Over the last decade, more and more watch companies are supplying rubber watch straps and with good reason. Once chunky rubber straps were the staple necessity for a divers watch, however as technology, manufacturing processes and design and all have improved, rubber is no longer the cheap offering but a practical and luxurious alternative. With the hot weather upon us, a good rubber strap can be a life saver. Unlike canvas and leather straps, rubber straps are far more resilient to wear and tear. There is an inherent amount of give in a rubber that helps maintain its comfort as your wrist expands in the heat and in addition, it’s not made of a porous material, it doesn’t absorb sweat or other liquids.
What follows is in our view the most comprehensive look at rubber straps we think anyone has ever done. We have covered a plethora of price points from cheap to expensive, silicone to Vulcanised Rubber, aftermarket and manufacturer supplied. In total we looked at 13 straps from 8 suppliers on 6 watches! Read on for what we hope is an enlightening review!
Lets start where most people do when they think of cheap rubber straps – eBay!
Availabile from: www.ebay.co.uk Price: £ various
We chose to look at a number of straps available from eBay as we are aware many may choose this route for an ‘occasional’ rubber strap. We bought a number of straps from eBay however the fit and finish were not great and even though the price was low, so was the quality. This was usually because there was no brand name behind the strap that has any reputation to lose. The straps attract dust and lint and look very cheap. Often with excess rubber not properly trimmed from the straps. While this may seem a sensible option for a very cheap watch, we would not trust these to adequately secure an important watch. While it may be possible to buy a reasonable strap from eBay, our experience is that buying an inexpensive item without having the opportunity to see and feel the product before hand leads to very unreliable results. In most cases we would return the products as not being of suitable quality or as described.
Opinion: With affordable straps available from reputable suppliers we wouldn’t recommend buying a rubber strap from eBay. The quality is very low using cheap rubber that is a lint magnet. The straps constantly look dirty and make a decent watch feel like a cheap swimming pool key on your wrist. In addition, the price gap between these and Barton’s Elite Silicone is marginal while the difference in quality is staggering.
Barton Watch Bands Elite Silicone quick release
Availabile from: www.bartonwatchbands.com Price: £14.76
We have some experience with Barton’s canvas and leather straps so we were excited to try their silicone elite straps. These straps incorporate a number of surprising design features. Each is available as a bi-colour combination adding a flair of contrasting or complementing colour to your watch. It comes with a quality brushed stainless steel 316L buckle, and is fitted with quick release spring bars making it a breeze to change the straps. The shoulders of the straps are curved to help the rubber conform to the shape of your wrist – meaning the strap never feels tight while ensuring a snug fit, and it tapers from the lugs to the buckle. Each strap is supplied as standard with two lengths to ensure a good fit, with two floating keepers on the buckle length. Interestingly one keeper has a hidden tooth on the underside which locks into the end of the strap once on your wrist and wont move unintentionally. The silicone used is a “high tensile” silicone with a matt finish (rather than a traditional silicone) with a textured top which feels nicely tactile and overall the strap feels a much higher quality than you would expect given the price.
Opinion: We cannot recommend these enough. While these straps my not be a permanent replacement for a luxury strap on an expensive watch, they are perfect ‘additional’ straps for the hot weather or when you might get your watch wet. We would recommend adding these to your collection and keeping with you as ‘travel straps’ when you’re away from home and for the summer months.
Crafterblue Curved End Rubber Strap for TUDOR BLACK BAY Series (TD01)
Crafterblue’s strap clearly punches above its weight and is available for a range of Seiko divers watches as well as the Tudor Black Bay – each with a custom fit to conform to the lugs and barrel of the watch. The fit and finish of the blocked integration is superb and the dual colour is a nice touch. The buckle has been well designed using a flat tang that will not tear the rubber and includes two kinks to ensure the strap sits properly despite its thickness. It comes with a single floating metal keeper stamped with “Professional” that really adds to the premium feel of the strap. One interesting element that sets apart the Crafterblue strap is that it has been infused with vanilla essence. It is extremely subtle however it does mean that if you are particularly sweaty in the summer, your wrist wont smell like a gorilla’s armpit! If you were to go diving with your watch, this strap is clearly substantial enough to stand up to the rigours of wet suits, open water and the perils that lay beneath.
Opinion: CrafterBlue’s rubber strap is a good choice. Some will find the thickness of the strap lacks the finesse of more expensive straps, while others will feel the rugged aesthetics perfectly accompany a divers watch. We believe the quality and finish of the Crafterblue are great at this price point.
Vanguard Speciality Straps – Tudor Black Bay Fitted Rubber Strap
Availabile from: vanguardstraps.com Price: $120
Vanguard are a relatively new company offering block integration straps for the Tudor Black bay. The strap is supplied with an inexpensive tang buckle so it can be worn traditionally as a conventional strap, however it has been designed to be fitted to Tudors ‘deployant’ clasp if you have one (this only comes on Tudors that are bought with a leather strap). This does provide a flexible option if you have and appreciate the benefits of a deployant clasp. The silicone has a matt finish and felt similar to the Barton Silicone Elite strap. Vanguard offer these straps exclusively for the Black bay and their current range includes Red, black and blue variants.
Opinion: These straps offer a more elegant aesthetic than the Crafterblue with a softer silicone rubber. Although the Vanguard straps didn’t match the quality of the Everest or RubberB straps it is half the price which represents good value. The buckle was the one area of weakness as we felt it let the strap down not being of commensurate quality.
NOTE: Vanguard are in the process of substantially improving their strap and have been keen for feedback. As a consequence they are switching to a more premium rubber paired with a forged buckle. Vanguard are keen to share this with us as soon as its ready and when they do we will share the results of their hard work with you.
UPDATE: Vanguard have now revised their strap and we’ve had it on test – you can read about it here: www.wristworthy.uk/vanguard-mk2-strap/
Everest bands Vulcanised Rubber strap
Availabile from: www.everestbands.com Price: £170
The Everest strap is clearly very well made. Its made from Vulcanised rubber which has distinctly different finish and feel to it than silicone rubber. This particular vulcanised rubber is extremely supple and very pliable allowing it to bend and flex comfortably to your wrist. The block integration is flawless and fitted our two Black bays perfectly. They have included a solid structure in the top of the strap to ensure the fitting remains rigid and installing and removing the strap is easy given the slot they have left. The strap tapers beautifully from the shoulders to the tip and Everest have included two keepers. Both are essentially ‘floating’ keepers that can move the length of the strap, however notches close to the buckle will allow one to remain as an initial keeper preventing it from moving without intent. Everest include an extremely well-engineered buckle. This appears to have been milled out of a single piece of steel and then brushed beautifully. It is very substantial and in keeping with the quality of the watch that the strap is intended to be fitted to. Closer inspection reveals the attention to detail for the design. The holes for the tang buckle are all at an angle and allow the strap to be secured without fear of tearing the rubber over time. The underside has a channel the length of the strap allowing sweat and moisture to escape.
Opinion: This is an extremely comfortable and well made strap. You could easily replace your existing strap with this and wear it all year round without compromise to comfort or quality.
RubberB Vulcanised Rubber deployant strap
Availabile from: www.rubberb.com Price: $250 plus $30 shipping (£213)
The RubberB strap is unlike most others on the market. The Vulcanised rubber texture of the strap has a more matt finish and doesn’t have a ‘sheen’ like others. It is extremely slender with a profile much like a fine leather strap rather than a traditional chunky rubber strap, and is extremely pliable & soft. It has been designed to integrate with the Tudor deployant buckle and once connected you would be forgiven for thinking that it is an OEM strap supplied and fitted by Tudor. The Block integration at the top is perfect and completes the look of the strap. As a premium rubber strap it complements the watch’s aesthetics and had a superb premium feel to it. This has the quality and comfort to wear all year round. One of RubberB’s options is a Dual colour strap. This provides a subtle contrast to a pure black strap and if chosen correctly, will accentuate the colour of the watch it’s paired with. This is definitely a strap that you can wear all year round as your only strap on the watch without compromising the look or feel.
Opinion: A fantastic strap whose quality, fit and finish match the watch it is attached to. This can comfortably replace your steel bracelet or leather strap as your only strap to be worn all year round, and should last a long time if cared for properly. We have selected this strap for a long term review and will be writing about this later in the year.
Bremont OEM Rubber strap
Availabile from: www.bremont.com Bremont boutiques & authorised dealers Price: £155
Bremont provide a rubber strap as a second strap with a number of their watches so this becomes a good option during the summer months. Bremont has designed the strap to take on the form of a traditional blue leather strap with a padded centre spine which allows the strap to not stand out as a rubber strap. The ends of the strap are curved in keeping with Bremont’s leather straps. This allows the strap to maintain its snug fitting to the watch without rubbing on the knurled barrel of the watch and thereby wearing down the surface. The strap comes supplied with a pair of custom curved 22mm spring bars fitted to it which helpfully means the spring bars don’t easily get lost as they take some effort to extract form the strap. Its made of a substantial rubber, and takes Bremont’s traditional milled tang buckle. The only negative observation is that because this strap is not a block integrated strap it can feel like its squeezing your wrist when it’s fastened snugly, however this should pass in time with wear.
Opinion: A classy rubber strap that goes below the radar with the classic aesthetics of a leather strap. We favour watch brands who thoughtfully supply alternative straps with their watches and to this end Bremont have provided an excellent strap.
Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean OEM Rubber strap.
Available from: Omega dealers Price: £185 (+ £185)
Omega’s rubber strap for the Seamaster Planet Ocean is quite unusual. It is made of soft, and supple high quality rubber with full ‘block integration’ at the lugs which provides a very clean look. The exterior surface although made of rubber, has the feel and texture of leather. This is further enhanced by stitching down each side in the same manner as most leather straps. The strap uses an Omega deployant clasp and incidentally cannot be used with a ‘tang’ type buckle. When closed and on your wrist, it maintains its clean lines as the excess rubber is tucked inside rather than outside requiring an additional keeper. The deployant clasp means its very quick to put the watch on and you’re extremely unlikely to drop the watch when undoing the strap as it will still hang loosely round your wrist.
Over the course of the review, most people were very surprised to learn that this was a rubber strap and all had assumed it was leather. This provides the durability of rubber with the visual aesthetics of leather meaning you can wear it comfortably at work and on occasions where smarter attire is appropriate. At £185 its not cheap but it is very good quality. It is a great choice if you are buying on a watch as invariably this is the same or cheaper as buying an Omega on a metal bracelet. However this may become an expensive option if you are buying this for an existing watch as you will need to additionally purchase the deployant clasp at an additional £185.
Opinion: An Omega rubber strap can easily be chosen as an alternative to a leather or steel bracelet to wear all year round. Its fantastic quality and comfort are a perfect accompaniment to an expensive watch.
While its very clear that you get what you pay for, there are a variety of options at different price points allowing you to get a good quality comfortable rubber strap to tackle the heat & humidity and add a little style while you’re at it. We were pleasantly surprised by the quality and comfort of Barton Watch Bands’s Elite straps who proved that a decent rubber strap is within the reach of everyone.
The blocked integration straps offered a great level of comfort as the fixed ends ensure the rubber curves nicely round your wrist rather than ‘clamping’ it between stiff rubber.
While the RubberB strap was the most expensive, we can see why. Everything from the type of vulcanised rubber to the proportions of the strap showed that a considerable quantity of time and effort has been spent finessing and perfecting this strap.
If you’re looking at getting a rubber strap and can afford it, the Everest & RubberB are simply the best. Both are supremely comfortable, built exceptionally & fit perfectly.
Do you own any of the straps on test? if so please do leave a comment and let us have your views – we’d love to hear from you!
Disclaimer: The review above is based on personal experience with the brands and products listed above. None of the brands or companies listed above have paid us to review their products.