Changing your watch bracelet or strap is one of those relatively simple operations that anyone should be able to do at home. With a little practice and know-how, it’s possible to learn how to change most straps, but there’s one tool that makes the job much easier: the humble spring-bar tool.
A watch’s strap or bracelet is almost always held in place by two small steel spring-loaded bars that fit between the lugs, and while removing them doesn’t necessarily require a dedicated tool, using one certainly makes the operation easier. Many of these tools also come with a micro-flathead screwdriver for use in removing links from bracelets, making them even more useful.
This is the prototypical heavy-duty spring bar tool. Manufactured by Swiss outfit Bergeon, the 6111 features reversible tips: one with a small forked end for removing spring bars and a pointed end for removing links pins, and the second features a larger forked end and a straight end. The tool also has a knurled handle for an easy and secure grip and will work on just about any watch you can throw at it.
If you change watch straps while traveling, it pays to check out this option from Crown & Buckle, designed in collaboration with Worn & Wound. The tool attaches to your keyring and unscrews in the middle, revealing a forked bit for strap changing that threads into the handle. Also included is a second threaded bit with a pointed end for drilled lugs, but unfortunately (and the one drawback of this tool) is that you can’t store the second bit in the tool itself — you would have to carry it separately, or in the plastic sheath that the tool ships in. Other than that, this 3″ compact tool is perfect for strap changing on the go.
This ergonomic W&W model features two capped ends, each of which holds a reversible bit that doesn’t require re-threading — simply pop it out of the tool, reverse it, and pop it back in, and it’s held in place with a gasket. You get a .8mm poker, a 1.6mm fork, a 1.4mm flat-head and a 1.8mm flat-head screwdriver. The poker works on drilled lugs, the fork for standard lugs, and the screwdrivers work for lug bars, bezels, bracelet links and more. Each end has a screw-on cap to protect it (and prevent the tips from destroying your backpack).
This kit consists of a thick plastic sleeve with two tools, one of which is a heavy-duty, knurled 5-inch tool with a reversible stainless steel tip, featuring both forked and pointed ends. The second tool is jeweler’s mini flat-head screwdriver with a 1.6mm tip, made for installing or removing screws on watch bracelets. Though this tool kit doesn’t feature the same innovation factor as some of the more original spring bar tools above, you’re getting two dedicated, purpose-built heavy-duty tools that you’d have to work pretty damn hard to wear out.
Everest Premier Bracelet/Spring Bar Tool & Installation Set
This kit from Everest is fairly straightforward in that it essentially consists of a Bergeon 61110-type strap-changing tool (see Bergeon entry above) and the same 1.6mm flat-head jeweler’s screwdriver that comes in the Everest Travel Spring Bar Tool Kit. Hey — if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
Normally, a spring bar tool has a single forked end that’s used to remove one end of the soring bar at a time, but this model manufactured by Bergeon for Hodinkee has double forked ends, meaning you can release both ends of a spring bar simultaneously. What’s more, you can adjust the distance between the two ends as well as the forks themselves. This is a heavy-duty aluminum tool made for the serious watch lover, and though it’s certainly not cheap, it’s one of the best you can buy.