The Forstner 5-Row Beads of Rice bracelet is the brand’s latest option for those who enjoy the look of a vintage accessory with modern quality. The choice to recreate this Gay Frères model from the ’40s is intriguing as it’s not the most famous. How does this bracelet blend with modern and vintage watches? Crucially, how does it feel on the wrist?

Forstner does a fantastic job of offering high-quality vintage-style bracelets to the masses. The prices are reasonable, and the options are varied. I own several and enjoy using them on many of my watches. The Forstner 5-Row Beads of Rice is the latest release, and, like the rest of the brand’s catalog, it’s nicely constructed. It’s a versatile bracelet, though, and can fit a wide variety of watches. Let’s take a closer look.

An original Gay Frères 5-row bracelet from 1967 — Image: Wind Vintage

The Forstner 5-Row Beads of Rice

The Forstner 5-Row is a recreation of a Gay Frères bracelet made from the ’40s through the ’60s. The originals are rare and highly valued, with prices often exceeding thousands for a nice specimen with ample links. The bracelet has three smaller polished links that alternate with larger brushed links, and there are open spaces within the bracelet construction. Think of it as a combination of styles. Beads-of-rice links are paired with small Oyster-like links, and the openings are a precursor to the famed ladder bracelet. TheForstner 5-Row Beads of Rice is offered in five widths from 18mm to 22mm. All have mixed polished and brushed finishes that match the original. Pricing is consistent across the sizes at US$132, and all options are available on the Forstner website.

Forstner 5-Row Beads of Rice bracelet 18mm IWC

My choices

I quickly raised my hand to review the Forstner 5-Row Beads of Rice because I’ve become a fanatic for vintage watch bracelets. My recent interest in much older watches has brought me an interest in the bracelets made during the period. Gay Frères looms large, but when the cost of a bracelet is multiple times that of a watch, I look elsewhere. Therefore, Forstner provides great alternatives. I asked for 18mm and 19mm versions, and the bracelets arrived in the UK a few days after my request.

Receiving the bracelets

Like most of the brand’s offerings, the Forstner 5-Row Beads of Rice comes in a nice box with a magnetic closure. The bracelet is wrapped in film and ships with a small screwdriver and spring bars. Thankfully, the brand uses screws between the links for easy adjustment, but it does make the bracelet slightly thicker than a folded vintage model. A stamped clasp with plenty of micro-adjustment holes has a nice secure feel. Forstner offers a milled, push-button clasp for this model for $75, but I think that defeats the spirit of it.

Forstner 5-Row Beads of Rice bracelet 19mm Universal Genève Evil Nina

Pairing the watches

I’ve become accustomed to receiving old, rattly, and sometimes disgusting bracelets. On the other hand, these timeworn accessories are conditionally commensurate with my vintage watches. Because the Forstner 5-Row Beads of Rice bracelets are new, I initially struggled to choose the right watches to pair with them. Then, I attempted to find watches with matte and polished surfaces. It wasn’t simple, and in the end, I chose two different types of watches.

Forstner 5-Row Beads of Rice bracelet Side


The Forstner 5-Row Beads of Rice bracelets all have straight ends, which adds a nice vintage touch. I settled on using the 18mm version with an IWC “Calatrava” from the early ’60s. I chose the late ’60s Universal Genève Compax “Evil Nina” for the 19mm option. Neither watch meets my earlier criteria of having matte and polished surfaces. Both, however, have enough surface scratches to work with a dual-finish bracelet.

The first observation is that these bracelets have no taper from the end links to the clasp. That’s consistent with the originals but results in a much wider clasp than normally used on an older watch. The upside is that removing many links for a smaller wrist like mine isn’t a concern for fitting the bracelet under the clasp. Regarding the clasp, I mentioned that I like the retro stamped look. The only negative is that the underlying folding portion is quite long and extends to the edge of my wrist.

Wrist comfort

Small niggles aside, the Forstner 5-Row Beads of Rice is overwhelmingly comfortable and looks great! The links articulate a full 180 degrees, and that aids the fit. The open design is beneficial in the summer heat too. I also tried the bracelet on a modern Aquastar with a 19mm lug gap and thought it worked well, which makes it versatile. It fits dressier pieces and sporty watches. Finishing-wise, the bracelet edges are smooth and without burs.

Conclusions and a final suggestion

The Forstner 5-Row Beads of Rice bracelet is a great addition to the lineup. I questioned how to pair it with watches in my collection, but the fuss was needless. It looks better on the wrist than in the box and would pair well with most pieces. As an example, I’d like to see it on a Speedmaster Professional. I’d also like Forstner to produce this bracelet in 16mm and 17mm sizes. This bracelet was originally born to fit smaller watches, including rectangular ones with narrower lug openings. It’s a niche request, but it would satisfy many of my fellow vintage collectors. Aside from that, consider this another quality release.

Once again, visit the Forstner website to check out the available options.

This is a preferred-position post. Learn more.