Anyone who personally received their Rolex from a retailer will most likely have tried it on to make sure it fits. And if it does not, because of the bracelet being either too wide or too tight, you’re in the right place to have that changed. But those who, for example, get their Rolex sent, buy it second hand, or just want to try a change in the band width, should not be discouraged, but pay attention to a few things:
With the right pocket knife, the bracelet links can be removed. However, it is advisable to have a few more specialized tools at hand, without it having to be the complete set of a watchmaker. A screwdriver of the right size is the most important, ideally the right watchmaker screwdriver. These can be bought everywhere for small money, a good choice would be e.g. the “Topmodell No. 6899-160, 1.6 mm” of the renowned manufacturer Bergeon. Even better is the original Rolex screwdriver with the reference 2100, which is a bit more expensive but fits exactly and can easily be purchased from the official Rolex dealer and various online platforms. The watch spring bar tool is perfect for releasing the strap from the closing lid. And in order to secure the pins against unintentional loosening during the final assembly, it is usually recommended to use some screw locking adhesive, e.g. Loctite.
A spacious worktop makes sense, a soft surface also protects the watch and prevents pins and bars from bouncing away. Of course, the questions of which link is to be removed, or where it should be added, depends on the current state of the band. It is vital for a good fit of the watch on the wrist that the clasp at the end sits as centrally as possible.
Which link first?
Does something have to be removed or inserted at all? Admittedly, we are actually already beyond this point … but please note: the Oyster band shown here already has a remarkable length adjustability due to its main field of application as a bracelet for a diver’s watch. Depending on which water temperatures the dive is to take place in, Submariner, Sea-Dweller etc. have to adapt quickly and easily to very different diving suit thicknesses. For this purpose, the ingenious extension elements Glidelock, Fliplock and Easylink are available, with which the band width can be adjusted in fine gradations of up to almost 5cm. Of course you should try that out first …
If you do want to remove elements, you can start on most models on the 6 o’clock side, another element would follow on the other side. In Submariner, Sea-Dweller and Deepsea, however, the reverse is true. Again, the result should of course be the most centered possible positioning of the watch and clasp. Incidentally, it makes sense to ensure that removed pins are screwed back into their original thread. Although the Rolex-typical perfection usually prevents problems here, slightly different sizes or threads can hamper the perfect fit if screw pins are confounded.
When removing the pins you should definitely pay attention to unwanted slipping of the tools. Scratches on the band or clasp can happen quickly (even more so on soft precious materials) and are extremely annoying – the tip of a screwdriver in your hand may be even more painful. Basically a warming up of the bracelet is never wrong and if you are afraid of scratches, masking with tape is a possibility. If the pins are secured with glue and cannot be removed, the heating of the respective spot with a hair dryer helps.
Now that the desired link is removed and you want to reassemble the bracelet, the screw glue (e.g., Loctite 221) could be used. Many do not use this by the way – and probably never have any ensuing problems. Good workmanship of pins and threads (as can be expected with Rolex) should ensure that they hold without glue. Whether you want to take your chances or not, you’ll have to decide for yourself. However, different reasons can lead to the loosening of a screw connection, e.g. the exchange of the pins or a damaged thread, whether due to production or because it was screwed in incorrectly. If you use too much screw glue now, it will make the next removal unnecessarily difficult! In any case: tighten the screw pins “by touch, fingertight”
And here in practice at the bracelets Oyster, Jubilee and President:
Continuously updated article, originally put online in February 2018