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12 best Apple watch straps: From sports bands to leather styles

Whether you want something light for exercise or a stylish accessory, dress up your watch with these designs

David Phelan
Tuesday 20 April 2021 12:09
<p>We have tested for comfort, ease of fastening and releasing and value for money</p>

We have tested for comfort, ease of fastening and releasing and value for money

When Apple released the Apple Watch in 2015, it emphasised that customisation was a big part of the smartwatch. Not only could you change the Watch face on screen – there are over 40 of these now – but you could change the band as well.

The Watch has a pair of buttons on the underside which sit flush to the casing. Press them and the strap slides out effortlessly. Slide the new one in and it fits perfectly and very securely.

Choose something light and flexible for swimming, a leather band for everyday, or even a dressy metal strap for evening’s out.

There are two sizes of Apple Watch. Originally, these were 38mm and 42mm but now the small and large sizes are 40mm and 44mm. Luckily though your old size straps will still fit the new so there’s no need to start fresh.

However, some of the newest straps are designed to only work with the current size Watches. Note also that a couple of bands are only designed for either large or small Watches, such as the Apple Leather Loop (42 and 44mm) or the Modern Buckle (38mm and 40mm). In other words, check carefully that you have the right size.

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Most of the best Apple Watch bands are made by Apple itself, but there are several high-quality alternatives, and all are cheaper than the own-brand versions.

We have tested for comfort, ease of fastening and releasing and value for money. We’ve also tested how they keep their looks, fit and resilience over the long-term.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

Apple Watch solo loop

Available for: 40mm, 44mm only

Apple Watch compatibility: Apple Watch SE, Apple Watch Series 4, 5, 6

This is by far the most comfortable, supple and delightful Apple Watch band. It’s one continuous piece of silicone rubber and its softness is tremendous. For Apple Watch to work properly, the heart rate sensor to work, for instance, it needs to fit snugly. As such, the right size is crucial with this band as it’s not adjustable. In Apple Stores, you can try it on, but for online, Apple has designed a clever printable tool or detailed instructions. Importantly, if you use the printable tool and your reading comes up on the line between two sizes, choose the smaller of the two numbers.

The solo loop comes in a range of colours from the sultry (kumquat, pink citrus) to the demure (Cyprus green, northern blue, plum) right through to understated shades, deep navy, black and white. The most eye-catching are red and the deeply gorgeous ginger, which is a real head-turner. New for spring are pistachio, an intense tomales blue and cantaloupe which looks so good it’s almost edible. The Solo Loop is designed for Apple Watch SE, Apple Watch Series 4 and newer only.

Nomad modern strap

Available for: 42mm, 44mm

Apple Watch compatibility: All Apple Watches, larger sizes only

Nomad’s watch straps are exceptionally good and offer a quality alternative to Apple’s own. The modern strap is made of spectacularly tactile Horween leather that it’s hard to stop stroking. The leather gains an attractive patina over time and comes with two options, for a black or silver buckle so they work with any metal finish. The colour is also matched on the connectors. Highly comfortable and effective.

Apple Milanese loop

Available for: 38mm, 40mm, 42mm, 44mm

Apple Watch compatibility: All Apple Watches

This is one of the dressiest and most elegant of bands, with a clever way of keeping it on your wrist. The mesh strap is beautiful and subtle-looking. It is made of stainless steel and because the end is magnetic, you can adjust it endlessly for the perfect fit. There are three colours, gold, graphite and silver. The graphite finish has a particularly attractive look. The Milanese Loop is lightweight and feels great. It’s not water-resistant, so you’ll need another strap if you take your Watch swimming, for instance.

Lucrin luxury Apple Watch band

Available for: 38mm, 40mm, 42mm, 44mm

Apple Watch compatibility: All Apple Watches

The phrase spoilt for choice could have been written for the Lucrin site. As well as making some of the most luxurious and desirable iPhone cases, the Lucrin Apple Watch straps are sumptuous and highly comfortable. You can choose between 21 smooth leather colours, 14, granulated leather, six vegetable tanned leather, eight shades in crocodile style calfskin and nine in real ostrich leather. Lucrin is known for outstanding craftsmanship, elegant design and strong durability. Many are made to order so can take  a week or two.

Apple leather loop

Available for: 42mm, 44mm

Apple Watch compatibility:All Apple Watches, larger sizes only

Apple does love a magnet – this is another magnet-based closure. This ridged leather strap feeds through a slot and folds back on itself where magnets hold it perfectly in place – you may have to tighten it once or twice a day. The leather, handcrafted in Arzignano in Italy, Apple says, is soft but solid, with a pebbled effect. Being leather, the colours change over time as the patina wears in. The edge is a subtly different colour to the main band and this darkens on colours like the saddle brown, for instance. Black and diver blue are the other colours, all understated.

Apple sport band

Available for: 38mm, 40mm, 42mm, 44mm

Apple Watch compatibility: All Apple Watches

This is the staple Apple Watch band. Like the Solo Loop, it’s made of soft, comfy material – fluoroelastomer. The design is called pin-and-tuck: wrap the straps together and pin slightly loosely, then tuck the end inside the waiting loop, which tightens the fit a little. There are 15 colours to choose from, including a cool multi-coloured Pride rainbow, and a brand new Black Unity version. The strap lasts well, with no loss of elasticity or colour after a year and more.

Nomad rugged strap

Available for: 38mm, 40mm, 42mm, 44mm

Apple Watch compatibility: All Apple Watches

Nomad’s rugged strap is chunky and attractive, with ridges and channels that make it thick without being heavy and allow it to be breathable. For all that, the fluoroelastomer is comfortable, even for all-day wear. The stainless-steel buckle comes in black or silver and is a solid fit, with enough holes to ensure it stays snug to the wrist. Nomad says that as well as being resistant to damage at high temperatures, it’ll wipe clean easily, shrugging off dirt with a wipe. It’s also resistant to oils.

Apple sport loop

Available for: 38mm, 40mm, 42mm, 44mm

Apple Watch compatibility: All Apple Watches

The woven nylon sport loop is simple and effective. Hook and loop fastening means that it’s completely adjustable and holds in place securely. The outer strap is secure even in more active sports such as swimming and is designed so that moisture escapes easily. Eleven colours include plum, Inverness green, deep navy, charcoal, deep navy, red and kumquat. New shades for spring are sea salt, olive, sunflower and abyss, which is a very deep blue.

Hermès 40mm orange swift leather attelage double tour

Available for: 38mm, 40mm

Apple Watch compatibility: All Apple Watches, smaller size only

This is the most expensive Apple Watch band, made in conjunction with Hermès. There is also a special Hermès edition watch, though the strap fits more widely, though only on 38mm and 40mm sized models. It’s a luxurious and stunningly crafted strap, hand made from what’s described by Apple as buttery smooth Barénia leather. It is superbly comfortable.

Apple braided solo loop

Available for:38mm, 40mm, 42mm, 44mm

Apple Watch compatibility: Apple Watch SE, Apple Watch Series 4, 5, 6 only

This is like a matte version of the solo loop (£49, and is made of braided polyester yarn filaments (apple claims there are 16,000 of these in each band). The same measurement system is used as for the solo loop above so, again, choose the size with care. The textured finish is comfortable and appealing, and this strap is water-resistant so fine for on the beach or in the pool. Choose between Inverness green, charcoal, red, pink punch and the splendid Atlantic blue. Plus, the new spring additions: electric orange, which looks sensational and pistachio.

Apple leather link

Available for:38mm, 40mm, 42mm, 44mm

Apple Watch compatibility: All Apple Watches

The new leather link comes in two sizes, one for wrists measuring 130-160mm and one for 140-180mm wrists. The closure is magnetic with the ridged finish allowing the strap to hold firmly. It’s soft and appealing, with enough elegance to work as an evening strap. The standout colour is the glorious California poppy, though you can also opt for Baltic blue, saddle brown, black and the new Chalk finish, just out.

Nike sport band

Available for: 38mm, 40mm, 42mm, 44mm

Apple Watch compatibility: All Apple Watches

This is very similar to the Apple sport band (£49, but is made in partnership with Nike. The perforations are designed to improve breathability. It feels softer than it looks and is very comfortable. The pin-and-tuck closure is identical to the regular sport band, but the perforations are contrast-coloured to the main strap, for instance, blue black/bright mango. The Pride band is particularly successful, with rainbow-coloured perforations on a white background. Three new colours have been added for spring: chlorine blue/green glow which looks nicer than it sounds, hasta/light silver which has an ethereal quality to it and ironstone/black.

The verdict: Apple Watch straps

Apple’s bands are more expensive but they offer exceptional craftsmanship and perfect fit. The Apple Milanese loop is superbly elegant and the Apple solo loop is supremely comfortable and boasts a range of colours. The Nomad modern strap is also a real standout for looks and feel.

Make your life a little easier and invest in one of the best smartwatches, from Apple to Samsung

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