How To Change a Watch Strap

Changing watch straps is a fun way to get some variation into your daily wrist game, and for us watch addicts it’s a way to save money too! Because a new strap will change the look and feel of any watch and you will last a little longer before having to buy another watch again!

Changing watch straps is fun


But how to do it? It's not that hard. With a little practice, you'll be able to change straps in a couple of minutes, and with the right tools you run less risk of scratching your watch.

Watch straps and watch bracelets are attached to the watch with so-called spring bars.

spring bars for attaching watch straps
They are small stainless-steel pins that sit between the lugs of the watch and hold the strap in place. Make sure you know the lug width of your watch because spring bars come in various lengths. The most common lengths are 18, 20 or 22 mm. There is a spring inside the bar so that the ends can be pressed down a bit into their wider middle part. It's a good idea to have a few spares, as they have a tendency to fly across the room unless you're careful. Most watches have little holes for the spring bars on the inside of the lugs like this:

 Vintage watch caseback lug holes

On some watches the holes are drilled right through the lugs like this:

Rolex Oyster Precision with drilled lug holes

Either way, what you need is a spring bar tool. They have one straight pointy end which is for drilled lug holes, and one fork shaped end for non-drilled through holes.

Spring bar tool

If your watch has drilled holes, simply stick the spring bar tool into the hole from the outside and push in while gently pulling the strap away from the watch case. The spring bar will then pop out of the hole and the strap can be removed.

If your watch does not have drilled lug holes, you need to carefully shove the fork shaped end of the spring bar tool between the lug and the strap.

Spring bar tool in action


It helps if you apply a little pressure to the strap to expose a gap, like this:

Removing a leather strap from watch

This is the tricky bit but you need to stick the tool between the strap and the lug of the watch find the spot between the two flanges and there apply a sideways force pushing away from the watch lug forcing the spring inside the bar to contract and let the end of the bar free.

where to put the spring bar tool on the spring bar

Steel bracelets have little slots on the back side of the end links to let you reach the spring bars with the tool.

Seiko SKX007 case back oyster bracelet

If removing a bracelet it may be easier to first disconnect the bracelet at the clasp to give you more room. Disconnect the clasp using the pointy end of the spring bar tool here. There is a little spring bar there too.

Stainless steel link bracelets can be disconnected here at the clasp

Once you've been able to remove the old strap or bracelet, it is time to fit the new one. This is the fun part! It's really just a matter of following the process above but the other way around.

Start by putting the spring bar through the loop of the strap, or through the holes in the bracelet end links. Then, using the spring bar tool, push down the other end of the spring bar while gently pushing the strap in place with your other hand. Take car not to scratch the watch case. After a little practice you will get it. There is a certain satisfaction to hearing the spring bar pop into place once you have managed to guide it to the hole. 

How to fit a watch strap

Before wearing the watch, make sure to pull the straps gently and then gradually a bit harder to make sure that the spring bar really sits correctly with both ends in the right place.

I hope you found this guide useful and that you are now ready to start playing around with different straps for your watches! 

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