So, you need to re-size that Twist-O-Flex (stretch) watch band that you gave your special someone. When she puts it on the first time it slides clear up to her elbow, but she loves the watch. Now you realize just how small her wrists are, and the claim of "one size fits all" is not always true. Not to worry, you are mechanically inclined and know that every band is adjustable, but you need some guidance because you do not want to damage her brand new watch. Before you shy away from the looming complexity and hand it over to a jeweler to figure out, keep reading and follow the steps hereafter. You're guaranteed to be the man of the hour, and you just might get a kiss for being savvy with your tools and talent.
In this Instructable, I will show you how to adjust a stretch watch band by removing links. If you have an old watch band to take parts from, a variation of this process may be used to insert links as well. Also if your band is broken, this Instructable will illustrate how to uncover and replace the components that have failed.
Let's get started!
Step 1: What You Will Need and Background
To carry out the rest of the process, you must have the following items:
1. The watch which you will be working on
2. Safety glasses
3. Precision screwdriver or equivalent prying tool
4. Needle nose pliers
See the photo below for the tools which I used to carry out this project.
For simplicity and to obtain good pictures I removed the band from the watch movement in this Instructable. However this is not necessary, and you may leave the band attached to the movement.
Metal stretch bands are preferred for watches because they make a watch very easy to take on and off. This is made possible by joining leaf spring cartridges together with small staples. When the band is stretched, these small metal staples rotate and press against the leaf spring creating a restoring force that returns the band to its contracted position when you let go. The inner spring cartridges usually rest directly against the skin, and to increase cosmetic appeal, the outer spring cartridges are covered with a stamped piece of metal,and may be plated. Pictures of the cosmetic cover piece (outside of the band) and staple are provided in Step 2 and Step 3 respectively.
Step 2: Getting Started
You first must know how many links need to be removed. In order to do this, place the watch onto the owner's wrist (your wrist if it's your watch) and count the number of links you must squeeze to achieve the desired fit.
Now that you know how many links to remove, bend the retaining clips away from two cosmetic covers at the beginning and end of the segment you wish to remove. Since you will need to work from the inner side of the watch band, turn the band inside-out for easy access to the retaining clips.
Pay special attention for any repeating pattern that may keep you from reassembling the band if it is disturbed. For a seamless splice at reassembly, you need the pattern to remain continuous. If the cosmetic covers are tapered or fit together in any special way, you will want to remove a segment that does not include these changes, where each cosmetic cover is a simple repeating pattern. Common to ladies' watches is a teardrop pattern mirrored at the band's midpoint.
The band I used for this Instructable was a simple repeating pattern, and all cosmetic covers were identical, therefore all links were fair game for removal.
Step 3: Exposing the Staples
Bend one cartridge tab level with the plane of the watch band at each location you removed the cosmetic cover. The objective here is to open up a path for the staple to slide out while maintaining symmetry so the watch can be joined together again. See the photos below for an illustration of this process. The fourth photo below shows an inner spring cartridge removed from the band with two of the four staples still attached.
Bend only the flaps you need to, and bend them as few times as possible. If the metal is bent multiple times, or is bent too far, chances are the tab will break off completely.
See the photo below for help choosing the proper tab to bend. The tabs you bend will determine if an outer spring cartridge or an inner cartridge will remain on the band. You must have an inner cartridge on one free end, and an outer cartridge on the other free end to be able to mate the band together again. It is permissible to use trial and error to determine which tab to bend, but opening the correct tabs in this step will save you time.
I only needed to bend two tabs, but this was because the outer cartridges did not have tabs, and relied on the cosmetic cover to hold the staples in place. If your band is designed with tab closures on all spring cartridges, then you will need to bend double the amount (four).
Step 4: Shear
Remove the segment by sliding the segment out of the watch band in a straight shearing motion. If your band doesn't separate easily, revisit step 3 to ensure you have bent enough cartridge tabs back to allow the staple to be removed.
Final symmetry is important for reassembly. Pay close attention to how this segment comes apart from the band. Remember, you have to splice the band back together! You must have an outer spring cartridge and an inner spring cartridge remaining on your watch band. If you have two outer cartridges, they will butt next to each other and not overlap properly.
If the pieces do not fit back together, reassemble one side, bend the tab closed, and revisit step 3 bending the tab adjacent to the one you did before. See picture below for further details.
Step 5: Reassembly
Reassemble the band halves by guiding the staples between the leaf spring and the cartridge casing. By examining the segment that you removed in step 4, it will be clear how the staple fits between the leaf spring and the cartridge housing.
Step 6: Button Up
Congratulations! You have the watch band in one piece again. It's all downhill from here, so take a deep breath, you are almost done!
Bend the tabs to their original orientation on the inner spring cartridge to once again enclose the staples and secure the watch band. The needle nose pliers work well to squeeze the tabs closed.
Step 7: Final Touch
Reattach the cosmetic face cover to outer spring cartridge by reversing the removal process. Ensure the cover tabs are bent flush into the notches provided in the outer spring cartridge casing. The photo below shows the cosmetic cover reattached to the spring cartridge case.
Step 8: Inspect and Complete
Inspect your work by comparing it to the rest of the band that you did not take apart. Chances are your work will be of impeccable quality and match the original factory assembly. If you spot something that needs a minor adjustment, go ahead and make a few tweaks.
You're Done! You are ready to return the watch to service. Future adjustment can be made by repeating this process. I recommend saving the parts you removed because they are good spares in case you ever need to repair a staple or spring cartridge.
Questions or Comments? Please leave a comment on the Instructable if you found the tutorial useful. Also comment if you feel a step is unclear, or you desire some further explanation. I will respond promptly to help you get going again.
I've been repairing my watch bands for years, because often times the movement outlasts the band. I've also accumulated a collection of spare parts by saving old watch bands. I recommend you do the same because from now on, you will know exactly what to do if your band breaks.