How My Forstner Beads Of Rice Bracelet Found Its Forever Home
This one came as a shock. Never before in my watch-filled and fuelled life have I worn a Beads of Rice bracelet. And then Forstner — my all-time favorite bracelet maker — comes along with a new version of this popular and stylish style and I just had to try it for myself. The only question was, where would it end up?
I’m a lucky guy. I get to review watches every day I go to work. A lot of the time I get to see new products before they hit the open market. Most of the time I see these coming a mile off, but every so often one comes along that takes me by surprise. That happened the week after the Forstner Beads of Rice bracelet landed on my desk. I was just tucking into my cereal, wondering what watch would get to wear the new Forstner for its photoshoot, when a knock at the door provided me with the answer.
…a deliciously classic combo that elevates both components to a new level.
Allow me to pay momentary lip-service the soon-to-be-released-on-Kickstarter Furlan Marri (review to follow in March) before we dig into the specifics of the Forstner Beads of Rice. It is once again proof of how pairing the right watch head with the right bracelet can make for a deliciously classic combo that elevates both components to a new level.
A high bar to begin with
My Forstner fandom has just about reached fever pitch. My collection is now overrun with Forstner bracelets. The ever-faithful Speedmaster Broad Arrow Replica is now on a regular length, wide, horned-ended Komfit band; my NOMOS Club Campus, two Kienzle Markant watches, and Nezumi Voiture (white dial) all sit on the classic 16mm-wide Komfit; my blue-dialed Voiture calls the Klip bracelet home; a never-released watch designed by a friend of mine has proudly donned the stretch rivet (20mm); the watch I made during my WOSTEP course lives on the Flat Link; and finally, the Save the Ocean Seiko SRPE33 I spent most of last year extolling, is looking the business on the 22mm rivet bracelet (non-stretch).
They instantly add so much value…
And now, I have the complete set. The Furlan Marri meca-quartz (a handsome 38mm chronograph) looks absolutely sensational on a strap that, with a retail price of $125, is more than one third the cost of the watch itself. You see? Watch collecting needn’t be expensive if you buy smart! The effect these Forstner products have had on my ridiculous stable of meca-quartz chronographs cannot be understated. They instantly add so much value thanks to their historically faithful designs, great finishing, and thoughtful design touches.
Fit and feel
Perhaps my favorite design touch from other models like the rivet stretch, the standard rivet, and the Flat Link, are the expandable links. The Bead of Rice bracelet does not have these, but it does have much smaller links and five usable adjustment holes on the fold-over buckle so you should be able to achieve a fit that suits your preference.
…they have to be just so or I lose my mind…
Before I get into exactly how to change the links (and why this is easier than you might find on other models) I should share my findings when it comes to sizing. I did actually struggle to get the perfect fit this time around. This is partly because I am super, super picky about bracelet fits and they have to be just so or I lose my mind (hence loving the Komfit’s millimeter by millimeter adjustment so much), and partly because the gap between the micro-adjustment holes on the buckle is about two-thirds of a link. This can result in a bit of back-and-forth being necessary to get it just right. Check out the below example to see what I mean…
Sizing the bracelet (and some “Rob theory” for fun)
Each link adds 6mm to the length of the bracelet. Each micro-adjustment hole on the clasp is 4mm apart. Therefore, you can size the bracelet in 2mm increments. To remove 6mm, you take out one link. To remove 4mm, you move the micro-adjustment along by one notch. If you want to shorten the length by 2mm, you need to drop the micro-adjustment down two notches and add a link. Assuming you aren’t right at the upper or lower limits of the bracelet’s capacity, this is easily doable, but it does take a bit of fiddling to get right.
Welcome to another unsolicited episode of “Rob theory”…
My 16.5cm wrist leaves just eight removable links in this bracelet. There are three fixed links on the 6 o’clock side of this bracelet, and six fixed links on the 12 o’clock side. As it is, the standard arrangement of those eight links would be five on the 6 o’clock side (for a total of eight) and three on the 12 o’clock side (for a total of nine). Why would the “standard” arrangement prefer more links on the 12 o’clock side? Welcome to another unsolicited episode of “Rob theory”…
Tell me if you think I’m crazy…
It makes sense to me that if you are ever going to have to deal with a link imbalance, the longer side of the bracelet should always be on the 12 o’clock side for two reasons. Firstly, that’s the side of the strap attached to the micro-adjustment in the clasp. If you need to move the bracelet in at all, you’re losing 66% of every link with every notch (in the case of the Forstner Beads of Rice, at least).
Secondly, if we assume the buckle sits in the middle of your wrist, the longer side of the bracelet (which sits on the outside of your wrist) pushes the watch head inward. That means the watch head is naturally more likely to sit up towards you rather than to roll away.
Wait, there’s more!
Here’s a little tip for smaller-wristed guys like me. There is one thing you will notice about all these Forstner bracelets when you take as many links out of them as I have to. The underside of the buckle — the fold-over bit — is really long in comparison to the buckle head. This is really awesome when you’re sliding the watch off and on (if you have a tiny wrist but a wide hand set-up like me — I know, I’m a freak). It is less awesome when you’ve razed the 12 o’clock side of your bracelet down to nine links and the fold-over underside is now poking out because there isn’t enough of the flat part of your wrist left to accommodate it.
…the whole watch head will naturally sit at a more readable angle.
How do you fix this? Well, all you’ve got to do is remove more links from the 6 o’clock side and add them to the 12 o’clock side. The result will be that your off-center buckle will sit neater against the underside of your wrist and the whole watch head will naturally sit at a more readable angle.
Removing the links
If you weren’t expecting such an in-depth look at a bracelet, I apologize but having spent a lot of time with these bracelets I really feel these findings are useful for would-be or current owners.
…a very simple trick…
One such thing I noticed was how to work with the screws and screw-drivers supplied by Forstner for link removal. Firstly, dry your hands. Sweaty hands make this bit quite tricky. Be patient and don’t force anything. If it feels like it is taking too much force, you are probably doing it wrong. I know this from experience because I struggled to remove the links on the Forstner Rivet bracelet before I realized there was a very simple trick that applies to all Forstner bracelets, including the Beads of Rice model.
The screw bars used here have two parts. There is a long female end and a short male end. You need to insert the flat head of the screwdriver into the female end (always on the left) and hold it steady. I do this by carefully locating the blade in the slot and then by applying pressure on the tail of the screwdriver with the part of my palm between my thumb and index finger while gripping the bracelet with the same thumb and index finger.
Next, you insert the blade of the screwdriver in your right hand into the slot. I actually “guard” the blade from slipping by running the index finger of my right hand down the shaft of the bit and turning the screwdriver with my thumb alone (rolling it against the supporting middle finger), but this takes a lot of practice and dexterity so might not work for everyone. If you can’t perform that move, ensure you have a solid grip of the bracelet with your left hand, and just remember not to apply a crazy amount of force anywhere.
Male from the female
You always want to unscrew the male from the female. It doesn’t seem like it should matter, right? But trust me, it really does. The pressure you need to apply to the female end to achieve sufficient purchase to unscrew it from the male is nuts. It is a surefire way to send your screwdrivers skidding out of the slots and scratching the bracelet before you even get a single link out of it. If you’re really nervous about that, don’t be afraid to tape your bracelet before you begin.
Thankfully, Forstner has made this one easy for you. The Rivet bracelet requires a steadier hand than the Beads of Rice because the screw heads are proud. On the Beads of Rice bracelet, the screw-bars have quite a bit (almost a millimeter) of side-to-side play, which is really handy when you’re changing links. This means you can push the screw-bar from the left (female) side so it sits slightly below the flat side of the link and protrudes slightly on the right side.
You can easily zero-in on the slot…
This is beneficial from both sides. Your left (female) side becomes an anchor. Your driver is much less likely to skip out of that hole even though it is just microns deep. Similarly, the easy access afforded to the male screw head is a Godsend. You can easily zero-in on the slot and unscrew it with far less risk of slipping or burning the slot.
After that rather practical run-down, I have to say this: I am really satisfied with the quality, finish, and ease-of-use of this, my latest Forstner bracelet. I really have had a great time getting to know this brand’s products and am excited to share the Rivet and the Stretch Rivet I’ve also been trialing with you soon.
I would recommend this bracelet to anyone looking for a timeless complement to an all-steel dress watch of modest diameter (38mm and below works best given the straps 16mm body width), with a clean and classic dial. Learn more about Forstner here.