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How to Change Watch Straps

We've created a few write ups to help you with the removal of your old strap or bracelet, as well as the installation of your new Crown & Buckle strap. It is an easy process that can be completed in less than 10 minutes for a beginner, and 2-3 minutes for someone with practice. As always, if you have any questions about the steps below, feel free to contact us.

Some general tips:

  • You will need a spring bar tool in order do these steps.
  • Setup your work area on a nice open surface, such as a kitchen table.
  • Lay down a towel on the table to protect the watch, and to keep things from rolling away.
  • Always work from the back side (under side) of your watch. That way, if you accidentally slip with your tool or spring bar and scratch the watch, it won't be visible.
  • Don't rush anything. Patience is key!

Crown & Buckle claims no responsibility for improper installation that results in a damaged watch or watch strap, or any material and/or personal harm of any type. If in doubt, we suggest consulting a local watchmaker or jeweler to properly install the strap for you.

To view any section, simply click on the topic, and the how-to will appear below.



Installing a Leather Strap

Step 1:

Slide your spring bars into the hole on the long and the short end of the strap. Push them all the way in so they are centered inside the strap.

Step 2:

Install the short end of the strap (the end with the buckle). It goes on the top of the watch (the end of the watch with 12 o'clock). From the back side of your watch, insert one end of the spring bar into the hole on the watch lug.

Step 3:

Use your spring bar tool to depress the other end of the spring bar, so it slides inside the watch lug. Make sure both ends of the spring bar securely snap into their holes, or the strap will fall off the watch.

Step 4:

Repeat the process on the other end of the watch. Remember, the long end of the strap (with the holes) goes on the bottom of the watch (the end with 6 o'clock). You are all finished!

Installing a NATO Strap

Please note: These instructions do not apply to Leather NATOs. We suggest using the "Installing a Leather Strap" instructions listed below, otherwise you risk scratching the leather when pulling the strap through the spring bars.

Some watches have clearances that are too tight to use this "pull through" method even with a robust nylon strap. If you feel much resistance, we suggest that you use the Leather NATO instructions, and remove the spring bars first. Nylon is a woven fabric that can fray when forcibly pulled through watch lugs that don't offer enough clearance.

Step 1:

Install both spring bars onto the watch lugs. I usually just do this with my finger, but you can use the spring bar tool if the spring bars are being difficult. Be careful not to scratch your watch.

Step 2:

Pull the long part of the strap out of the floating keeper, so the two layers of the strap are separated. This doesn't apply to 3-ring style straps.

Step 3:

Orient the strap so the keepers and the buckle face up (same direction as the watch face). Begin on the top of the watch (the end of the watch with 12 o'clock). Insert the strap between the spring bar and the watch case, and pull through.

Step 4:

Now you will do the same thing on the bottom of the watch (the end with 6 o'clock) and pull the long part of the strap back through, this time from the bottom. Again, you will pull the strap in between the watch case and the spring bar.

Step 5:

For NATO straps only: Pull the long part of the watch strap back through the floating keeper. Pull it all the way through, and snug the floating section of the strap up to the watch case.

Step 6:

Adjust the watch head on the strap so it is centered between the keepers (NATO only), and you are all finished! To change to another NATO, just do these steps in reverse up to Step 2. You do not need to remove the spring bars to change between NATO straps!

Installing a Leather NATO

We strongly recommend that you remove the spring bars from the watch to install a Leather NATO strap, as outlined in Removal section below. There is a great risk of damaging the leather surface of the strap if it is "pulled through" the spring bars, as illustrated in the "Installing a NATO Strap" section above.

Remove the spring bars from the watch. Place the strap in the lugs of the watch, in the position you would like the strap relative to the watch itself. Then, compress and re-install the spring bars from underneath the watch.

This method takes a little bit longer, but it ensures you won't end up with any scrapes or damage to the leather from rubbing on the case of the watch while "pulling it through."


Removing a Metal Bracelet

Step 1:

This step is optional, but it makes life easier. On the clasp of the bracelet, depress and remove the micro-adjustment spring bar from the clasp (use the push-pin end of your spring bar tool). This will allow the bracelet to spread apart, giving you better access to the back of the watch.

Step 2:

On the back side of the watch, where the bracelet meets the watch case, there will be two recesses on each side. These recesses let you insert the forked end of your tool onto the spring bar ridge. Apply pressure away from the watch case (towards the bracelet) to depress the spring bar.

Step 3:

With the spring bar depressed, you will need to wiggle the bracelet end out of the watch lug. You might have to depress both ends of the spring bar, making sure the other end doesn't snap back into the hole. The bracelet end generally fits tightly into the lugs, so this step might take a few tries.

Step 4:

Once you get one end out, repeat the same steps on the other end. You are all finished, and ready to install your new strap!

Removing a Strap (Leather, Rubber, etc.)

Step 1:

From the back side of your watch, insert the pronged (forked) end of your spring bar tool in between the strap and the watch lug. The spring bar has a ridge that the tool will grab, allowing it to compress.

Step 2:

Gently apply pressure inwards towards the strap (away from the watch) to depress the spring bar. At the same time, apply some downward pressure so the bar will pop out. If you press too hard/fast, the tool may slip and damage your strap or scratch your watch.

Step 3:

Repeat on the other side, and you are all done! Remove the spring bars from the old strap, and reuse them to mount your new strap.


Cut Off Second NATO Layer

This is a completely optional modification, but it can be worthwhile for some people. Trimming off the second layer of a NATO strap will make the watch/strap sit lower on your wrist. It will allow you to position the buckle/keepers anywhere on your wrist (instead of on the side of your wrist, you could position to sit underneath). Lastly, the strap will wear more slim since it removes the keeper that sits on the bottom side of your wrist. This modification can't be undone, so make sure it's something you are sure you want to do before proceeding.

Step 1:

Remove the strap from your watch, and undo the second layer from the strap as pictured.

Step 2:

Peel back the second layer as close as you can to the seam. Take a pair of scissors, and snip off the second layer.

Step 3:

To prevent any fraying, hold the flame of a lighter 1/2" off the seam you just cut to singe the nylon. Don't hold it there too long, or get too close to the strap, as the flame could leave a carbon deposit on the strap. Lace the strap back onto your watch, and you're all set.

Floating Keeper Options

This section deals with the floating keeper of 2-piece straps. The first section is useful for anyone that has noticed their floating keeper moving around a lot. The second section is for people that are on one of the last sizing holes of their strap, and can remove or reposition the floating keeper.

Gluing Keeper

If your keeper moves around a lot, glue it down. Put the keeper in a position that makes sense based on the sizing hole you use on the strap. Place a very small dab of fabric glue in between the keeper and the back side of the strap. Apply pressure for several hours while it dries. Now your keeper will stay in that fixed position.

Larger Wrists

If your position on the strap is one of the last holes, the tip of your strap may not reach the floating keeper, as pictured.

Remove Keeper

The easiest option is to remove the floating keeper. It's not necessary if you are using one of the last holes. With the strap off the watch, you can just slide the keeper off the strap.

Reposition Keeper

If you wish to retain both keepers, you can usually reposition the floating keeper in between the buckle, and the fixed keeper. Begin by removing your buckle with the spring bar tool. Work from the underside of the strap, in case you mark the leather.


Slide the keeper off the strap, and reinstall it in between the buckle and the fixed keeper. This will not work with every strap, but it's a good option for some.

Trimming a Leather NATO

This video is for trimming leather NATOs only. We don't recommend trimming nylon NATO straps. Being a woven material, nylon will fray and is hard to cut cleanly.

Misc. Topics

Regular vs Premium vs Heavy Duty NATOs

Please see our NATO Differences page for a detailed run-down.

How to Wear a NATO

Please see our Wearing a NATO page for detailed instructions.