How To Change A Watch Strap
 

How To Change A Watch Strap

8 min read
Guy Parker

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Guides

Guy Parker

Categories

Guides

The thought of changing a watch strap is a daunting prospect for many. Here we take you through the process step by step.

1. Preparation

Check what lug width your watch has

The lug width is the measurement between the two lugs and is measured in millimetres.

You can find your lug width a few different ways:

  • You can use a lug width gauge [See image below].
  • You can check the back of the original strap as it’s often stamped with a measurement in mm.
  • Or you can simply google your watch to find the specifications from the manufacturer.

The lug width on the Sinn pictured is 20mm - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine 

 
Vendor:
WatchGecko

Lug Width Measurement Tool

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£1.95
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£1.95
Lug Width Measurement Tool
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£28.00
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£28.00
Watchmaker's 7 Piece Screwdriver Set
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£25.00
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£25.00
WatchGecko Premium Metal Eye Loupe with Diver's Bezel

Choose a strap

If you plan to take your watch into the water, a rubber strap or metal bracelet will be most suitable. If not, your choice will widen to include our extensive range of leather and fabric straps.

Also, consider how far out from the case the lug holes are! Many people like the idea of a thickly padded leather strap, but sometimes if the lug holes are positioned very close to the case these may not fit or will cause scuffing to the leather where is hits the case between the lugs. If this is the case you’ll be better off with a lightly padded or unpadded strap. Otherwise though, the world is your oyster!

If you have an average or large wrist size, you should be fine with one of our standard length straps, but if you have petite wrists you can use this search to show only shorter length straps.

For more in depth advice, go to our article A Guide to Buying Watch Straps.

Buy the correct tools for the job

You can find a great selection of watch tools in the accessories section of our website, including spring bar tools. As far as changing straps is concerned though, as long as you have a spring bar tool, you’ll be good to go!

What is a spring bar?

A spring bar is a round steel bar with spring-loaded telescopic ends that secure the watch strap to the watch case. When fitting any kind of replacement strap, these spring-loaded ends must be compressed. Then, once in place the spring-loaded ends decompress, filling the lug hole to give a secure fit.

Picture showing an example of a spring bar - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine

Not sure which watch tools you need? Check out our article - Top 10 best watch tools every watch collector needs!

Ensure you have spring bars

If you’re the original owner of the watch and the strap is factory fitted, it’s usually best to use the spring bars that are already fitted. If not, you’ll need to order some. We stock three main types. Choose the one that best suits your needs. For most, this will be the standard type. Be sure to head over to our recent article Your Watch Strap Questions Answered to learn more about the different types of spring bars.

Image showing spring bar flanges/shoulders - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine 

 
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Replacement Stainless Steel Spring Bar Tube Complete Set
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WatchGecko Professional Spring Bar Tool - Model Reference 1004
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£15.00
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£15.00
Quick Release Spring Bars with Standard 0.8mm Tips

Preparation area

It’s a good idea to change straps sat at a table or other solid surface but use a rubber/foam matt, or other soft surface cover so that you reduce the chances of scratching your watch and also to help prevent it from moving around too much.

General tips

Tip 1: When removing any kind of strap, it’s always best to ensure that the spring bar is pushed out towards the rear of the watch so that any light scratches will not be seen when the watch is worn.

Tip 2: For additional protection against scratches, consider taping the lugs.

Removing the current strap

  • Watches fitted with quick release straps

Many modern straps and even bracelets come with quick-release straps. This makes it an absolute doddle to remove the strap without the need for tools. The spring bar is also retained so there is no chance of losing it, or it flying across the room.

 

Picture showing an example of a quick-release spring bar. Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine 

 
Regular price
£68.00
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Vintage Highley Genuine Leather Watch Strap - Light Brown
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Vintage Highley Genuine Leather Watch Strap - Reddish Brown
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Vintage Highley Genuine Leather Watch Strap - Black
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Simply squeeze the protruding part of the bar inwards until the strap releases. You may also need to apply light pressure to the strap if it doesn’t detach immediately.
  • Watches with drilled lugs

Some watches have drilled lugs, which makes removing straps a lot easier. For these watches simply insert the rounded pin into the drilled hole making sure it’s in properly. Then gently push the tool to release the spring bar. You may have to wiggle the strap a little at the same time. Set the spring bar aside somewhere safe for later. When removing spring bars, always be careful not to lose the spring bar or worse, fling it into your eye.

An example of a watch with drilled lugs - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine

If you watch has neither quick-release spring bars or drilled lugs, a little more skill is required. But don’t be put off. By following the simple steps below you’ll be up to speed in no time!

REMOVING A BRACELET

On bracelets you’ll see that the end links of the bracelet (where it attaches to the watch head) will have cut-away slots allowing you to partially see the spring bar.

This image shows the cut-aways found on metal watch straps - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine

 
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£88.00
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WatchGecko Warrington Stainless Steel Watch Strap - Brushed/Polished
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£68.00
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£68.00
Genuine H Link Shark Mesh 316L Stainless Watch Strap - Polished
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£28.00
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WatchGecko Classic Retro Stainless Steel Watch Strap - Brushed And Polished
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Use the v-shaped/forked end of your spring bar tool and slot it in at the outside edge of the slot. If the spring bar tool you have has two different forked ends, use the smaller, thinner end for removing a bracelet. Then, slowly slide the tool inwards until you feel the shoulders/flange.

An example of a spring bar tool showing different end pieces - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine 

When you feel that the spring bar tool has located, gently pry the spring bar out by pulling to towards the centre of the watch until you hear/feel it release. Depending on the bracelet you may need to apply some pressure to the underside of the bracelet to get it to release.

Occasionally you may also encounter a stubborn bracelet and the spring bar may only partially release. If that’s the case, you will need to use the tool to release the spring bar on opposite side also.

REMOVING ANY OTHER TYPE OF STRAP

Lay the watch face down on either a padded mat or soft cloth, ensuring there is a firm surface such as a table or bench beneath.

Then, using the spring bar tool, carefully position the v-shaped end so that it slots between the end of the strap and the inside of the lug. Applying light pressure against the spring bar, gently pry the spring bar out by pulling to towards the centre of the watch until you hear/feel it release. 

For leather/fabric watch straps you'll need to slot your spring bar tool between the leather and lug - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine 

 
Regular price
£68.00
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Sale price
£68.00
Simple Handmade Italian Leather Watch Strap - Chocolate Brown
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£68.00
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Simple Handmade Italian Leather Watch Strap - Light Brown
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£68.00
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£68.00
Simple Handmade Italian Leather Watch Strap - Reddish Brown

Depending on the strap, you may not have much space to get the spring bar in, so be careful as it’s easy to damage the edge of the strap, especially on leather.

Which way around does the strap go?

  • Leather, rubber or fabric straps

The buckle side of the strap is nearly always attached to the 12 o’clock side of the watch, and the tail end at the 6 o’clock side. (Notable exceptions include Grand Seiko and some Seiko straps).

Image showing correct way for strap sections - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine

  • Bracelets with a fold-over clasp

Ensure that the section of strap with the visible part of the clasp (often with the brands logo on) is fitted to the 12 o’clock side of the watch.

Image showing the correct orientation for fitting bracelets with fold-over clasp - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine 

  • Bracelets with an unbranded, flush-fit butterfly clasp

It is not important which end is connected to which side of the watch. However, it is worth considering where the clasp section will sit when on wrist – this will vary between watches and bracelets.

  • Bracelets with a branded butterfly clasp

Ensure that you fit it so that when looking at the watch face on, the branding is orientated correctly.

Fitting your new replacement strap

Fit a new quick-release strap (leather, fabric, rubber, bracelet)

Our quick-release straps make fitting a cinch. Simply position the opposite end into the lug hole. Once secure, position the other side of the spring bar so that it roughly sits over the lug and then squeeze the bar inwards whilst positioning the strap until you feel/hear the spring bar snap into place. Give the strap a light tug to make sure its secure and you're good to go.

Fit a non-quick release strap

Tip: Try and remember where the lug hole position is so that it’s easier to accurately position the spring bar into place.

  1. Place one end of the spring bar fully into one of the lug holes.

Image showing end of spring bar and lug hole - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine

2. Once in place, position the other side of the spring bar so that it roughly sits over the lug. 

Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine 

 
Regular price
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Laverton Padded Cavallo Leather Watch Strap - Brown
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Laverton Padded Cavallo Leather Watch Strap - Black
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Laverton Padded Cavallo Leather Watch Strap - Cognac
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3. Then, using the spring bar tool, compress the spring bar whilst lowering the end into place, aiming for the lug hole. Getting the second end of the spring bar into place is not always easy, so you may have to carefully move the strap around within the confines of the lug until you feel the spring bar locate and snap into place.

4. For extra finesse, refit the original branded buckle. In order to do this, you’ll need to make sure that the replacement strap has the same width on the buckle end as the original. To make it easier to find the right strap, we always state buckle end widths in our product listings.

5. Repeat this process for the other piece of the strap

6. Give the both end of the strap a light tug to make sure they are secure and you're good to go.

CAUTION: Bear in mind that even by closely following the instructions, as every watch enthusiast will tell you, changing a watch strap is not completely without risk and it’s not unusual with regular swap-outs to develop small scratches around the lugs. However, our instructions should at the very least help minimise this risk.

WatchGecko makes it easier

To make it easier for you to change straps, many of our straps now come with quick-release pins, so you can say goodbye to damage. As we replenish our stock, we’ll also be progressively updating our straps which don’t have quick release fitted to one that do.

We’ve also made it easy for you to search for the correct strap for your watch. Simply use the filters and you can narrow your search by lug width, product type, price, colour and more.

Don’t forget to sign up to our newsletter to be the first to hear about new products and to receive exclusive discounts.

Useful links

Be sure to check out our comprehensive article, Your Watch Questions Answered and feel free to post your own question too!

Learn How to Shorten Metal Watch Straps Easily

A Guide to Buying Watch Straps

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Guy Parker

About the Author: Guy Parker

I’m a freelance writer with a passion for watches, music and product design. Aside from a few core watches in my collection, I tend to gravitate to watches that are a little off the beaten path or quirky. Resale value rarely takes priority for me and my heart usually wins out to my head. I promote buying what you love and think it’s important not to overlook character and uniqueness when adding to your collection.

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