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Best Apple Watch straps 2023: From sports bands to leather styles

Personalise your smartwatch with these tried-and-tested straps for the Ultra and more

David Phelan
Wednesday 23 August 2023 12:56 BST
Happily, changing the band for a smartwatch is near-instant
Happily, changing the band for a smartwatch is near-instant (The Independent)

础辫辫濒别’蝉 smartwatch excels not just because of the capabilities of the hardware, but the range of customisation options it offers through easily swapped bands.

The hardware is key to its success, of course: the Apple Watch is the most advanced smartwatch around, with brilliantly executed health and fitness features, convenient digital wallet features in Apple Pay, and apps that handle everything from meditation to mapping, sleep tracking to weather. Oh, and it’s always accurate to a fraction of a second.

It has multiple watch faces to choose from, including information-heavy faces that track your activity as well as today’s appointments, say. Then there are the fun ones, from Mickey Mouse and Toy Story through to a splendid Snoopy face, available from this autumn.

The most personal customisation comes from the band. Comfy silicone that’s ideal for working out and swimming, smart leather bands for evening wear, slick metal bands for business-like occasions. Changing bands is near-instant – as simple as pressing buttons on the back of the watch.

The Apple Watch comes in three sizes: 41mm, 45mm and 49mm (the largest size is the newest model, called the Ultra). The clever thing is that, although the case sizes have changed over the years, the original straps still fit: the smallest watch originally had a 38mm case, then 40mm and now 41mm. Straps for those sizes still work.

Similarly, the larger watch used to have a 42mm case, then 44mm and now 45mm. Straps for all these case sizes still fit perfectly on the latest 45mm watch – and even the 49mm Apple Watch Ultra. In other words, updating your watch doesn’t mean the old straps need to be forgotten.

Some of the newest straps, like the brilliant Solo Loop, only work with more recent watches, while straps designed specifically for the Ultra only work with this larger model. Apple makes a huge range of watch bands, as do some other companies, and sometimes rival makes are cheaper.

How we tested

In testing the bands, comfort for wear has been paramount, along with how they look. Will they stay looking good for months and years to come, or will that lighter-coloured band look grubby quickly? How hard-wearing are they? Are they value for money or is a cheaper band a false economy? We looked at how striking the colours are – though, please note, Apple changes some of these on a seasonal basis.

The best Apple Watch bands for 2023 are:

  • Best overall –?Apple solo loop: ?49, Apple.com
  • Best traditional leather band –?Lucrin luxury Apple Watch band: ?125, Lucrin.co.uk
  • Best active band –?Nomad active band pro: ?63, Nomadgoods.com
  • Best Apple Watch Ultra strap –?Apple trail loop: ?100.21, Amazon.co.uk

Apple solo loop

best apple swatch band review apple solo loop
  • Best: Overall
  • Available for: 40mm, 41mm, 44mm, 45mm, 49mm
  • Apple Watch compatibility: Apple Watch SE, Apple Watch Series 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, Apple Watch Ultra

The solo loop is a single strip of silicone rubber that stretches to fit over your wrist, snapping into place. It is soft and supremely supple, making it easily the most comfortable strap on test, with a scooped underside that aids breathability. Sizing is crucial with the solo loop, as it’s non-adjustable. In Apple stores, you can try it on but, online, there is a tool you can print out. If your reading comes up on the line between two sizes, choose the smaller of the two.

The solo loop comes in six colours currently. There are two understated ones, storm blue and olive; two moderately bright options, purple fog and starlight; and two splendidly in-your-face hues, spring green and canary yellow.

The solo loop is designed for Apple Watch SE, Apple Watch Series 4 and newer only.

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Casetify flexi band

best apple watch bands review Casetify flexi band.
  • Best: For variety
  • Available for: 38mm, 40mm, 41mm, 42mm, 44mm, 45mm, 49mm
  • Apple Watch compatibility: All Apple Watches

Casetify makes a lot of cases for smartphones and watches, as well as literally hundreds of different straps in the flexi band range alone. There are more than 100 straps just in the animals range, including bright macaws, cute pugs, dancing cats and line-drawing mice. So, whether you want a bright solid colour, delicate patterns, funky slogans or geometric shapes, you’ll find them on Casetify’s site. The flexi band is ridged on the underside, which helps with ventilation, and it’s designed to be water- and sweat-resistant, thanks to its special coating. It’s flexible and comfortable and has a subtle, matte finish.

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Apple Pride edition sport band

best apple watch bands Apple Pride edition sport band review
  • Best: Design
  • Available for: 38mm, 40mm, 41mm, 42mm, 44mm, 45mm, 49mm
  • Apple Watch compatibility: All Apple Watches

Every year, Apple creates a special edition band or two to celebrate Pride. The latest model is tremendous and has Apple Watch faces to match. On those faces, the sprinkles of rainbow colour can be variously placed as hour markers or surrounding background features that float around, with the hour and minute hands changing colour according to what they’re pointing at.

Those sprinkles are perfectly mimicked on the band itself, on a white, matte-finish strap, which, despite our best efforts, has stayed pristine after months of wear. It comes in two sizes, small/medium and medium/large for each case size.

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Nomad titanium band

best apple watch bands Nomad titanium band
  • Best: Deluxe metal band
  • Available for: 38mm, 40mm, 41mm, 42mm, 44mm, 45mm, 49mm
  • Apple Watch compatibility: All Apple Watches

If you have an Apple Watch in a titanium finish, such as the Apple Watch Edition from 2021 or 2020, there’s no option from Apple to have a strap in the same material. However, Nomad has created this band, in two colours, designed to match either the titanium or the space black titanium casing. It is also a perfect match, in the lighter shade, for the new Apple Watch Ultra – which also has a titanium finish. The band has its own magnetic clasp, which is attractive and comfortable. To ensure the perfect fit, Nomad has included instructions and special tools, so you can add or remove links as needed. This can be a bit fiddly but is very satisfying and leaves you feeling like you’re a professional watchmaker (almost).

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Apple Milanese loop

best apple watch bands review Apple Milanese loop
  • Best: For evening wear
  • Available for: 38mm, 40mm, 41mm, 42mm, 44mm, 45mm, 49mm
  • Apple Watch compatibility: All Apple Watches

This band is elegantly smart and is ideal for formal occasions. The band is stainless steel and holds in place by attaching the magnetised end to the main strap exactly where it fits best – Apple says it’s infinitely adjustable. It comes in three colours, graphite, gold and silver, so you can match it to the case colour of the watch perfectly. It is lightweight but strong. It’s not water-resistant, so you’ll need another strap if you take your watch swimming or on a sweaty run. Subtle but classy.

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Lucrin luxury Apple Watch band

best apple watch band review lucrin
  • Best: Traditional leather band
  • Available for: 38mm, 40mm, 41mm, 42mm, 44mm, 45mm, 49mm
  • Apple Watch compatibility: All Apple Watches

Take a deep breath when you log on to the Lucrin site – the choice is overwhelming. There are dozens of colours to choose from and three finishes: smooth leather, metallic leather and vegetable tanned leather (which costs ?20 extra). Once you’ve picked your colour and finish, you can then choose the colour of the buckle and metal connector – either silver or black. If you have an Apple Watch Ultra, there are extra finishes, such as crocodile-style calfskin and calf leather or even real ostrich leather, which will cost you a touch more at ?239.

Many are made to order, taking up to 10 days to be delivered. Quality is extremely good and the bands last well. Lucrin’s bands have attractive looks and real comfort. There’s also a double tour band, which costs more.

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Apple leather link

Apple watch band leather link
  • Best: Stylish leather band
  • Available for: 38mm, 40mm, 41mm, 42mm, 44mm, 45mm, 49mm
  • Apple Watch compatibility: All Apple Watches

The leather link is attractive and highly comfortable. It has a clever design with ridges that interlock with each other as you close the strap, snapping shut with a satisfying magnetic closure. It comes in two lengths for each size of Apple Watch. For the smaller watch, there’s a small-to-medium size for wrists measuring 130-160mm and a medium-to-large for 140-180mm wrists.

For the bigger case size, the small-to-medium fits 140-180mm wrists, while the medium-to-large suits 165-205mm wrists. The leather is soft and supple but is also hard-wearing and works for casual as well as more formal occasions – though, it’s not waterproof, so you’ll need something else for when you’re swimming. There are three colourways: umber, ink and midnight.

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Nomad modern band

best apple watch bands Nomad modern band
  • Best: Leather band for feel
  • Available for: 38mm, 40mm, 41mm, 42mm, 44mm, 45mm, 49mm
  • Apple Watch compatibility: All Apple Watches

Nomad’s watch straps are routinely well-made, with great attention to detail. The modern?band comes in an option made of Horween leather that feels so good you’ll want to touch it all the time – which is a good thing, since it’ll be pressed against your wrist. The leather gains an attractive patina as time passes. The Horween leather comes in two colours, rustic brown and black, while the regular leather has three: black, brown and English tan. For each, there are two hardware finishes, with black or silver buckles to suit the colour of your watch. The Horween leather versions cost ?15 more.

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Apple sport band

best apple watch bands Apple Sport band
  • Best: Everyday band
  • Available for: 38mm, 40mm, 41mm, 42mm, 44mm, 45mm, 49mm
  • Apple Watch compatibility: All Apple Watches

The sport band is the basic, most affordable band from Apple, but it’s still great. It has a neat fastening called pin-and-tuck, where a pin slides through the strap hole (hint: choose one slightly looser than you’d think) and the strap tucks away neatly through a loop. It’s comfy and doesn’t leave any strap hanging out. The material – fluoroelastomer – is the same used for the solo loop, though the sport band is adjustable. It looks good and feels great. The strap lasts well, with no loss of elasticity or discolouration after a year and more. The colourways available change by the season – right now, they are olive, sky, bright orange (which lives up to its name), midnight, starlight, white and red.

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Nomad active band pro

best apple watch bands Nomad active band pro
  • Best: Active band
  • Available for: 38mm, 40mm, 41mm, 42mm, 44mm, 45mm, 49mm
  • Apple Watch compatibility: All Apple Watches

Nomad’s active band pro is solid and rugged, working especially well for working out and everyday use. It matches waterproof leather with FKM fluoroelastomer rubber lining, so it’s highly versatile. It’s safe for swimming but looks neat enough for smarter occasions. The inside is ridged to provide better ventilation during exercise, too.

It has the Nomad speciality of two choices of metal lugs, black and silver, to match the colour of the Apple Watch case. There are two colours to choose from: black, for larger watches only, and classic brown for all watches.

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Apple modern buckle

best apple watch bands Apple modern buckle
  • Best: Leather band for dressy occasions
  • Available for: 38mm, 40mm, 41mm
  • Apple Watch compatibility: All Apple Watches, smaller sizes only

Another classy strap, this time in leather. It only fits 础辫辫濒别’蝉 smaller sized watch cases: the 38mm, 40mm and 41mm models. The buckle is a shiny and attractive closure that feels great. To ensure the perfect fit, there are three different strap sizes to suit, respectively, wrists sized 135-150mm, 145-165mm and 160-180mm – it’s worth trying on before buying, if you can – while the current colours are umber, ink and azure, which is a delicate blue.

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Casetify saffiano leather band

best smart watch band Casetify saffiano leather band
  • Best: Fashion leather strap
  • Available for: 38mm, 40mm, 41mm, 42mm, 44mm, 45mm, 49mm
  • Apple Watch compatibility: All Apple Watches

Casetify has a dizzying range of leather bands – both genuine and vegan. These include eye-poppingly bright patterns; designs from artists such as Marta Olga Klara and Ann Marie Coolick; national flags such as the Union Jack, and plain blocks of leather with a choice of buckle colours. Unlike other brands that only offer black or silver buckles, here, you can choose from gold or navy, depending on the band. Some straps are even customisable with up to two letters or numbers, for a higher cost. Build quality is good, ensuring comfort and durability.

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Apple trail loop

best apple watch bands Apple trail loop
  • Best: Apple Watch Ultra strap
  • Available for: 49mm
  • Apple watch compatibility: Apple Watch Ultra

The Apple Watch Ultra, is designed for sports, with a bigger display, longer battery and greater depth compatibility, for instance. It has straps specially designed for it, with chunkier closures and strap extensions, so it can be used through gloves or underwater, while worn over a wetsuit, say. The best of these straps, we think, is the most understated: the trail loop. It’s like the sport loop but bigger and comes in different colours: black/grey, blue/grey and the bright-but-still-understated yellow/beige. The fit is tight and effective, holding in place with hook and loop across the band. This means you can adjust it to the exact best fit.

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Apple sport loop

best apple watch band   Apple sport loop
  • Best: For sports
  • Available for: 38mm, 40mm, 41mm, 42mm, 44mm, 45mm, 49mm
  • Apple Watch compatibility: All Apple Watches

The sport loop is perfect for sports such as running or swimming – it’s completely waterproof. It holds tight, thanks to the hook and loop fastening, and is designed to be secure even when taking part in more-active sports, but it’s also designed to be breathable, so, even when you get sweatier, the band stays clean. There are six versions, including red, storm blue, midnight and starlight, while there are also two special editions, black unity sport loop and the Pride edition sport loop.

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Apple braided solo loop

best apple watch bands Apple braided solo loop
  • Best: For versatility
  • Available for: 40mm, 41mm, 44mm, 45mm, 49mm
  • Apple Watch compatibility: Apple Watch SE, Apple Watch Series 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, Apple Watch Ultra

Like the solo loop mentioned earlier, this one needs careful sizing. ‘Braided’ refers to the matte-finish, rougher-feeling band with plaited polyester yarn. It looks great and feels comfortable. This strap is water-resistant, so you can wear it in the pool or on the beach, but it’s also slick enough for evening wear. Over months of use, there is a little give in this strap, but not enough to change the fit significantly. Currently, it comes in five colours, including red, olive, purple fog, midnight and a splendid bright orange.

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Pad & Quill adventure series ultra leather strap

best apple watch band Pad & Quill adventure series ultra leather strap
  • Best: Traditional-look band
  • Available for: 44mm, 45mm, 49mm
  • Apple Watch compatibility: Larger Apple Watches

The Pad & Quill bands are designed to look, feel and even smell traditional, with a full-grain leather top and colour-contrast stitching. Under the strap, each band has a discreet mark from the artisan, which adds to the cachet. The feel is superbly comfortable and relaxed, and the brushed metal hardware is a good match for the Apple Watch Ultra in strong stainless steel, while Pad & Quill says it’s unbreakable. A highly attractive and strong leather strap, this is one of few leather straps designed specifically for the Apple Watch Ultra, while fitting the larger Apple Watch sizes as well.

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The verdict: Apple Watch straps

础辫辫濒别’蝉 own bands remain hard to beat, especially the solo loop and Milanese loop – you can’t go wrong if you choose an Apple-made band and you can try them on in store, which is always useful. With its outstanding titanium band, Nomad is another brand to consider.

Want more inspiration? Take a look at our guide to the best smartwatches, from Apple to Samsung

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