How to change a watch strap by Extropian

Watch straps
Remove a watch strap
Spring bars
Drilled lugs
#NATO style straps
How to change a watch strap by Extropian

Changing a watch strap is something every watch lover should know how to do. Who wants to pay to have it done at a jeweler’s when you can just as easily do it yourself in the comfort of your own home, right?!

What you will need

To change the strap on a watch with lugs (and not one with an integrated bracelet, which is another thing entirely!), the main thing you’ll need is a spring bar tool. These come in many forms, but it’s a good idea to get one with both a forked and pointed end so you can tackle watches with and without drilled lugs (see below). It’s also a good idea to have a few spare spring bars to hand in case you lose any while changing the strap!

You’ll also need a clean, flat workspace covered with soft cloth to avoid scratching the watch case, crystals, and bracelet (if it’s made of metal).

Correct positioning of strap

A watch strap usually has two parts: one shorter and one longer. Make sure that the shorter part is attached to the top of the watch (12 o’clock), and the longer part to the bottom (6 0’clock).

How to remove a watch strap

First, lay your watch on the table, face down. Carefully insert the forked end of the spring bar tool between the strap and the lug until you feel it grab the ridge of the spring bar. Then press down to compress the spring bar until one end of the strap comes loose. Now you can gently remove the strap and repeat the process for the other part.

While doing all this, be careful not to scratch the lugs. A handy tip is to cover them with a small piece of duct tape.

How to install a watch strap

Now that you’ve taken one strap off, you’ll want to put another one on. So…

First, insert a spring bar into each end of the strap. Then place one end of the bar into one of the lug holes and use the spring bar tool to compress the other end so that it slips into the opposite lug. You should be able to feel the end of the spring bar click back into place, but always give the strap a gentle tug to make sure it’s properly secure before wearing.

Changing a metal bracelet requires some extra care as they’re a tighter fit and more difficult to compress than leather or rubber. So always be super-careful not to scratch the watch!

Drilled lugs

Some watches have drilled lugs, which basically means they have a hole going all the way through the lugs. This makes the whole process a little easier as you can simply insert the pointed end of the spring bar tool into the outer side of the lugs to compress the bars, which instantly releases the strap.

Quick release spring bars

Even handier, some straps are fitted with quick release spring bars. These have a small knob on the bar which compresses it instantly, allowing you to change straps in a matter of seconds without using any tools at all. They’re great if you change straps a lot, but not recommended for heavier watches as they can pop out more easily and send your watch flying!

NATO style straps

NATO style straps are designed to be changed very easily, often without removing the spring bars. But for thicker NATOs (especially leather) it may be necessary to do so beforehand and position the watch by hand rather than ‘pulling through’.

Removing a NATO style strap

First, remove the bottom keeper from the bottom half of the strap. Then gently pull the strap through the bottom spring bar. Finally, pull the rest of the strap through the top spring bar until it comes free of the case.

Installing a NATO style strap

First, thread the longer half of the strap through the top spring bar, making sure the shorter retaining piece is facing away from you. Keep pulling the strap until the watch head sits near the topmost keeper. Then thread the bottom half of the strap through the bottom spring bar. And finally, fold the bottom tip of the longer end of the strap through the lower metal keeper on the shorter (retaining) side of the strap and pull it all the way through.

Now all that’s left is to adjust the position of the watch on the strap (if necessary), and you’re ready to go!


So, as we can see, changing a watch strap is actually pretty easy! Now you’re free to experiment with as many new straps as you like!

Created the 2023-05-10

Modified the 2024-03-15

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