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Here’s how to remove watch links in 5 easy steps for a better fit

Watches are some of the most essential accessories you will have in your wardrobe. They are conversation starters, functional tools, and in some cases, status symbols. While you can find the casings in various kinds, like field watches, pilot watches, dive watches and even tactical watches, the bands themselves have a wide variety of options as well. You can pick up leather straps, mesh pieces, silicone/rubber straps, and metal bracelets, all of which give a different feel to your timepiece. Unfortunately, when you elect the metal bracelets, it's likely you will need to know how to remove watch links, or pay more money.

Difficulty

Easy

Duration

10 minutes

What You Need

  • Basic set of jeweler's tools

  • Cloth mat and/or tray (for laying everything out)

  • Cloth tape measure (optional)

  • Watch holder or piece of foam (optional)

Standard metal bracelets are made up of individual links connected to create a unique and attractive band that adds an element of sophistication to your watch. Of course, not all men are created equal, and therefore watch link removal is necessary for most of us.

Taking your watch to a jewelry store and having someone else do it is the easiest way, but that can run you as much as $45 for a basic watch, or even more if you have a luxury piece. Luckily for you, there is a quick and easy process once you get the hang of it that you can do at home to remove links yourself, keeping your wrist the talk of the day.

Man in a suit adjusting the band of his wristwatch.
Marko Pekic / iStock

Step 1: Measure

Metal watches are meant for customization. Measuring your wrist and the watch itself is the first part of making sure the fit is just right. You can do this in a couple of different ways.

Use the watch itself

  • Put your watch on your wrist.
  • Gather the links up until it fits the way you want and count how many are in excess.
  • Plan to remove the links evenly from both sides of the watch so that your clasp remains in the middle.

Use a cloth tape measure

  • Lay your watch out flat on the table.
  • Measure your wrist using the cloth tape measure.
  • Place your watch in the middle of your measurement and plan to remove the links on either side to ensure an even clasp.

Now, you’re ready to move on to the next part.

Omega Planet Ocean 600M Co-Axial Chronograph 45.5 mm
John Torcasio/Unsplash

Step 2: Gather your tools

Remember that you’re working with very small pieces. One lost screw and you’re stuck trekking to the jeweler (which is what we're trying to avoid here altogether). Here's everything you'll need to prepare to remove the links after measuring.

  1. Find a flat surface and clear it from clutter.
  2. Ensure you have a good light source.
  3. We recommend working with a tray to help keep small pieces in check.
  4. Place a small cloth inside the tray to reduce noise and ensure nothing scratches.
  5. You’ll need a set of . These sets aren’t difficult to find, there are simple sets on Amazon that will last a long time and save money in the long run.
  6. You’ll also need a watch holder or a piece of foam that helps hold your watch in place.

Your workspace is ready. It’s time to customize your watch by adding or removing links.

Man wearing Tissot watch
Austin Lowman/Unsplash / Unsplash

Step 3: How to remove watch links

Now it’s time to tackle those links. The biggest thing to remember is not to remove all the watch links from just one side, or your watch clasp will look weird.

  1. Turn your watch over and look for the small arrow marks showing where the pins come out.
  2. Place your watch into the holder or foam piece so that you can see the top of the pin.
  3. Use the pushpin tool and the hammer to gently tap the pin until it emerges from the other side.
  4. Use your fingers or a small set of pliers to remove the pin gently.
  5. Repeat until you’ve removed all your planned links.

Make sure you’re watching for any other pins that might fall out as you’re working. Keep up with the pins themselves because you’ll need a few for the next step.

heres how to remove watch links paul cuoco jefjijtmjri unsplash  1
Paul Cuoco/Unsplash

Step 4: Rejoin the watch links to the clasp

Now that you’ve got excess links removed, it’s time to finish your watch.

  1. Find the pins you need and flip your watch over in the holder. Make sure the arrows are pointing upward.
  2. Put the pin back in the hole and gently tap until it’s fully in.
  3. Repeat on the other side. Tap any ferrules that fell out of place.
  4. Inspect your watch. Try it on to be sure it fits and look for anything that seems out of place.
Rolex watch
John Torcasio/Unsplash

Step 5: Enjoy your custom-fit watch

That's it, really. The only thing left to do is to save your links and pins for any future fittings or adjustments. Your watch should now fit like it was made for you, and now you can wear it out.

How safe is this process to my new watch?

The truth is, like any new skill or process, there is a learning curve. Nothing could be worse than picking up a new and expensive watch and then ruin it because you're a newbie at something that can be simple like removing watch links. Therefore, we suggest practicing on a cheaper, less valuable watch to get the process down before you jump to taking apart your luxurious timepiece. This kind of process can feel a little foreign and overwhelming when you first start out, but with practice, this is a process that is very easy to get down and will save you money and time in the long (and depending on your proficiency), the short run as well.

Frequently asked questions

Still have concerns? Let’s answer some of the most common questions about how to remove watch links:

How do you take links out of a watch without the tool?

So you don’t have jeweler tools, and you don’t have time to wait. If you’ve got a pushpin, you can mimic the tools. Use the pushpin and a tool with a small bit of heft to tap the pin and remove the links.

Why won’t my watch links come out?

If you’ve never changed links or your watch is on the older side, the pins may be a bit stubborn. The best option is to get a full jeweler set with a watch holder. This will provide more leverage to tap out those stubborn pins.

What if there are no arrows?

If you can’t see arrows on the watch, find the seam in the pin. Turn that side up, and you should be able to tap the pins out relatively easily.

Can I remove links from my Rolex (or Fossil Watch)?

Yes! Any watch, especially the best men's watches, with links is eligible for customization. You can even change the links on watches like the Michael Kors ceramic line. Whether the watch is expensive or something you found on sale, you should be able to take the links out that you need.

How many links can you remove from a watch?

Some higher-end watches come with up to 12 extra links, giving you plenty of room to customize your fit. If you have a watch with arrows, the links that do not have arrow markings are fixed and cannot be removed. You should have plenty of links to customize your fit.

What’s the right fit for a watch?

Typically, your watch should have enough space to spin freely on your wrist if you move it but not shift as you bring your hand up or down. However, the right fit is completely up to you and your comfort.

Now you know how to remove watch links

So, there you have it. You don’t have to take your watch to the jeweler. By learning how to take links out of a watch, you can dial in the perfect fit for virtually any men's watch from home. All you need is a basic set of jeweler’s tools and a well-lit area. All your watches will fit exactly the way you need them to. Follow the steps we’ve outlined, and you'll be a pro at fitting your watches.

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Mark McKee
Contributor
Mark is a full-time freelance writer and men's coach. He spent time as a style consultant and bespoke suit salesman before…
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