How to remove watch links from the strap on your new watch

how to remove watch links
Andy Boxall/Senior Writer
Your new smartwatch is in front of you, but you can’t wear it because the metal link strap is sized for someone with arms like tree trunks. What you need is to remove watch links from it. Time for a trip to your local jeweller, right? Not if you’ve planned ahead, because adjusting metal link watch bands isn’t difficult, provided you have the right tools, some patience, and a little time.

Acquiring the tools and knowledge to remove links from the band yourself will help for any future watch or cool strap purchases you make, and likely make you popular among watch-owning, but less skilled, friends too. Here’s how to remove watch links from a metal watch strap.

The right tools

This is important. You can’t adjust the strap with a hair pin and the hammer you used to hang that picture. However, you also don’t need to buy equipment that cost more than the watch. For our demo here, we are using the Mudder Watch Band Link Remover, purchased from Amazon U.K . for 7 British pounds. Oddly, it’s not in the U.S. Amazon store, but there are many other options. This similar watch toolkit from Bluedot is $7.50, while this SE Link Pin Remover Tool is less than $4.

how to remove watch links

Inside the box will be a selection of pin punches, a little hammer, and a watch tool for securing the band. There are other band adjustment options available with a winder attached to the tool, instead of using a little hammer. While these look easier to use, they can be more complicated to line-up during the pin removal process, and the pins are easier to lose straight after removal. Either system will do the job, but we’ll focus on the hammer-and-pin-tool system here.

The only other tool you may need is a pair of needle nose pliers. This isn’t essential, but sometimes the pins have a habit of getting stuck, and you’ll need a strong grip to get them out. We also suggest a small container to put the links and pins in after you remove them, so they don’t get lost.

The environment

You need a flat surface, and lots of light. Don’t do it in the middle of the night, or anywhere people want quiet, because hammering the pins out is a surprisingly noisy process. Make sure you’ve got plenty of time, as by rushing you run the risk of damaging the pins, links, or the watch itself. You don’t want a more expensive visit the jewellers.

How to adjust the strap

watch
Andy Boxall/Senior Writer

Step 1: Put the watch on and assess how many links need to be removed before it fits properly. With the clasp done up, pinch it at the side and see how many links gather together. This gives you an idea of whether two, four, or six links need to come out.

how to remove watch links

Step 2: Remove the watch and look at the underneath of the strap. You should see tiny arrows on one side. The direction they point in is the way the pins securing each link needs to come out. Generally, the pins go back in the opposite direction when replacing them.

how to remove watch links

Step 3: Grab your watch tool kit and select a pin punch and the small hammer. Fit the watch strap in the watch tool. The arrows should face down, with the pin destined to be removed over one of the small holes in the tool’s base. This allows the pin to drop down into the tool, but not roll away never to be seen again.

Step 4: Let’s assume you’re taking out four links in total. This is two from either side of the clasp. Locate the pin next to the clasp, and place the pin punch on the top. With the hammer, tap the punch with the hammer until the pin pops through. This takes a little force, but don’t go at it like you’re Thor holding Mjölnir.

Step 5: Remove the watch band from the tool and extract the pin. This is where the needle nose pliers may be needed to finally extract the pin from the strap. The watch strap will now be in two, and you need to repeat the process with the pin securing the required number of links to the rest of the strap. When you’re done, you should have two removed links, and a still separated strap. Keep the pins safe, you’re going to need them.

how to remove watch links

Step 6: Most pins that secure watch straps are alike, but there are differences. In our demo, we adjusted the strap on the Emporio Armani Connected smartwatch. It uses split pins, which if mistreated will bend and may get stuck in the strap, so be careful. If you’re adjusting the metal band on a Casio watch, the pins will have little metal ferrule. They’re tiny and easy to lose. Don’t forget to put them back in when refitting the pins as otherwise the pin will just fall out later on. The point is, pay attention when removing the pins on your watch strap, and be prepared for surprises.

how to remove watch links

Step 7: Now it’s time to attach the strap back to the clasp. Put the watch band back in the tool, but this time with the arrows facing up. The pins need to go in the opposite way to which they came out. Put the pin in the hole. It should go in a short way without a fight, but will need hammering home. Take your time.

how to remove watch links

Step 8: The strap should now be one piece again. We’d suggest trying the watch on again to make sure you didn’t misjudge how many links needed to be removed. Provided another two need to come out, repeat steps two to seven above on the other side of the clasp. When you’re done, your new watch should have a strap that fits your wrist.

That’s it, a watch strap adjusted without leaving your home, and you’ll have the tools to do it again in the future.

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