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How to remove links from a watch: Easy step-by-step guide

As you already know, the watch band is one of the most important choices to make when considering a watch.

Picking a timepiece with a metal watch strap is fine, but can be tricky in terms of size. Even if the case diameter is your perfect fit, it is rare to get the watch strap to fit right too.

That problem can easily become a thing of the past when you remove watch links to reduce them to the right fit.

If you don’t want to make the trip to a watch repair shop, this guide walks you through the steps to remove watch links at home.

Is it easy to remove links from a watch?

You might want to know the complexity or simplicity of what you are getting into before you start at all.

With the right tools, removing watch links is as routine a watch maintenance and usage operation as possible. You don't need to have any technical know-how to reduce the many links on your watch to the perfect size.

Get it done right once and you won’t ever fret when buying desired watches since you are now confident of being able to get it down to the required size in no time.


The Simple Guide to Remove Watch Links

Now that your mind is at rest on how easy this task is, let’s get to it.


Step #1 – Look for Indicator Arrows

This process will be much efficient, safer, and faster if you look for the indicator arrows first.

These arrows tell you the direction through which the pins should be pushed out. Doing it the other way around could cause damage to the pins or the watch strap itself.

  • Turn the watch upside down and look closely at the bands
  • On every band, or select bands, will be arrows indicating the direction the pin pops.
  • Only take the pins out through that direction.

P.S. On the off chance that the arrows are not everywhere on the metal band, make sure you do not totally remove watch links with the arrow on either side of the watch. That will come in handy when you want to add or remove further links from the watch in the future.


Step #2 – Measure How Many Links Have to Go

Since this operation is based on getting the right fit, you want to measure how many links to take away. Do this before you remove the pin on any of the watch bracelet links at all.

Here’s how to measure the right links to remove:

  • Wear your watch as you would normally have it around your wrist
  • Turn your wrist face down such that the metal watch face is away from you and the clasp region is staring back at you
  • With your free hand, take the thumb and index finger to the watch links.
  • Gather the links together in a V formation from both sides and pull gently so that the back of the watch case rests on your wrist.
  • The number of links that gather in between your thumb and index finger determines how many links to be removed.

P.S. We recommend estimating an even number of links to be removed while still having a comfortable fit. This way, the same number can be removed from the right and left side of the clasp for better balance.

Otherwise, one side of the clasp might carry more weight and cause the watch to slide on your wrist.


Step #3 – Designate a Workspace

The average metal watch band comes with a series of delicate, precision-manufactured parts that you don’t want to lose. You also want to ensure no damage to your watch or distractions while removing the watch links.

Thus, prepare a workspace.

It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate.

You could spread a small, soft cloth on a portion of a table/ countertop to place the watch on. This kind of work area protects the watch crystal from scratches and damage, keeps all of the watch pins right in your sight, and makes your work faster.

Step #4 – Identify your Tool kit

The success of this project hinges largely on picking the right tool for the job.

Depending on who you ask, there are a variety of tools that could be employed to remove watch links.

If you are working from home and do not have a watch removal tool kit handy (we recommend that you get one), you will do well with the following:

  • Small pliers – use pliers of the long nose type. Tweezers could also work in some cases
  • Small hammer
  • Screwdriver
  • Pin pusher – you could also use a spring bar removal tool or a pointy object that fits into the watch band links section to push the pin.


Step #5 – Find the Watch Links

Now, this can be tricky.

Most people assume that their watch band comes with the same kind of links. It takes a closer look at different straps to see that you are wrong.

The kind of links on your watch will determine what process we go with here.

The most common kinds, which we will be discussing on this list, are:

  • Round watch pins
  • Flat watch pins
  • Screwed pins
  • Snap Links


Step #6 – The Removal Process

You already know the links that need to be removed, have your workspace and your tools set.

Identify your watch link type here, place the watch on the workspace and remove the link with the relevant instructions here.

For Round/ Flat Watch Pins

The round and flat pins can be treated the same way.

  • Remove the watch clasp – this might not be needed if you prefer to remove the links from the midsection instead. To remove the clasp, apply pressure on the spring bar with your tools/ pin pusher. Being a spring, make sure to keep an eye on it so it doesn’t fly away and get lost.
  • Remove the first link – place the pin pusher into the pin of the link that you want to remove. Slam down gently with the small hammer to push the pins. You can remove the pin by hand or use your small pliers.
  • Repeat the process – since two pins are holding each link, do the same thing for the other side of the link pin.
  • Remove all links this way – once you’ve done the first, remove the already estimated number of links from both sides of the watch.
  • Look out for the ferrule – not all metal watch bands have a ferrule. These ferrules release when you remove a watch link, so make sure to look out for them lest they get lost on the floor/ workspace.
  • Save all your removals – from the pins to the links and possible ferrules, keep them all in a small parts tray. You could get a small cup to keep them in too.


For Screwed Pins

If you have saved that small screwdriver we mentioned from the top, now is the time to break it out.

  • Remove the links – placing the watch on its side, identify the links to remove, and place the screwdriver into the screw holding them together. Turn the screwdriver in a counterclockwise motion to remove the screw.
  • Repeat for all parts – like it is with pins, the watch links will be screwed down at the top and bottom parts. Remove all the links that you have earlier identified. Collect all the screws in the parts tray or cup as suggested above.


For Snap Bands

The watch band might snap-on, but that does not mean they snap off. Here, you will need your pin pusher again.

  • Pin removal – As we did for the flat/ round head, push the pins out and collect them somewhere.
  • Apply pressure – unlike the flat/ round pin types, the link does not disengage from the band after removing the pin. Hold either side of the watch link whose pin you just removed and gently rock it. Apply upward pressure to the part closest to the case and downward pressure to the link part closest to the clasp.
  • Repeat the process – after removing the first link this way, remove more till you get the desired number of links left in the watch.

Step #7 – Replacing the Watch Band

Depending on which of the above link removal types you went with, follow the steps in reverse to get the rest of the watch back into place.

You might need to gift someone with a larger wrist your watch, or maybe even grow a larger wrist yourself. The saved parts will be the links you will need to expand the watch when need be.

Find somewhere safe (like an old shoebox, for example) to keep them till you need them again.


Step #8 – Check the Fitting

The aim of this process is not to make the watch too tight. The right fit should be somewhat loose (so that the watch can slide back on your wrists when need be) but not be too loose that it gives off a sloppy appeal.

If you measured the number of links to be removed right the first time, the watch fits your wrist perfectly. If this is your first time, though, don’t worry if you need to go back. Try again – and you’ll only get better at it.


Mistakes to Avoid when Adjusting Watch Links

As much as you can get it right the first time, you can also make mistakes that undermine the entire process.

Some of the easily avoidable mistakes are, but not limited to:


Using Poor Tools

This is non-negotiable.

Those who have been doing this for some time can find suitable alternatives but we doubt that you can.

Make sure to get everything – from your hammer to your screwdriver – right.


Losing Parts

Watch parts are so small and delicate. Lose them and you find your watch useless from missing just that small part.

That is why we recommend collecting every part you remove and keeping them in a parts holder instantly. Don’t wait to accumulate the parts before you gather them.


Hitting too Hard

The small hammer you need for this operation is designed to deliver little impact. If you’re using an alternative tool like a hammer, you don't want to hit too hard.

Friction mostly keeps the pins in place anyway, not a lot of force. Gently tap on the pin pusher and watch the pin pop out on its own.


Not checking arrows

Excitement or rush could make you forget to check the arrows on your watch band.

We are saying this again, don’t make that mistake. If those arrows were not needed, they would not be there.

Check them, know where to push your pins out, and stick to that.

As mentioned earlier, never remove all links with arrows on them (in case not all of them have these arrows). Save some for future reference.


You’re Good to Go

There you have it: everything you need to adjust your watch links to taste.

For us, adjusting the watch links feels like a moment to spend some quality time with a beautiful timepiece.

If you ever feel like you would be better off doing this at a watch repair shop, it should not cost you more than $10. Get it done yourself, though, and you’ll feel more fulfilled with the watch.

June 22, 2021 by Radina Vladimirova

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