Can you identify the pliers and what they’re used for?

I recently bought a group of pliers and when they arrived, I realized I did not really know what a few are for. They are from an old jeweler/watchmaker.

Please help me learn what they are for!






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As you can imagine, the jeweler/watchmaker had no problem modifying his tools to fit a need. I’m making some guesses here, but what the heck.

“A” looks to me, as if they were modified to hold some type of spring. Maybe for watch cases or springs for clasps on bracelets.
When I first started out, we had a plier that looked similar, it was modified just to hold one design so we could finish and polish it, nothing else would work. Without seeing the design, you’d never guess what the pliers were for. The notches on the end of these pliers, looks like it would be something that the wire would fit in.

“B” looks like it’s design to hold something with even pressure. This, I think, would give a more accurate cut for a ring shank. This is purely a guess though.
I did have a jig set up with two screws in the bars, or jaws, to tighten the jaws evenly, one wouldn’t hold it tight enough or at an even pressure, and wouldn’t work. This was used to install FingerMate® ring shanks.

“C” I have some pliers that are very similar. I use them to notch earring posts that I would hand make. The screw keeps the nipper from cutting all the way through the post.

“D” is use to punch holes in a watch band, ~ a hole punch.

“E” And again guessing here, is used to both open and close the wire loops.

Many of the specialty pliers of today are here because someone, a jeweler or watchmaker modify their tools to fit a need. Great find!



I reached out to Steve Frei, owner of Otto Frei Jewelry Tools in the SF Bay Area to ask about these pliers and just heard back this morning. Steve is the closest person that I know to a jewelry tool historian. Steve knows the history of pretty much every jewelry tool that has come to the market and almost come to the market for many decades.

Here’s what Steve said about these pliers:

"You’ve got a bunch of watchmaker pliers there.

The first one you can still buy as a ring holding plier for polishing the inside of rings. Line the jaws with leather and grab a ring. But the grooves on the tips tell another story and I don’t know what it is. Possibly for removing a circlip? Something to do with watch bows? Modified by user for a purpose?

2nd one, definitely a hole punch for leather bands. It looks modified too.

3rd one, the stop is a good way to protect the cutting tips from too much pressure and extend the life of the tool. End cutters like these are for cutting watch stems. Well used and worn out. Stems and Crowns replacement is a very basic watchmaking task.

4th one, the Rube Goldberg of pliers. Also reminds me of a Potato Bug. Where did such a creature come from? It’s for taking on and off Watch Bows on pocket watches. Every watch was a pocket watch back in the day and every watch had a watch bow. Big bows, little bows, oval bows, round bows, we use to sell dozens of different watch bows and still have some in the watch material department. I think the last company to have that model in their line up stopped making them 20 years ago. Must be thousands of them sitting in dusty drawers somewhere."

Here’s some links with info that Steve forwarded as well:

Cheers and big thanks to Steve Frei!!



So, Jeff, what did he think “B” is? That’s the one I find most intriguing ~

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What I read into what Steve wrote is that “B” are hole punch pliers for leather bands that have been modified for some reason.

“D” is similar, but they are definitely metal hole punching pliers. You can buy those from most jewelry tool companies. I’ve got a pair at my job. I suppose they could cut holes in leather too though?

It’d be interesting if Brennan-AG could post some other views. If there’s a hole inside the jaw that corresponds with the rod shape and a set screw side, then we’d know they’re hole punching pliers.

If not, then it’s back to guessing?


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Hey! Wow! Thank you so much for reaching out to your connection for information.

I’ll definitely take a little video or some more shots. It is definitely very cool to see these tools that have been made and firmed to fit the purpose of someone who does something very specific. More to come soon.

Y’all are so smart.

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No rush at all! At this point, it’s more about curiosity than anything else.

These pliers are an example of life constantly changing and evolving. Watchmaking and repair isn’t what it was. People still own mechanical watches and work on them, but there’s fewer and fewer folks.

When I was a kid, anyone who had a watch had a mechanical watch. The hot, cutting edge technology was to get a self-winding watch. That concept seemed miraculous to me. Eventually digital watches took over. Now I wear a computer (an Apple Watch) on my wrist.

Unless you’re going to learn watch and clock repair, you’ll probably never use these pliers for what they were made to do. You’re an imaginative person. You’ll create your own new and innovative ways to use them.

Thanks for sharing the images and letting us look at them!


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Oh my gosh, I’ve been busy!

Here’s some photos…

Okay, I’m completely stumped and don’t have any idea. Not only am I not sure what they were originally designed to do with watch repair, I have no idea what you could use them for anything else either.

Those are some crazy pliers!!


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Looks like a homemade plier. Maybe for gunsmithing…Rob

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It looks like the modifications were made to a plier that is referenced from Jeffs 2nd link. If you scroll down you’ll see ~ The image shows ‘Favorite’ brand of the universal mainspring punching pliers.
The question remains what were they modified to do.
Having the two screws, one in the grip, which limits the jaws, and the other one in the jaws, makes me think that an even amount of pressure was needed to hold the item being worked on. The pliers must have been use quite a bit, the peg in the jaws has the concave notch where the screw would be tighten so there wouldn’t be any movement of the peg. The end of the peg shows quite a bit of mushrooming, to the point of not being able to punch through an article and there is no hole opposite, so I’d rule out a hole punch of any kind.
Below is a picture of the jig I mentioned above. This was used to solder the joints onto the top of a ring, where everything need to be perfectly aligned, and held securely.

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