How Watch Bracelet Links Are Attached

How Watch Bracelet Links Are Attached

Anyone who has bought a watch on a metal bracelet had to, at some point in time, pull his or her hair out of frustration. There is nothing fun about adding or removing links to adjust a bracelet, whether the links are held together by pins or screws. Rarely have I come across a bracelet where everything worked as it should (except on higher-end models) and I bet you haven’t either. But this begs the question: how are links of bracelets attached together? Is there a better system over another? More specifically, how is it done in modern times? Furthermore, as we will see, there seems to be a consensus amongst watch collectors as to which system is best. We will also discuss how bracelets are attached to a clasp. 

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Push-Pins: the Cheapest and Least Secure 

Push-pins are notorious on affordable watches. Seiko is particularly known for putting them on their lower tier models. If you buy a vintage Seiko 5 you will most likely find yourself nose-to-nose with push-pins. As their name might indicate, they have the shape of a small bobby pin squished together tight to fit inside a bracelet link. One end is slightly larger than the other, requiring insertion and removal from only one direction. Watch manufacturers typically engrave arrows on the inner side of the links to indicate which way to do so. Push-pins are relatively easy to remove using a special tool and a bit of patience, but are regarded as being the least secure as they can dislodge themselves over time. 

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Pins and Collars: the Most Robust and Difficult to Remove 

If you’ve owned a Seiko at some point in time, and it didn't use push-pins, you've probably come across pins and collars. They consist of a long circular tube (pin) that is inserted inside a smaller hollow tube (collar). The collar sits in the middle of the link. As the pin is inserted, the collar slightly expands, making it very secure. This tight fit makes these a pain to remove, as one needs to use a small hammer to dislodge the pins from the collars. The collars are also very small and easy to lose, rendering the pins useless. Although they are difficult to use, pins and collars can be found on professional watches that require very robust bracelets. 

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Screws: the Perfect in-between

Nowadays, more and more brands use screws to attach the links of a bracelet together. Screws are relatively secure and easier to remove than both push-pins and pins and collars. One needs a quality screw-driver of the right size to properly add or remove the screws. If they are made right, they are very secure. If they aren’t, they can be hard to put back as I’ve often found that one screw doesn’t always fit in two links. There is something about how the threads inside the links were machined that doesn’t always guarantee a perfect fit. Screws also come with the advantage to be easier to replace if lost. 

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What’s the Consensus? 

I can only speak from personal experience, but it seems that more and more brands turn to screws because they are the easiest to operate. I do agree and generally prefer screws over push-pins and pins and collars. But, as mentioned above, I've come across multiple bracelets with imperfect threads inside the links. This makes removing or installing screws a bit difficult. With that said, a well-made bracelet that comes with good screws is a joy to adjust, and one has to pay a little extra to have this experience.  Everest Journal How Bracelet Links Are AttachedSource:

How Are Bracelets Attached to Clasps? 

Again based on my experience, bracelets are attached to clasps either with screws (and this is often the case if the links are attached to one another with screws,) some sort of pins and sometimes spring bars. Because of how much wear and tear is put on bracelets, I feel that using screws makes more sense, although, again, they have to be well machined. Very rarely, you'll see bracelets attached to clasps with non-removable pins that looked welded. 

Everest Journal How Bracelet Links Are Attached

Final Thoughts 

If you're a bracelet person, then you've definitely spent a lot of time weighing the pros and cons of push-pins, pins and collars, and screws. While it’s important to keep the bracelet links securely attached, it is equally important to be able to remove them easily—if not only for your mental well-being. Which system do you prefer? Please leave your comments below. 

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