How do I know if the bracelet on my watch has stretched?

Buying a pre-owned watch can be a nerve-wracking experience, we understand that. As with most expensive purchases you will probably want to run your eye over every inch of your new timepiece before purchasing.

Given enough high quality pictures it will usually be fairly obvious if there's damage or scuffing on the outside of the watch but how can you tell if the bracelet has stretched? After all, the amount of stretching the bracelet has seen over its life could make the difference between a comfortable wear and your new purchase sliding up and down your wrist every time you move.

What is Bracelet Stretch?

Despite the name 'bracelet stretch' isn't actually caused by stretching of the bracelet materials, rather, the main reason a watch will begin to flop around on the wrist is wearing of the links and pins which get gradually eroded by rubbing against dirt and grime until there is a bigger gap between the link and the pin. While some watches will suffer from this less than others, bracelet stretch is something that happens to all watches over time.

How to tell if the bracelet is stretched?

The best way to tell if a watch has a stretched bracelet is to hold it on its side and see if the bracelet flops down at all. If you are buying online get the seller to send you picture or video of them holding the watch on its side with the bracelet unsupported to give you an idea of the amount of stretch. Bracelet Stretch is generally measured in percentages with 90-95% indicating no or negligible stretch and 75% and downwards being when watches start to feel noticeably loose.

Some watch materials are more susceptible to bracelet stretch than others so more attention should be paid when making a purchase to avoid buying a watch with a stretched bracelet. Softer metals such as gold mean that the links can become eroded more quickly.  

The age of a watch is obviously also an important factor. Recent advances in solid link bracelets used by some manufacturers such as Rolex mean this will be less likely in the future, but in general you should pay particular attention to watches made in the 1980s and before.

What to do if you have a stretched bracelet?

If the bracelet on your watch is stretched it should be put in for repair with an experienced professional in order to get the pins replaced. TWG Watches offer bracelet repair as part of our servicing options if you are concerned about stretching on your bracelet.

Minimising Bracelet Stretch

While some amount of wear is inevitable over the lifetime of a watch the best way to minimise its effects are:

  • Keep your watch clean. As mentioned stretching is caused by dirt and grime wearing away the pins on the watch bracelet. The best way to do this is using an ultrasonic bath but it can also be done manually. If you need any advice on cleaning your watch feel free to contact us.
  • Wear your watch tightly - but not too tight! Wearing your watch too tightly or too loosely can cause additional wearing on the pins. The most effective way to prevent it is to wear your watch comfortably tight but so that you can still slip a finger between the bracelet and your wrist.

If you need any more advice on identifying, preventing or repairing your watch bracelet contact TWG Watches or fill in our servicing form and we will be happy to help.