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One of the key features of the Apple Watch isn’t actually a feature of the watch itself – it’s the swappable nature of the accompanying watch straps. It allows for near-infinite customisation of the Apple Watch, and thanks to Apple’s proprietary strap system, it’s much easier to switch them out compared not only to analogue watches but other smartwatches on the market too.
The problem is that there are a lot of watch straps available for the Apple Watch. Apple offers several designs in a range of colours, and there are plenty of third-party manufacturers getting in on the Apple Watch strap fun too. That’s a good thing, considering Apple’s watch straps are more expensive than many were considering – the less said about the £350 Apple Link Bracelet the better.
With so many straps available, which is the best for your needs? Here’s our selection of the best third-party Apple Watch straps available in 2020.
1. Nomad Titanium Band – Best Overall
Nomad’s Titanium Band is unmatched in quality when it comes to third-party alternatives, offering a premium experience akin to that of Apple’s ultra-high-end Apple Link Bracelet for less. Don’t misunderstand us; it’s still pricey at $199.95 (around £154), but that’s still a saving of $150/£195 compared to Apple’s official option.
So, what do you get for your money? Nomad’s Titanium watch strap is lightweight while offering the bulky aesthetic of traditional analogue watches. There’s a smooth finish and a standard clasp mechanism to keep everything in place, and you’ll get a handy kit in the box to manually add or remove links where necessary.
Available in either Silver or Black to match the body of the Apple Watch, the strap could pass for an Apple-manufactured accessory. In essence, if you’re looking for the high-end look without high-end prices, the Nomad Titanium Band is a solid option.
2. Nomad Modern Strap – Best leather strap
If the Titanium Band is a little too much for your taste (or wallet!) then Nomad’s Modern Strap might be a tempting alternative. It’s much cheaper than the flagship Titanium band at $69.95 (around £54). It’s made from brown Horween leather that’s supple and comfortable, and it sports a clean design that’ll age uniquely as you wear the strap.
It might not be the best for sports though – it’ll offer some water and sweat resistance, but it’s leather, so there’s still a risk. Still, it’s a great option if you’re looking for something a little smarter than Apple’s entry-level Sport Band.
3. Southern Straps Black Leather – A great Italian leather strap
There aren’t many strap accessory makers out there that offer a two-year warranty on products, but that’s what San Francisco-based Southern Straps offers for its leather Apple Watch straps. While the company produces a range of straps at different prices, it’s the Black Leather strap that got our attention.
Why? Southern Straps uses full-grain leather tanned in Italy, providing a leather that’s soft-to-the-touch and can be worn all day without any sign of irritation. It’s a gorgeous feeling, and to add to the premium nature, each strap is hand-stitched with durable waxed cord.
It’s available in black or brown and you even get to choose the colour of the buckles to further personalise the look. As with other leather bands, the strap isn’t the best for sports, but it will age and develop a unique pattern the more it’s worn.
4. Casetify Printed Apple Watch Band – Cheap, fun straps
Accessory maker Casetify is the go-to for quirky phone cases, so why wouldn’t the same be true of Apple Watch straps? The printed bands are a lot of fun, ranging in designs from animal prints to floral patterns, emojis, flags and much more – there’s essentially a strap for every occasion in Casetify’s collection.
There’s good news for vegans too; the straps are made from cruelty-free faux leather. The printed designs aren’t quite as high-quality as some you’ll find online, but they certainly fill a gap in the market at only £40.
5. UAG Active Watch Band – Best rugged strap
The UAG Active Watch Band isn’t for everyone, but if you’re outdoorsy, it could be the strap to go for. It’s available in either orange, black or camo, and it’s made from a high-strength nylon weave for added durability in those off-the-beaten-track moments. It’s finished up with a big stainless steel buckle and a Velcro strap, making it easy to put on and adjust with gloves on.
It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’ll certainly appeal to some.
6. Bandmax strap adapters – A handy strap accessory
All the bands we’ve mentioned are great, but what if there’s a standard watch strap that you already own, or you’re eyeing up, that you want to use with the Apple Watch? While Apple’s proprietary band-switching solution makes switching your straps an easy job, it also makes it incompatible with standard 22/24mm watch straps – unless you buy an adapter, that is.
Bandmax offers adapters not only for the more recent 40/44mm variants of Apple Watch, but the original 38/42mm too. They’re available in four colours – black, rose gold, silver and gold – to either match or complement your Apple Watch and existing watch strap, and they’re pretty cheap too.