There’s a huge choice out there, so how do you find the best Apple Watch bands in a world of no-name knock-offs and inflated selling prices? We’ve had tons of Apple Watch straps to try, so we know the best ones to get and the ones to avoid – and we’re sharing our picks right here.
You can wear pretty much any style with your Apple Watch, but there are a few things to watch out for (no pun intended). For example, the popular NATO-style straps aren’t a great idea because they run underneath the watch, and that means covering up the heart rate sensors. Don’t despair, though: if you’re a NATO fan we know of a smart solution.
If you’ve got the Apple Watch 4 your device will be a slightly different size from the Series 1, 2 and Apple Watch 3, but don’t worry: if you’ve got the 40mm watch it will take 38mm straps, while the 44mm watch works with 42mm straps from older models.
These are products that we haven't had in our test labs, but based on our experts' opinion and knowledge of the most reputable brands around, we think these are worth looking at.
Our selections, ranked from cheapest to most expensive, takes into account online reviews, brand reputation, product capability or unique features, to help you pick through the maze of choices available to you.
- Not sure how to switch straps? Here's how to change Apple Watch bands
1. Clockwork Synergy Classic NATO Band
Doesn’t obscure sensor
Classic NATO looks and some modern designs too
Pride design doesn’t help charity
Prohibitive shipping to UK
Pedants would argue that these aren’t NATO bands, because that describes a very particular kind of strap that runs under the watch itself, whereas these are two-part Apple Watch straps. But screw those guys!
These NATO-a-likes look very much like the real thing and come in a range of designs clearly designed to cover all bases – so there’s a good old-fashioned US flag right next to a brightly colored Pride rainbow (although unlike Apple’s Pride band there’s no charity benefiting here), and plenty of other options too.
2. Casetify Printed Apple Watch Band
Something for everyone
Some are hideous
Casetify’s printed bands are tons of fun, and probably cheaper than you might expect. Made from cruelty-free faux leather, the bands come in a dizzying variety of designs and colors from animal prints and bold florals to geometric patterns, emoji and flags.
There should be something here to suit all tastes and all kinds of looks: for example, there’s a beautiful black strap with dark red and grey florals that would go well with a nice frock, or you could relive the 1990s with fluorescent smiley faces.
Straps come in both watch sizes and you can choose between gold, black or silver fixings and buckles.
3. Southern Straps Nylon Apple Watch Band
Nylon isn’t for everyone
Expensive to ship internationally
You don’t get many Apple Watch straps offering a five-year warranty, but then you don’t get many Apple Watch straps made as beautifully as this.
Handmade in San Francisco from a single piece of nylon and with hardware that’s noticeably higher quality than the majority of similar products, these straps come in a variety of colors including NATO-style stripes in sober and fun colors.
There are 84 possible combinations – and they’re bigger than some: if you’ve got larger hands you’ll appreciate the fit of up to 25cm.
Fascinating fact: Southern Straps was the first company to put NATO-style straps on the Apple Watch without obscuring the heart rate sensor.
4. Hoco Original Stainless Steel Strap Bracelet for Apple Watch
Much cheaper than Apple’s ones
Looks and feels pretty good
Won’t last like Apple’s ones
Hard to find in the US
If you like the look of Apple’s Stainless steel bands but also like being able to afford to eat, Hoco’s bands are an attractive and affordable alternative: this is around 1/10th of the price of Apple’s link bracelet.
As you’d expect it’s not quite up to Apple standards – the dark ones still have edges where the original metal is peeking through and their finish is prone to scratching – and while there’s a link removal tool to get the right fit the process is really quite fiddly.
But it’s nice on and it both looks and feels better than similar-looking but cheaper competitors.
5. Apple Nike Sport Band
Some are garish
The official Apple/Nike Sport Band has the toughness and design simplicity of the normal Sport Band, but it also has those compression-molded perforations – or what we like to call "holes”.
Those holes make a big difference to the long-term comfort of the Apple Watch because they enable your skin to breathe under the strap.
The range of colors isn’t quite as exhaustive as for the normal Sport Band and some, like the Black/Volt one, are a little loud for wearing outside the gym, but there are still some subtle shades such as Teal Tint, Smokey Mauve and Spruce Fog.
6. Apple Sport Band
Lots of colors
Simple and hard-wearing
Fastening isn’t for everyone
If you’d rather not have a band full of holes the original Sport band remains an excellent all-rounder.
It’s pricey because Apple, but it’s also made of nicer materials than the knock-offs you’ll find on certain auction sites – and that means you’re not going to end up with odd things happening to your skin after a few hours of wear.
It’s available in fifteen colors to suit most outfits and there’s a charity-helping Product Red version too. You don’t need to worry about getting the right size, either: you get S/M and M/L straps in the same box.
7. Apple Sport Loop
Typical Apple quality
Clever design for breathability
Typical Apple pricing
Some are a little bright
Yes, it’s another official Apple strap and that means official Apple money – but we’ve found Apple’s nylon bands to be really hard-wearing and comfortable. The Sport Loop is made from double-layer nylon and has a clever design on the skin side that uses larger loops for cushioning and breathability.
Because it’s a sports design the colors can be on the bright side, but the Cerulean, Product Red and Pink Sand versions are a bit more subtle and there are some suitably sober blacks and greys too. It’s a useful option for fans of NATO straps who don’t want to cover their Apple Watch’s sensors.
8. Ullu Skinny Strap for Apple Watch
Lots of colors
Stainless steel only
Doesn’t qualify for free shipping
Here’s a slightly cheaper alternative to Apple’s leather bands. Ullu’s Skinny Strap is made from good quality Italian leather and comes in eleven colors, all of which have been hand-colored – although unfortunately the lugs and buckles only come in stainless steel.
Because it’s real leather it will get more interesting over time as the leather ages, and that means no two straps will ever be the same. If the Skinny Straps seem a little too thin, Ullu also makes a padded version that uses the same kind of leather, comes in a similar range of colors and costs the same.
9. Apple Leather Loop / Modern Buckle
At $149/£149 they’re hardly cheap, but Apple’s Leather options are genuinely beautiful. And one of these is still less than a third of the price of some Apple/Hermes ones.
There are two different designs here. The Modern Buckle is a smooth leather with a large rectangular buckle that echoes the shape of the Watch itself, while the Leather Loop has a ribbed, textured leather and a Sport band-style hidden fastener.
There aren’t a huge range of colors to choose from – three Modern Buckle designs and four Leather Loops including the obligatory Product Red – but they run from bold reds and oranges to gentle lilacs.
10. Apple Milanese Loop
Adds a very premium look
Can snag on arm hairs
Possibly the most sought-after Apple Watch band, the attention that the Milanese Loop band receives is warranted.
At a similar price to the Leather Band, owners can get their feet wet with a cool-to-the-touch stainless steel band that ekes elegance and simplicity in its design.
You'll know at first glance if this band is for you, and if it is, you can choose between traditional silver and black options.
Stainless steel won't wear over time
Costs more than the Apple Watch
OK, now we're getting up there in price. Apple offers up its brushed stainless steel Link Bracelet, but it isn't going to be cheap.
Build materials aside, this couldn't be any more different than the Milanese Loop. Rocking a look akin to high-end analog watches, the Link Bracelet possesses a sophisticated sheen that the others don't.
Equipped with a watch tool, you can customize the size to perfectly fit your wrist and if silver doesn't suit you, it's also available in black. Paired with the Apple Watch, this is probably one of the slickest bands you can make your own.
12. Hermès Fauve Barenia Leather Single Tour band
Hermès quality on the wrist
Arguably the best leather you can get
One look at the name and you know this is going to be pricey. For your money, you're getting industry-leading Hermès design in a band, complete with master-class fabric stitching and leather quality that's unparalleled in the vast batch of Apple Watch bands available.
It might cost a lot, but if you're a watch aficionado, there's not substitute for quality.
- Now check out the best Apple Watch apps