubber strap, in caveats, that rubber might snap when undermined by stress.
However, amongst the bewildering varieties, the adjusting mechanisms are
usually invariably similar with spring-like bars. As there  are few, I will skip some, like the blades in folded link bracelets or sorts where they are uncommon or primordial today; or those “in -house” manufactured ones where a customized tool is required. What I will be discussing today are the classic push-pins-and-collars and the screw-in links.

(Even the Jubilee bracelet on the Squale 30 Atmos GMT uses screw-in links)
With that in mind, the latter screw-in links are simply attached through a tiny screw, usually with a flathead. Sometimes, upon placing these links side by side, you might erroneously  derive those push-pins as screw-in links too. How so? If you take a closer look at both sides of a link (the sectioned block that forms a bracelet), you could see there's a "screw head" looking side and a solid end side - similar to that of a screw-in type. The confusing aspect would be the push-pins side with the "screw head," which is, in fact, not one to slot in a screwdriver to unscrew. It's one of the "twisted pin" tails where the pins are folded.

(Guess which one is not a “screw-in” type?)
So what we need to do is look at the inner side of the links, the push-pins style bracelet usually includes an arrow on each, and that would be the telling sign. The pins with collars are saliently distinguishable as they only have solid end sides, held on by a collar within. They, too, have the arrow on the inner side of the links in normal circumstances, distinguished from the screw-in types. You might wonder what the arrow is for, but that we will be discussing in volume 2.
Primarily, the screw-in style is considered an effortless system that brings much convenience. It's designed specifically with one vision, and that's to allow end-users to size the bracelet all by themselves with minimal tools or without beseeching aids. Evidently, this is a redolent effort by perceptive watch Maisons, putting us consumers in their minds when it comes to practicality and accessibility.

(Different styles but same sizing design)
Screw-type links are not only subjected to sporty and rugged bracelets include elegant and dressy ones too. Like for instance, Steinhart's retro-chic jubilee bracelets, which are sized in the same exact manner as their oyster-styled sports bracelets. Since this is a tutorial publication, I'll skip waxing poetic on the why's and how's. I'll carry on my sole duty from here on.

Tools Needed
Well, I would like to tackle this particular section in two ways. Firstly, to "properly" size a screw-in link bracelet, some of us might want to attain and clad in full gear to do so. It is as if heading into a pick-up game with arm sleeves and headbands, wearing the entire Home "Dub Nation" jersey kit, plus the Under armor Curry 8 to complete the look. Yes, the fervid "I Got Game" spirit is understandable in a horology context.
So here goes. You need:

1. A watch-working block in either plastic or wooden material

2. Proper lighting that allows clear vision when meticulously handling the screw

(Standard table lamp or direct sunlight will do the job) (Photo Credit: Lampsplus)
3. A watchmaker screwdriver set or any micro flathead screwdrivers that consist with precision at least from 1.00mm to 2.4mm

(A complete boxset or...)

(Our own 1.6mm flathead screw)

4. A non-magnetic tweezer

5. A small container or tray to hold the links and screws

6. An eye loupe if you need to "zoom" in
7. A screwdriver holder and sharpening stone

8. A soft cleaning cloth

9. A Spring-bar tool

(One side with the "v" and most importantly here is the other pin-pusher tip)
Alternately, this is a list of items you might want if you consider the "full  kit." But if you're like me, who prefers a more minimalist approach (not laziness), your quintessential items would therefore include:
2. Where you only need a well-lit area
3. With both 1.2mm and 1.6mm screwdrivers as they're the primaries in sizing watch bands

(The 1.6mm seems to be almost "universal" in the watch world)
8. To allow your watch to rest on safely when you're handing your watch

(So you won't damage anything on rough surfaces)
And lastly:
9. The spring-bar tool, or a metal pin (like for your phone SIM card insertion) that allows you to prod the micro-clasp adjustment
Particularly for item number 3, If you're a customer from Gnomon Watches or recently purchase a Steinhart Ocean divers or Squale 20/30 Atmos, you only require a 1.6mm flathead screwdriver. But I would suggest having a complete set which you need for other watch brands' bracelets.
All the items above are available easily online for purchase. Best yet, if you punch in "bracelet sizing tool" in your search engine, you will get an immediate list of complete kits from sites like Amazon and then some. These kits are affordable and include much other stuff that repletes you a step closer to becoming a watchmaker.

(Found this from our local Singapore's Amazon site, and that's all you need) (Photo Credit: Amazon)

A Perfect Fitting Guide
Is there a golden rule through a perfect way to size down to a perfect fit? In reality, I don't think there is one as I strongly feel it's to each their own. Some prefer the watch swaying a tad looser than most of us, or to those who prefer feeling the "wrap" that when removing the bracelet, it leaves marks of your links and case-back motifs along. But I would like to propound mine as an example through my experience in sizing my own bracelets and those I seen through the Gnomon team faithfully sticking to for our customers in-store.

(I'd never wear mine tight fittingly)
For a start, I'd like to recommend a good fit by keeping it a tad loose after sizing. How loose, you might wonder? Not much, just the distal phalanx (front portion) of your index finger slipping through between the bottom clasp and your own wrist.

(Just the front portion of your index finger as a gauge)
A perfect circumstance would be to remove even links on both the top 12 o'clock and bottom 6 o'clock sides. But in reality, this is not usually the case. Most of the time, we'd realize when we were done with the final adjustments through removing a half-link or the micro-adjustment through a clasp, sometimes even both. We then discover that we need to remove more on one side than the other. Intriguingly, we don't have to get overwrought, as I assure you, the end result of the watch and clasp would still be seemingly be balanced on the wrist. Now the question is, which side should you remove more from?

Based on my personal preference, I would suggest removing the extra full or half-link from the bottom side at 6 o'clock. The reason simply is when the bottom side seems to be "shorter," the watch will not lob down and away from you as if like it's a slap-dash job on the sizing and purportedly feels like it's going to overturn any moment. With a "shorter" side at 6 o'clock, your watch would always be at an angle where you could properly view the time, and the case feels more dead-center on top of your wrist.

(Remove more on the bottom 6 o'clock side when needed)
With all that said, you might prefer a "tighter" or "even looser" fit; heck, even having the extra link removed from the top 12 o'clock. It's all up to one's preference and OK to do so, as I once stated at the start of this section. For the sake of this article, I will cohere my own "golden rule" and "perfect fitting" to illustrate the steps in sizing a screw-in link bracelet.

Removing the Links
As different bracelet designs result in the number of links to be removed varying, I'd usually slip it across my wearing wrist and compress both sides together just to gauge the number of "excess" links. Once I got that rough gauge, I'd start the removing process.

If you decide to size your bracelet with the complete list, here it is:
Step 1: Spread the soft cloth on a table or platform high enough for you to lay your elbows on. It's ideal to have your elbows placed on the surface top - like a watchmaker does - allowing you to stabilize both of your hands when handling the tool and watch.
Step 2: Now, place the plastic/wooden watch-working box in the middle of the cloth and make sure the area is well lit. I can't emphasize great lighting enough as you will be working with delicate components.
Step 3: Insert the watch bracelet across a fitting groove of the watch-working box. The bracelet should have the links with the flathead screw part facing up, and you should start from the bottom 6 o'clock links.

(Starting from the bottom side)
Step 4: Clad your eye loupe and focus on the screw-in link you want to remove and have the flathead screwdriver (in many cases, the 1.6mm one) on your dominant hand, while the other hand would grip the watch and link to keep them sturdy when working on them.

(Make use of the loupe to close in on your screwdriver and the screw)

Step 5: Slowly and gently slot the screwdriver head into the flathead section, rotating it in an anti-clockwise direction to unscrew the screw. Do note that you might need a slight force to make the first turn as the screw is locked in position. Therefore you need to grip both the link and screwdriver firmly while doing so.

(You might need to exert a little more when first loosening the screw)
Step 6: Once the screw is turned loose, continue to rotate the screwdriver with little to no force until the screw in the link is not attached to any of the link's grooves. This is to avoid and mitigate your screwdriver slipping off from the screw-head and scratching your beautiful bracelet links.

(Do not exert force after when it's loose)
Step 7: Remove the screw with your tweezer and place it into the small tray or container.

Now continue Step 4 with the other screw-in link, depending on how many you need to remove. If you are still unsure about how many to take out, I'd advise removing two on both sides for a start before the precise adjustment is needed.

(Use the tweezer to help to grab the small screw and into a tray)

Step 8: Once the other screws and links are removed, place these items into that small tray or container to prevent losing them. Re-attach the bracelet's joint by screwing the links back before flipping over to the top 12 o'clock side.

(Remove the other links and re-attach once done)

Step 9: Repeat Steps 4 to 8 on the top side. Once done, remember to try it on your wrist, and see if it is necessary to remove any more. Remember, remove the extra from the bottom side if you need to remove an odd number of links. Don't forget to utilize the half-links if provided.

(Now repeat the same step on the other side of the bracelet)
As recommended, do not remove links until the watch wears on the wrist with no space (like leaving marks on the wrist) at all to breathe. What I would sincerely advise is to remove them until it's a tad loose.

(Never remove links until it's just perfect)
Step 10: Even better for sports watches like Steinhart's and Squale's as they come with a clasp that allows micro-adjustment through a number of tiny holes on both sides. After removing those links, all you have to do is to use the spring-bar tool's pointer tip and poke one side of the clasp's hole, slide the inner spring-bar towards the inside, and repeat on the other side to make it even.

(Use the pointer tip of the spring-bar tool)

(Adjust the final micro-adjustment from the clasp if applicable)

This would be the best scenario for finding the "perfect" spot to comfortably wear the watch. On others that do not supply with the clasp adjustment, you ought to fully utilize those half links provided as they will be your best chance to find your sweet spot.

(Neither too loose nor too tight)


The Alternate Quick and Easy Way
If you're someone like me who prefers things to be done casually with ease, the following steps will demonstrate how to get your watch sized with minimal items - number 2, 3, 8, and 9 (see above Tools needed section). Nevertheless, you need to be extra careful when applying these steps.

(That's all I usually need)
Step 1: First, place the watch with the screw-in links' flat head section faced upon the cloth. Make sure when handling the watch, your arms are resting on each side of the platform you're working on.
Step 2: Again, make sure you do have proper lighting, as this is crucial. You do not want to scar your watch unnecessarily due to bad visibility.

(Always start from the bottom)
Step 3: Starting from the bottom links at the 6 o'clock section again, slot the screwdriver tip into the selected screw. Do support the bracelet with your secondary hand to make sure it does not move when removing the screws.

(Always use the other hand to support the watch)
Step 4: Gently rotate counter-clockwise once the screw is unlocked from its grooves until it's fully detached. You can see and feel it when the screw can't extend out anymore.
Step 5: Remove the screw with your hand and continue to the next link that you want to remove. Once done, placed the removed links on the side (see, no tray here but be cautious where the screws are), and re-attach the just-sized bracelet links back together by screwing back.

(Remove screws by hand)

(You might need to be careful of the links and screws if you're not using a tray)
Step 6: Flip it over and work on the top side of the bracelet section. As we are not using any magnifier here, do lean closer, so you have a decent visual of what you are doing.

(Repeat on the other side)
Step 7: After removing the top links, try the watch again on the wrist to see if it's too loose or tight before you re-adjust it to be slightly more flexible.
Step 8: Once done, if you have the micro-adjustment clasp, utilize it by poking the side holes with the tip of the spring-bar tool, and slide the inner spring bar on both sides. This is to give your watch the "perfect fitting" on your wrist. The best scenario is always not too tight until you feel discomfort when wearing throughout your day or too loose that the watch keeps flipping over on your wrist.

(Micro-adjustment through the clasp)
Reminder: After getting everything in place, I would urge you to put it back on the cloth and make sure all the attached links' screws are tightened. This is to prevent any event where the screws come loose by themselves during your wear period.

(Remember to check and tighten up all the screws before calling it a day)
So there you go, the watch is now ready to be worn. Now that you've completed removing those links, give yourself a round of applause for your D.I.Y. effort.

Personal Thoughts and the Importance of Practice
Sizing your own watch bracelet brings additional enjoyment to the whole package. Through the interactions of those watchmaker's tools and as part of horology is definitely charming - just as when you wind up a mechanical watch and seeing you kickstarting its "life." It somewhat grants you a tingling sense of satisfaction through your own accomplishment, getting the watch around your wrist comfortably.

(Its a pleasure resizing my own watch)
Needless to say, this is especially so when more often than not people are purchasing their watches online, receiving them by direct delivery to your doorstep, or even when someone has gotten you a watch as a gift. Then, no sales rep or watchmakers are beside you to beseech into providing the sizing service, and you are dying to get your watch onto your wrist. It's always beneficial to know how to get the links removed properly.
As far as the screw-in link goes, it's one of, if not the most straightforward types to cinch. However, things are easier said (or written) than done. For many of us, this might be the very first time you're about to size things up alone. I strongly encourage you to hold back your swashbuckler's ambition. It takes some practice initially to get yourself familiarized with the screwdriver and how you support the watch when unscrewing, all in a fastidious effort of not damaging your watch in the process.

(Seems easy, but it takes practice to resize)
I'd advise one to get accustomed to gripping the screwdriver and try applying it to other more "expendable" kinds of things to practice on - say an old toy or remote control where there are screws for you to exercise. You do not want to have accidental scenarios where the screwdriver slips across the beautifully polished links. As the saying goes, "Adding or removing a link isn't any more difficult than changing any other straps. It's a matter of having the right tools and taking your time about it."

(Get yourself the proper tool, and you'll go a long way)
Another thing to note is to maintain your screwdriver's head. Often times when you have been utilizing it throughout your watch purchasing journeys, the flathead gets worn, resulting in the tip being crooked or slanted. You need to aware that the head is still sharp and flat. If not the case, the screwdriver tends to slip out from the screw's slot. And you certainly don't want this to happen. Therefore, this is where the screwdriver holder and sharpening stone come in. You can either use them to sharpen the screwdriver up again or simply purchasing a new screw tip (usually detachable) to replace it.


And there you have it, the tried and tested methods for sizing your bracelet with screw-in links. I hope my succinct tutorial will benefit anyone who desires to remove those additional links on their own. I would recommend all of you actually try sizing your own watches as it'd bring a certain level of fun and joy to your hobby. This is especially important given more consumers are buying watches without the extra accessibility in aid to get the bracelet sized. Lastly, the process is not needlessly complex, but I would strongly call one's mind to constantly practice work on those bracelets safe and efficiently. As the old saying goes, "Practice makes perfect," and in this case, it's befitting.

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