Changing a watch band can breathe new life into an old favorite, but can be trickier than it seems. You must be careful when changing the band to avoid damaging your precious watch, or even worse – spring bars flying everywhere.
In this article, we’re going to provide step-by-step instructions on how to remove an old watch band and replace it with a new one.
Best of all, we’ll share a method to do this without needing any tools.
Let’s get started.
Things You’ll Need
- A replacement strap
- Spring bars
- Microfiber cloth
- Spring bar tool (optional)
- 10 minutes
How to Remove a Leather, Nylon, or Rubber Watch Band
Removing a leather watch band is simple. Use this method for any type of two-piece band made of material, such as leather, nylon, or rubber. I’ll be using my Timex weekender for instruction, however, this method applies to most standard watches.
1. Place the Watch Face Down
- Place the watch face down on a soft surface that won’t damage the watch. A soft towel or microfiber cloth is ideal.
This will allow you to gain access to the underside of the strap, which is necessary to remove it.
2. Locate the Spring Bars
The spring bars are springy metal tubes that slide between the holes in the strap, and the watch, keeping it securely in place.
- To remove the spring bars, and the strap, we must first find the spring bars.
The spring bars are located inside of the strap, between the lugs of the watch.
3. Remove the Spring Bars
NOTE: If you have a spring bar tool, it will make this process much easier. They are very affordable, are often included with replacement watch straps, and even the top-of-the-line versions aren’t too expensive. If you don’t have a spring bar tool, don’t worry, we’ll provide a method for removing the strap without a tool in a later section.
- Find the end of the spring bar tool that has two prongs, like a mini fork.
- Gently slide the spring bar tool between the lugs of the watch, and the watch straps, until you feel it ‘hook’ onto the spring bar.
- Use the tool to push the spring bar toward the other lug. This will reduce the tension in the spring, and allow you to pull the strap upward, removing one end of the strap from the watch.
IMPORTANT: There will be times when removing one end of the spring bar will free the band, but, other times, you will need to repeat the process on both sides to remove it completely.
4. Remove the Band
Now that the spring bars have been decompressed and are no longer fixing the band in place, we’re going to remove the band entirely.
- With the spring bars detached, gently apply upward force on the strap from underneath.
- The band should now be detached from the watch.
Do not try to force the band out.
WARNING: When attempting to remove the band, cover it with your free hand. Spring bars are springy and have a tendency to fly across the room once removed. You’ll want to preserve this spring bar, as you’ll need it for reattaching a new strap later.
How to Replace a Leather, Nylon, or Rubber Watch Band
Once you remove the old band, replacing, and attaching, a new leather, nylon, or rubber band is simple.
1. Place the Watch Face Down
To prevent scratches, and gain access to the underside of the watch, where the strap can be inserted.
- Place the watch face down on a scratch-free surface such as a microfiber cloth or towel.
2. Insert the Spring Bars Into the Band
- Insert the spring bars into the loop of the band. These will be inserted into the watch, and hold the strap in place.
IMPORTANT: Ensure the spring bars are the proper size for the watch. A spring bar too small will result in your strap falling off, and a spring bar too large will get stuck in your watch. You can measure the length of the widest part of the spring bars to ensure they match up with the watch’s lug width.
Watch lug widths and spring bars are typically 18, 20, or 22mm, however, they can range from 12mm – 30mm and beyond (although rare).
3. Slide the Band Between the Lugs
This prepares the band to be fitted securely into the watch.
- Slide the watch band between the lugs.
- Slide one end of the spring bar into the holes in one of the lugs.
4. Secure the Band On the Watch
- Once the band is between the lugs, slide one end of the spring bar into the hole in the lug. This part does not require any tools and can be done with just your hands, and a bit of coordination.
- Insert the fork of your spring bar tool into the spring bar on the other end of the strap.
- Press the spring bar in (toward the other side of the watch case) while pushing the strap down into place.
- Once the spring bar is between the lugs, wiggle the strap around until you feel it ‘click’ into place.
- Give the strap a gentle tug to ensure it’s fixed into place properly.
PRO TIP: Once you secure the strap into place, make sure you give it a gentle tug to ensure it is fixed into place properly. If it isn’t, it’s better to find out now, while the watch is on your table, rather than later, when the watch is on your wrist, putting it at risk of falling and breaking.
Removing a Watch Band Without Tools
Removing the spring bars and the watch band can be done without any specialized tools.
Instead, use a long string of dental floss. You’re also much less likely to scratch your watch by using this method since dental floss isn’t as hard of a material as a [metal] spring bar remover tool.
- Loop the floss twice in between the watch strap and the case of the watch
- Slide the floss toward the strap to decompress the spring and detach that end of the strap.
- Repeat for the other side.
Watch the brief video below for detailed instructions on how to replace the band without any tools.
How to Remove a Metal Watch Bracelet
Removing a metal bracelet is similar to removing a leather, nylon, or metal band.
1. Place the Watch Face Down
Placing a watch face down prevents any scratches or damage.
- Place a watch facedown on a microfiber cloth or towel.
2. Unbuckle the Watch
Unbuckling the watch buckle will give you more room to work with, making it easier to remove the spring bars and the bracelet.
3. Remove the Buckle
Some watch bracelets with ‘quick adjust’ clasps can be removed, thus, giving you much greater access to the bracelet’s end links.
To remove the watch buckle:
- Find the ‘quick adjustment’ holes of the bracelet.
- Slide the tubed end of the spring bar tool (or the tip of a paperclip, in a pinch) into the micro-adjustment holes of the bracelet.
- Gently pull the bracelet away from the clasp while keeping the spring bar in the bracelet compressed with the spring bar tool
- The clasp should now be freed from one end of the bracelet
4. Locate the Spring Bars
The spring bars are located inside either end of the bracelet, between the watch’s lugs. They sit inside the bracelet and latch onto holes in the watch case to keep the bracelet secured in place.
- Find the spring bars on the underside of the watch.
5. Remove the Spring Bar from the Lugs
- Insert the forked end of your spring bar tool into the spring bars.
- Compress the spring bar by sliding the spring bars of one lug toward the other lug (left to right or right to left).
- While compressing the spring bar, push up on the end link of the bracelet, from underneath. This will help free one end of the bracelet from the watch.
- Repeat for the other side of the bracelet.
PRO TIP: Make sure you keep the spring bar, as you’ll need it for reattaching a new strap later.
6. Remove the Bracelet
Once both ends of the spring bar have been removed from the watch lugs, you can safely remove the bracelet from the watch.
- Gently pull up on the bracelet, away from the watch.
7. Secure the End Links and Spring Bars
Some end links, the links that are directly attached to the watch, come loose once you remove the spring bar. Don’t worry, it’s not broken.
Ensure that you keep the end links and spring bars secure as you’ll need them to reattach the bracelet after.
How to Attach a Metal Watch Bracelet
1. Place the Watch Face Down
- Place the watch face down on a microfiber cloth or towel to avoid scratches or damage.
2. Attach the End Links to the Bracelet
If the end links of the bracelet aren’t already attached to the bracelet, you will need to attach them yourself before attaching the bracelet to the watch.
- Place the end links inside the bracelet. The holes of the end links should line up with the holes of the bracelet.
- Insert the spring bars through the end links and bracelet. This holds them together.
3. Insert the End Links Into the Watch
Now that the end links have been attached to the bracelet, we must attach the end links of the bracelet to the watch itself.
- Insert one end of the spring bar into the hole in the lugs of a watch
- Using the forked end of the spring bar tool, compress the spring bar on the other side of the lugs
- While compressing the spring bar, insert the other end of the end link into the watch
- Secure the end link into place. You should hear a reassured ‘click’ once the spring bar snaps into place.
4. Secure the Bracelet
Give the bracelet a tug on both ends to ensure it is fixed into place correctly. It’s much better to find the bracelet is loose now, rather than when the watch is on your wrist and could fall to the ground!
5. Attach the Micro Adjust Buckle
TIP: Skip this step if you did not remove the micro-adjust buckle in the first place.
If you removed the micro-adjustment buckle to more easily gain access to the watch lugs, it is now time to re-attach it to the bracelet.
- Line up the micro-adjustment end of the buckle with the other end of the buckle.
- Insert the spring bar into one end of the micro-adjustment buckle.
- Compress the spring bar, fitting into the other end of the micro-adjustment buckle.
Again, once completed, be sure to give the micro-adjustment buckle a gentle tug to ensure it is fitted securely, and won’t pop off while wearing the watch.
How to Remove a Band or Bracelet With Drilled Lugs
What are Drilled Lugs?
If there are little holes drilled into the outside of your watch case, these are called ‘drilled lugs’. If your watch has drilled lugs, you’re in luck! This will make removing a band 100x easier.
1. Compress the Spring Bar Through the Drilled Lugs
- Slide the tubed end of the spring bar tool into the drilled lug, from the outside of the watch case.
- Press the tool into the spring bar to compress it enough that you can pull one end of the band or bracelet out while compressing the spring bar.
2. Remove the Band or Bracelet
While compressing the spring bar, remove the band or bracelet from the watch.
- Continue to compress the spring bar.
- Gently pull one side of the band or bracelet away from the watch.
- Repeat the process for the other side, compressing the spring bar, and removing the band/bracelet from the watch.
- Once both sides of the band/bracelet have been removed, simply pull the band/bracelet off of the watch completely.
How to Insert a Band or Bracelet With Drilled Lugs
Inserting a band or bracelet into a watch with drilled lugs is simple.
1. Place the Watch Face Down
- Place the watch face down on a soft microfiber cloth or towel to avoid scratches.
2. Insert the Spring Bars Into the Band or Bracelet
- Push the spring bar inside of the hole at the end of the watch band/bracelet.
3. Hold the Band/Bracelet Against the Watch
- Hold the spring bar end of the band/bracelet against the watch, between its lugs.
4. Compress the Spring Bars
- Compress the spring bar inside of the strap so that it can fit into the watch lugs.
5. Push the Band/Bracelet Into The Watch
- While the spring bar is being compressed, push the strap in between the lugs of the watch.
6. Secure the Band/Bracelet Into the Drilled Lugs
- Once the band/bracelet is fitted between the lugs, slide it around until the spring bar “clicks” into place in the drilled lugs.
How to Remove a Quick Release Watch Strap
A quick-release watch strap has a unique spring bar that can be released with just your fingers. This makes strap changes quick and easy.
1. Place the Watch Face Down
Placing it face down can help keep the watch scratch-free while gaining access to the quick release.
- Place the watch face down on a soft microfiber cloth or towel.
2. Slide the Quick-Release
- Place your thumb on the quick release and slide it to the right to compress the spring in the spring bar.
3. Remove the Strap
- While keeping the spring bar compressed, slide one end of the watch strap out from the watch.
- Slide the other end of the spring bar out from the watch.
How to Insert a Quick Release Watch Strap
Inserting a quick-release watch strap is just as easy as removing it.
1. Insert One End of the Strap into the Watch
- Insert the end opposite of the quick-release tab into the watch.
2. Compress the Quick Release
- Compress the quick-release tab.
3. Insert the Other End of the Strap Into the Watch
- While compressing the quick-release tab, insert the other end of the watch strap into the watch.
4. Secure the Strap Into Place
- Secure the spring bar of the strap into the hole in the watch lugs. You should hear a satisfying “click” when the spring bar finds its place in the watch.
- Give the strap a gentle tug to ensure it is secured into place.
Always remember to give your strap a gentle tug once you’ve replaced it. This will ensure it is secured into place properly.
If the strap is not secured properly, it’s better to find out now, when the watch is in your hands, or on your table, rather than when it is on your wrist, and could fall to the ground!
How to Remove a NATO Strap
NATO straps are one of the easiest straps to remove or replace. This makes it convenient, and easy to mix and match different straps, very quickly. Removing a NATO strap is simple.
1. Remove the Tail End of the NATO From the Buckle
A NATO is not just fixed through the spring bars, but also an extra layer of material, and a buckle, in itself.
To remove the NATO from the watch, first, you must remove the tail end of the NATO strap from the buckle that keeps it securely locked onto the watch in the first place.
- Remove the tail end of the NATO strap from its sliding buckle.
2. Remove the NATO from the Spring Bars
Once you remove the NATO from the buckle, removing it completely from the watch is simple. You don’t even need to remove the spring bars!
- Remove the rest of the NATO strap from the spring bars at 6:00.
- Remove the NATO strap from the spring bars at 12:00.
How to Insert a NATO Strap
1. Insert the NATO into the Spring Bars
- Insert the tail end of the NATO strap over the spring bars.
- Slide the strap over the spring bars at 12:00
- Slide the strap under the watch case.
- Slide the strap over the spring bars at 6:00.
- Insert the tail end of the strap into the sliding buckle.
2. Insert the Tail End of the NATO Into The Buckle
Once the NATO is secured through the spring bars, we must slide it into the hardware buckle that is fixed onto the NATO.
- Insert the tail end of the NATO strap into the sliding buckle.
This will keep the NATO strap secured in place on your watch, keeping the strap on your wrist, even if either spring bar were to come off.
How to Remove an Apple Watch Band
Whether its’ an Apple Watch series 7, older, or a newer model, we’ve got you covered. Here’s how to change an Apple watch band.
- Turn off your Apple Watch. This will prevent accidentally activating, or damaging your Apple Watch during the process.
- Put your Apple Watch face down on a clean, soft surface, such as a microfiber cloth or towel.
- Hold down the watch band release button on the top of the Apple watch. You can use your fingertip, fingernail, or a soft object that won’t scratch metal such as a wooden toothpick, etc. Avoid using anything metal as that may scratch your watch.
- Slide the band away from the watch.
- Release the ‘band release’ button.
- Repeat for the bottom band.
How to Replace an Apple Watch Band
Inserting a new watch band onto your Apple Watch is as simple as reversing the process.
NOTE: You must use dedicated Apple Watch straps with your Apple Watch. Regular watch straps will not work on the Apple Watch unless you use a dedicated Apple Watch Adapter.
- Slide the Apple Watch band into the space of the Apple Watch where you’ve removed the strap previously.
- Adjust the strap until it ‘clicks’ into place.
- Give your strap a gentle tug to ensure it is securely fitted into place.
- Repeat for the other strap.
If the band doesn’t ‘click’, it’s likely it is not fit securely into your watch just yet. Be sure to give it a few tugs to ensure it is secure, and won’t fall off your wrist while wearing it.
Changing a watch band can be simple once you know how. Simply find the type of watch band that you are trying to change, and follow the instructions above.
If you’re still stuck, don’t worry! We’re here to help. Drop us a comment down below with the strap you’re trying to change, and we’ll happily walk you through it.– Anthony