Exploring the world of watches on a budget

Worn & Wound / Crown & Buckle Strap-Changing Multi-Tool

Every serious watch nerd needs a quality spring bar fork and a couple of small flat head screwdrivers. With these tools, you can accomplish most strap and buckle changes, and size bracelets with screwed in links. I’ve ended up with several of each from multiple sources and of wildly varying quality. No matter how many I accumulate, it seems I never have the one I want, where and when I really need it, and I often have no good way to carry them. When Worn & Wound released their $30 all-in-one Strap-Changing Multi-Tool, I thought my prayers had been answered. Late last year, I ordered mine from strap retailer Crown & Buckle. I have already retired it.

You may wonder why I ordered from Crown & Buckle and not Worn & Wound. After all, it is the exact same item, for the same price, and Worn & Wound designed it. So I went to their store, clicked “add to cart” and realized that they were going to charge me $6.13 shipping on a $30 item. Crown & Buckle offers it for the same price, but they also give you free First Class shipping on orders over $25. That difference won’t exactly break the bank, but why pay more for nothing?
I have to say, as a concept, the Multi-Tool is ingenious. Its 125mm anodized aluminum body contains a reversible steel bit at either end. One has a 1.6mm fork and 1.8mm flathead screwdriver, the other has a 0.8mm pin and a 1.4mm flathead screwdriver. The bits fit into hex shaped receivers and are secured by rubber o-rings. Threaded caps cover each end, protecting the tips and if the tool happens to be loose at the bottom of a bag, your hands. Yes, I have jabbed myself like an idiot while blindly fishing for the loose strap fork I tossed in my luggage.
The center section is threaded as well so the tool can be split, allowing you to use both screwdrivers at once. This is particularly handy when a watchmaker has used dual-headed, split screw bars - a design choice I am increasingly convinced is taken just to mess with us.

Unquestionably, this is a well-made tool. The threaded parts screw down easily and securely. There is no flex or wobble in the shaft when assembled. The bits can be removed and replaced with little more than a firm tug and push. It should be a winner and really wanted it to be, but alas, it was not.

The problem is that the business end every bit except the pin is just too fat. I’m not saying they are blunt or not the size they claim to be, but rather they all have a short, steeply angled wedge from the shaft to the tip. As a result, it can be difficult to squeeze the fork between the lugs and the strap, andthe screwdrivers don’t seat into slotted heads as securely as they should. Moreover, while the dual screwdriver idea sounds great, you have to remember that they are two different sizes, so only one of those tips is going to properly fit the item you are trying to remove. You could solve the screwdriver problem by ordering extra heads for $5 each so you will have two of the same size (I’d suggest the 1.4mm as 1.8mm is too large for most link pins), but of course, that doesn’t fix the fork.
My go-to strap changing tool is this economy special I ordered from GGI International on Amazon back in 2012. It is still for sale for $8.99 and indeed, Crown & Buckle has the same design on their site for $10. I have a couple of them kicking around. The basic tool uses a 1.2mm small fork with a long, shallow wedge that gets into tight spaces far better than the one on the Multi-Tool. It also has a 3.3mm large fork that is broad, flat, and useful when you want to push down on a particularly thick strap without the risk of creating a divot. The 0.8mm pin is exactly the same. Granted, the cheaper tool doesn’t have caps or screwdrivers, but it works really well.

Compare the wedge on the cheap tip (left)to that of the Multi-Tool (right). When I am changing a strap, I want the tool to make its way past the strap and bite the spring bar shoulder with a minimum of effort and without unduly marking or compressing the leather. For that, you need something thin, which makes the long, shallow wedge and finer point of the cheap head far more useful the Multi-Tool’s thicker and more steeply angled tip.
Same goes for the screwdrivers. The one on the left is the 1.4mm I usually reach for when attacking link pins, the one on the right is the 1.4mm Multi-Tool head. It doesn’t take much imagination to guess which one fits more securely.

So the Multi-Tool is a bust. Now what? Well, I’m sticking with my generic strap tools. I found a pen-sized plastic sleeve in the family junk drawer that keeps those sharp tips covered in transit and I know I must have another set of jewelers screwdrivers around somewhere.

I hope nobody thinks that this is a case of one blogger sniping at another out of spite. I have enjoyed reading Worn and Wound for years and still make it one of my regular stops for watch info. Regular readers know I have much respect for Crown and Buckle too. Both outfits produce high quality stuff. Maybe I’m just picky. After all, I know a few fellow watch nerds who swear by their Multi-Tools and aren’t bothered in the least by the thicker tips so I could just be the outlier, but regardless, this one just isn’t doing it for me . ⬩

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