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Thread: Why do old watch bracelets feel so weak?

  1. #1
    Craftsman
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    Why do old watch bracelets feel so weak?

    I have a few vintage pieces, and have handled several more, and all of the vintage bracelets tend to feel fragile, cheap and thin. Now, I understand that over time they get weaker and stretch, but even pristine examples have the same feel. The feel is similar to cheap Seiko bracelets. This results in me typically replacing vintage bracelets almost immediately, putting the watch on a nice new leather strap.

    Is it simply an example of non-solid end links? Or were bracelets back then manufactured to be lighter (with thinner metal), or more "disposable" as leather straps still are? Even cheap modern watches like Steinhart and Christoper Ward tend to have solid bracelets.

    Can those who bought these old watches when they were new shed some light? Did they feel more solid when new? It may well be the case that modern watches, along with increasing case sizes, have also resulted in increasingly heavy bracelets too.

  2. #2
    Grand Master JasonM's Avatar
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    I think historically bracelets were just function over form, and just didnít need to be made Ďheavyí.Today it is more a marketing thing, it needs to be heavy and solid to compete in the feeling of quality stakes.
    Cheers..
    Jase

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by JasonM View Post
    I think historically bracelets were just function over form, and just didnít need to be made Ďheavyí.Today it is more a marketing thing, it needs to be heavy and solid to compete in the feeling of quality stakes.
    That's right. For example, previous-generation Rolex bracelets are just as strong as their modern counterparts; they have the same amount of material where it counts and are seamless.

    The extra metal in the centre of a machined link does nothing but add weight.

  4. #4
    Master Der Amf's Avatar
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    That added weight is sometimes useful for balancing the weight that's been added to the typical watch head.....

  5. #5
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    I think the original intention with watch bracelets was to keep them light. As already stated, extra weight adds nothing to the strength of the bracelet.....think about how it's constructed and this point will become more obvious.

    The old style cantilever clasps feel a bit loose and rattly but once they're snapped shut they should feel OK. Often the pins are worn and sprained, but usually these can be replaced. I`ve just sorted one out on a 70s Omega and it feels fine...or as fine as it ever did.

    Old-style end links will always have a bit of play in them owing to the design, but if they're fitted correctly this isn`t noticeable.

    The weakest part of any bracelet is usually the springbars. The weight and heft of modern bracelets is specifically designed to give a feeling of perceived quality in my opinion.

    Paul

  6. #6
    Indeed, the flanged spring bar design that a non-lug-hole-having case requires is inherently weaker than the flangeless type that can be used in the cases with lug holes that are more commonly seen in older watches.

  7. #7
    Master bond's Avatar
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    Why do old watch bracelets feel so weak?

    Surely progressive modern machining and milling serve the perceived improvements on modern bracelets ? Tighter quality control and better equipment of todayís standard vs yesteryear hence the reason a micro brand of 2018 bracelet feels heftier and precision built than a 70ís high ender - not to digress that the latter bracelet is by any means non-functional or compromised.


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    Last edited by bond; 14th February 2018 at 12:48.

  8. #8
    Journeyman sandman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Belligero View Post
    Indeed, the flanged spring bar design that a non-lug-hole-having case requires is inherently weaker than the flangeless type that can be used in the cases with lug holes that are more commonly seen in older watches.

    I have had 2 speedmasters from around 1999. The first was a speedmaster date 3513.33 and the bracelet was as good as you get on a modern premium watch. I then sold this and purchased a speedmaster reduced and the bracelet feels light, cheap and nasty. When the watch arrived with me I actually posted a thread asking if it was a fake bracelet but was reassured that all speedmaster reduced bracelets from that era feel cheap.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by sandman View Post
    I have had 2 speedmasters from around 1999. The first was a speedmaster date 3513.33 and the bracelet was as good as you get on a modern premium watch. I then sold this and purchased a speedmaster reduced and the bracelet feels light, cheap and nasty. When the watch arrived with me I actually posted a thread asking if it was a fake bracelet but was reassured that all speedmaster reduced bracelets from that era feel cheap.
    I love the feel of those bracelets. Much nicer to wear than the chunky modern variants imo.

  10. #10
    Grand Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Belligero View Post
    Indeed, the flanged spring bar design that a non-lug-hole-having case requires is inherently weaker than the flangeless type that can be used in the cases with lug holes that are more commonly seen in older watches.
    Agree with that. Seems a bit counter intuitive to increase bracelet weight to give the impression of extra strength and remove lug holes at the same time.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by verv View Post
    Agree with that. Seems a bit counter intuitive to increase bracelet weight to give the impression of extra strength and remove lug holes at the same time.
    It really does.

    On the other hand, the wearer's wrist is more likely to be the weak point than a good-quality bracelet, and in the case of Rolex, the solid end links are precisely machined to support the spring bar and fit between the lugs without any play, so there's no strength disadvantage as long as the bracelet stays on.

    Flanged spring bars are still weaker with any strap, though, and shouldn't be used at all with a NATO.

  12. #12
    Craftsman
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    Good perspective on the topic

    https://www.hodinkee.com/articles/od...lets-editorial

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  13. #13
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    I think I prefer the more solid modern bracelets. As one of the comments in the Hodinkee article says "I suppose thereís a difference between well-worn and worn-out".
    Too often for me, it's "worn out".
    I would draw an analogy with music and LPs vs. CD/digital. I can appreciate the "warmer sound" argument, but not when it's scratched to s*****

  14. #14
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    I guess I understand that heavier bracelets don't make them any stronger, but I still prefer the heft and reassurance they provide. As someone else mentioned above, they help counterweight some of the bulky, heavy watch heads you find nowadays. With thin straps I keep thinking I could easily snap them by hand!


    Quote Originally Posted by WarrenVrs View Post
    Good perspective on the topic

    https://www.hodinkee.com/articles/od...lets-editorial

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    Nice article, thanks for sharing.

  15. #15
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    I think a modern, hefty watch with a thin and light bracelet would feel unbalanced. Ditto a vintage piece with a hefty one.

    Horses for courses. The oris 65 is my personal favorite. Vintage feel without any hint of fragility.

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  16. #16
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    Initial wear comfort can sometimes equate to a weaker bracelet feel especially as time goes on. Case in point, a Jubilee bracelet. While it is a very comfortable watch bracelet, the middle links are thin and once the bracelet starts to stretch, you now have a floppy bracelet with noticeable gaps.

  17. #17
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    I still find it funny that so many ĎWISí equate quality with heft.

    A prime example is a PP Nautilus, I read so many times that itís too light, the bracelet too thin etc. My Rolex blah blah. Hilarious!

    My father has one, worn 24/7, for everything, out tinkering with the car, gardening, DIY, I break into a sweat, to him itís just a good watch. The only damage are swirlies in the PCLs

  18. #18
    Master Dave+63's Avatar
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    Given that weíre talking about bracelets that are 30, 40, even 50 years old, itís pretty clear that they were not fragile and didnít actually need to be any more substantial than they were.

  19. #19
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    I always wondered why old bracelet are so rattly and feel lower quality. It is not like the new ones require some cutting edge technology. Surely in the 50s or 60s it was possible to design and produce the same bracelet as the current Rolex with Glidelock. Probably it is just cost, and it would have been too expensive to do it then compared to the watch prices. But given the stratospheric prices, it is more justifiable now.

  20. #20
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    Most old bracelets on Rolex sports Watches had hollow links and would rattle as the end links wobbled against the case , something I couldnít personally get on with , modern bracelets with solid links feel so more substantial to me


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  21. #21
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    Why do old watch bracelets feel so weak?

    I wonder if it simply took decades to discover that folded link, rivet, and other hollow link bracelets can often end up bent, crushed and stretched in the very long term? I've seen plenty of 60s bracelets that haven't fared too well, but presumably it took 50 years to discover the issues. Well treated ones can still be fine though.

    There are certainly exceptions though, particularly in the 70s. These solid bracelets are built to last (mostly watches that have since gone to a new home, apart from the 17000 Oysterquartz and 222):












  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by Itsguy View Post
    I wonder if it simply took decades to discover that folded link, rivet, and other hollow link bracelets can often end up bent, crushed and stretched in the very long term? I've seen plenty of 60s bracelets that haven't fared too well, but presumably it took 50 years to discover the issues. Well treated ones can still be fine though.
    True, but the same applies to modern bracelets. They'll look no better after fifty years of neglect, either; Rolex's steel solid-link Oyster bracelet was introduced with the 116520 Daytona in 2000, and there's certainly examples of those that are shagged out, as well as other models that were released later and could only be ten years old at most. Conversely, I've also seen regularly-used bracelets from the '70s that are still in great shape as a result of being kept clean and not being worn loose on the wrist.

    Though abuse can lead to twisted and crushed bracelets, abrasive material loss is what causes "stretch". This will happen regardless of whether there's metal in the middle of the link, which why it's essential to keep a bracelet free of grit buildup.

    By the way, those are some great photos of some gorgeous watches. Good choice on the keepers, too! :)

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