As we head on towards summer, were taking the opportunity to re-visit the subject of rubber. In 2018 our article “Getting into Rubber” took an extensive look at rubber straps looking at 13 straps from 8 suppliers on 6 watches.

We then supported a sister article by helping our friend Ben Hodges over at Fratello who looked at a number of straps on a single watch for comparison – which you can read here

This article now represents the third in the series on rubber straps where we take a deeper dive with one brand and look at what sets them apart. We’re also taking the opportunity to look in detail at how the strap stands up to wear and tear over the years comparing a strap that has been used for a number of years with a new strap.

So, lets start with a little background…
RubberB was founded in 2010 and produced the first “blocked integration” (integrated) rubber straps for the Rolex Daytona and Rolex Submariner – also integrating the Oyster deployant clasp creating a complete OEM fit and finish. This was the first time an aftermarket company had created straps that had the expected quality, fit and finish of the manufacturer themselves. From there, RubberB have continued to lead the way becoming the first to produce block integrated straps for Panerai, Tudor, Audemars Piguet, and Patek Philippe.

Although RubberB do now produce traditionally designed straps, their principle straps are designed specifically for each model – creating a ‘blocked integration’. The profile of the mounting point to the watch is designed and delivered with the same degree of precision as a brands own integrated bracelet. The fit and finish are bespoke to the make and model of each watch and match that of the manufacturer’s own straps and bracelets. To achieve this, not only is the rubber itself carefully engineered to a precision fit, but also a micro-calibrated solid insert is infused into the structure. Although this is barely noticeable to the naked eye, its presence ensures that there is no flex at the mounting points.

But its not just in the design and integration that RubberB strive to be different – its also in further innovation into the production of the VulChromatic rubber itself.

While creating a strap that looks good and fits exceptionally well are important, what a lot of prospective buyers of aftermarket straps fail to consider is the comfort of the strap. The feel of the strap on your wrist will affect your entire comfort and experience of wearing any watch and this is one area that RubberB excels and continues to innovate.

VulChromatic‘ you say….?
Yup – VulChromatic straps are RubberB’s own Patented and Trademarked straps that combine two rubber masses of differing colours and/or textures together fusing them in their liquid state. This means that once the process is complete, the final product moves, flexes and behaves as a single piece of rubber. As you can imagine this process is vastly more complicated and costly than merely painting a colour on that will wear off, or bonding together multiple pieces of rubber – which incidentally will create weak points in the structure and decrease flexibility – something RubberB have gone to great lengths to ensure doesn’t happen.

The end result is a strap that is soft, supple, pliable and extremely comfortable, has the fit and finish that you would expect from the watch manufacturer themselves and longevity to match, while introducing colour to complement the watch. This is all based on a foundation of Vulcanised rubber.

Why Vulcanised rubber…? Well, the process of vulcanisation produces a number of benefits including, increasing its tensile strength, making it less susceptible to deformation, providing high resistance to oxidation and abrasion, low water absorption, and resistance to organic solvents. This therefore helps create a far more robust and long lasting product that will continue to look and feel great for many years.

We have been using a RubberB strap on our Tudor Heritage Black Bay since 2018. This has been taken on and off many times and worn extensively throughout the years both on dry land as well as a number of aquatic scenarios; and as you can see from the photos it looks as good now as it did when we first got it (in fact if you’d like to see photos of the strap in 2018 – you can take a look and read the article we first wrote on “Getting into Rubber” here) . We chose this particular strap in part because it is designed to work with the OEM deployant clasp from Tudor – giving it that OEM look and feel, along with the most important feature of any strap – comfort.

Comparing old and new…
Firstly and importantly – there is a texture difference between the two straps. This is not something that has happened over time, but part of its intrinsic design from RubberB. The Tudor strap has a grainy matte finish to the top of the strap, whereas the Panerai strap has a smooth matte finish to the strap. Both are very soft and comfortable and once fitted to the watch certainly embody the look and feel that you would have expected from the manufacturer themselves. Incidentally I have been asked on a number of occasions when Tudor stopped making this strap or what was the Tudor part number to order this strap as the quality, fit and finish all feel like an OEM strap.

Secondly – spring bars do matter. If you don’t use the right size or gauge spring bars, then the fitting at the top of the watch will be loose and will not be as snug as you would hope or expect. This is invariably because as we frequently change watch straps we have a plethora of spring bars that come with watch straps or as spares – these invariably are not the same gauge as the OEM spring bars – which if they are thinner will then lead to a loose fitting strap. This is not a fault with the strap and you would find that your Tudor OEM bracelet would also appear loose at the mounting point should you use cheap or thinner spring bars. The Panerai strap is designed to use the traditional Panerai screws which fit beautifully and create a snug fit without the use of Panerai’s ‘tubes’ which are normally inserted into straps before fitting.

The VulChromatic strap on the Panerai is new and as you can see there is no noticeable difference between this and the Tudor strap (which is 4 years old) in terms of wear and tear.

To date, RubberB provide blocked-integrated straps for Rolex, Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, Tudor, Panerai, and IWC. Although these are not cheap straps, they are commensurate with the value of the watches that they are made for – providing an extremely high quality alternative to the OEM strap or bracelet.

Opinion…
We have seen, felt and used a number of rubber straps over the years and can certainly attest to the notion that ‘you get what you pay for’. While other straps may be more affordable, RubberB straps manage to deliver a fit, finish, design, comfort and quality that are tailor made for and commensurate with the quality of watches they are designed for.

If you’re considering a rubber strap for your watch, we would strongly recommend you take a look at the offerings available from RubberB.

Do you own a RubberB strap? – If so we’d be interested to hear your views and experiences of ownership. Do drop us a note in the comments.

Products in this article:
RubberB for Tudor Heritage Black Bay 41mm
RubberB for Panerai Luminor 44mm VulChromatic

RubberB straps are available from:
www.rubberb.com

Author

Entrepreneur, philanthropist, technologist and watch collector, Ben is the founder of Wristworthy.

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