Changing your watch strap or bracelet 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.
Bergeon 6111 Heavy Duty Metal Spring Bar Tool Read More
Crown & Buckle Keyring Spring Bar Tool Read More
Worn & Wound Strap-Changing Multi-Tool Read More
Everest Travel Oyster Spring Bar Tool Kit Read More
Everest Premier Oyster Bracelet/Spring Bar Tool & Installation Set Read More
Everything You Need to Know About Watch Straps
- How to Buy a Watch Strap
- How to Change a Watch Strap
- How to Adjust a Metal Watch Bracelet
- How to Trim a NATO Strap
- How to Get the Right Size Watch Strap
- Every Kind of Watch Band You Need
How to Use a Spring Bar Tool
These are very simple instruments with, at their most basic, a forked end that allows you to pry spring bars from between your watch's lugs. Many have a different size tool at each end or another tool, like a pusher pin, and some are removable/reversible to add even more functionality. We're going to discuss how to use its most fundamental feature: the forked tip for classic spring bar removal.
Spring bars are spring-loaded metal tubes that hold the strap in place between a watch's lugs. They fit into tiny holes on the inside of a watch's lugs. When changing a strap you need to remove them from these holes, and this is where the spring bar tool comes in.
Removing Spring Bars: The end of the spring bar which fits into the lug's holes should have grooves where the spring bar tool can find purchase. You'll want to keep the tool at 90 degrees while applying inward pressure, rather than using a prying motion that could scratch the lugs. This can be fiddly and take a few tries (and you might find yourself also pushing against the strap material itself), but you should be able to feel when it pops out. Try to release the spring's tension slowly so that the spring bar doesn't go flying (it happens anyway).
Replacing Spring Bars: Place one end of the spring bar in one of the lugs' holes. Line the other end up with the other hole from the underside of the watch's lugs (because there's always a chance for scratches, and you don't want them on the top of the lugs) and compress the spring bar to fit it between the lugs. You can use the spring bar tool for this, but a dedicated tool often isn't necessary. Once you've got the spring bar between the lugs, carefully move it toward the hole until you hear and feel it click into place. Double-check that it's secure.
Note: If you have a very expensive watch and are afraid of scratches even on the inside of the lugs, have a professional do it.
How We Tested
There are many, many spring bar tools available on the likes of Amazon, and they're worth exploring. Many brands even send you a free one when you buy a strap. And there are yet even more accessories and tools you might want for your watches. Below, however, are the best spring bar tools we've actually tested and survived our own demanding strap-changing lifestyle.
Bergeon 6111 Heavy Duty Metal Spring Bar Tool
- Number of Tools: 3
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.
Crown & Buckle Keyring Spring Bar Tool
- Number of Tools: 1
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.
Worn & Wound Strap-Changing Multi-Tool
- Number of Tools: 4
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).
Everest Travel Oyster Spring Bar Tool Kit
- Number of Tools: 3
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 a 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
- Number of Tools: 4
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!
Hodinkee Silver Spring Bar Plier Tool
- Number of Tools: 1
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.