Watch band and bracelet sizing is one of the most common walk-in/short jobs we perform at Womble Watch. Customers, of course, want a properly sized watch so they can comfortably wear their timepiece. However, the job of properly sizing a watch is often under appreciated and occasionally undervalued.
The technique for sizing watch bands and bracelets vary greatly based on how the band is assembled, what materials the strap, band, or bracelet is made from, and even how the band attaches to the watch head or case. Depending on these factors how adjustable a band may be varies greatly, furthermore depending on the construction and materials a band can be lengthened and shortened or only shortened.
Leather, rubber, and cloth straps, which are very popular and common, are examples where the band can only be shortened. Sizing on these involves removing materials, and properly sizing these straps takes good technique and finesse. For leather straps the only sizing option the majority of the time is to punch a new hole in the leather, something that requires some practice to do perfectly centered. For a rubber strap sizing involves cutting the band material off. This is another example where practice and technique greatly matter. An inexperienced hand trying to size these bands can result in an unevenly cut band or a band cut too closely which creates a weak point prone to failure while being worn. Cloth or canvas straps involve many of these same techniques to size, where excess material is cut off and if necessary new holes are punches. However, depending on the material and design of a cloth or canvas strap, various techniques need to be implemented in their sizing to add rigidity to the edges to prevent fraying through application of heat or adhesive and rivets or stitching added to holes punched in the material for longevity. Most importantly in sizing these styles of straps and bands, however, is having a professional do it with care. Since these bands can only be shortened, should an inexperienced hand or improper technique be used in sizing and the band or strap made too short or uneven little can be done aside from replacing the band or strap entirely.
Replacing an overly shortened band or strap is, of course, much more expensive than having one already owned sized, and therefore its important to ensure the person sizing your watch strap or band is skilled and experienced enough to do it with care. These issues also persist in some metal bracelets. A rare, but not unseen bracelet style on watches are varying styles of mesh weaves or chain links in gold, silver, or steel. These styles of bracelets take extreme skill and care to properly size as shortening them require cutting the mesh. So again, always take care when getting a band sized that can only be shortened through removal of material.
Fortunately, the majority of metal bands and bracelets, regardless of material, are composed of links that can be removed and re-added as necessary. This allows for much more leeway in sizing, if too many links are removed, the necessary links can be put back in. If the watch is sold or gifted away, or the wearer's wrist grows the watch can be adjusted in the future. However, not all bracelet links are made the same. Many different styles of watch bracelets exist and just as many different techniques exist for adding and removing links. The most common is the well known pin assembly where a split pin is pressure fit into the link to keep them together. Another common variation of this is a pin and tube assembly where a metal tube sits inside the link and a metal pin is driven through the tube. Friction in the tube keeps the links together with a stronger force than the split pin style. Other pin link styles exist as well, but these are the two most common.
The pin style of bracelet links is a very straightforward construction and many try to size these bracelets themselves or get it done cheaply at a mall kiosk. We would like to warn against this. The pin assembly is the simplest and most common style, but without proper tools and techniques it can be very easy for an amateur to cause damage to the link and bracelet. The most common damage we see from amateur bracelet sizing is bent and mushroomed pins, which create a weak link in the bracelet, and damage to the sides and pin hole of the link from improper tools. Even if you wish to size these bracelets on your own at home we urge you to at least purchase the proper tools. A damaged link that requires repair or replacement is going to cost a lot more than taking the watch to a professional to have sized.
The other common link style seen in bracelets, including rolex, is screw style. In these the pin, instead of being press fit in, is a small screw. In these the screw threads into the links to keep the bracelet together. Provided an individual has a properly sized screwdriver it often seems simple and straightforward enough to size them yourself to an amateur. In some cases this is true. In budget or aged watches the screws are simple enough to add and remove links quickly and easily, however in higher end watches, and new watches, we again urge caution in sizing the bracelet yourself or having it done by an amateur. In high end watches these link screws can be made of gold, platinum, or other precious metals and an amateur with a steel screwdriver can very easily damage or destroy these expensive screws due to the steel screwdriver being much harder than the soft gold or other precious metal. On many new, like new, or recently serviced/repaired watch bracelets it is also common practice for the screws in the bracelet to be threadlocked in place. Without proper techniques trying to remove these threadlocked screws can be very difficult and result in damage to the link and screw. Never try to force a screw, if you do try and cannot budge it, take it to a professional to take care of for you.
Many other styles exist as well aside from these aforementioned ones. We've tried to highlight the most commonly seen and hope that we've helped better explain why professional watch band sizing is a valuable service. A professional watch sizing will always be cheaper than the cost to repair or replace a watch band or bracelet.