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Link Pins & Screws

By David Christianson, Certified Master Watchmaker

The link bracelet is held together in several ways. In recent articles we've covered mesh varieties and how to fit links back onto cases. Here we cover how to use link-pin tools to quickly replace the lost or bent metal link in your bracelet.

Remove The Pin

Pins are the most common method used to hold links together. Some pins are smooth, some are ribbed and some resemble cotter pins, where one end splits open to tighten it in place. All can be removed quickly using a thin punch in your staking tool or by using a tool supplied by the watch manufacturer. Several wellknown watch brands supply a link-pin remover when you first work with their watches.

Link Pin A

Find the old pin. In some cases it's flush with the edge of the link - particularly on finely polished models. Rotate the edge under a sharp light to see the outline of the end of the pin.

The outline may appear to be a screw, but more likely you're seeing the line created by a split pin - which resembles a cotter pin. This is the most common pin used today. Less common is a pin held in place by a small sleeve at each end (see illustration on the left for a view of this pin from the edge of the link).

For either type of common pin, the replacement process is the same. Place the bracelet in a staking tool or tool supplied by the watch manufacturer. Drive the old pin out of its hole using a hammer on a punch. Choose a punch with the largest diameter that will pass through the hole at the edge.

Link Pin B

Grasp the end of the pin with your pliers and pull it out or gently move it side to side. If the pin is the type shown in the illustration on the right, take care not to lose the sleeves at either end. Measure the pin and note it for future reference if needed. Locate the correct replacement pin from your supply and place it in the hole as the bracelet remains supported in a bench block. Use your hammer to tap it into place.

Custom Model Screws

If you see a specialised screw, you'll need to contact the manufacturer for the correct screw size and possibly a custom replacement device. This will allow you to remove the old screw and insert the new one.

If you tend to lose these screws or if they need to be replaced frequently, a drop of liquid metal glue called Lock-Tite will suffice. One variety (in the red tube) requires you to heat the link if you ever need replace it. The other type (in a blue tube) allows the screw to be removed by hand.

Reprinted with permission from the Professional Jeweler Magazine. For more information, please visit the American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute (AWCI).