Strap Check: The $280 Rubber B VulChromatic For The $260 Omega × Swatch Speedmaster MoonSwatch
Today, I am checking out the Rubber B VulChromatic strap for the Omega × Swatch Speedmaster MoonSwatch. The blue stripe in the center matches the Mission to Neptune’s blue Bioceramic case. A contrast to the primarily black strap, the blue is a separate rubber mass that is molecularly bonded for life thanks to the VulChromatic technology. The strap also includes solid inserts at the ends, known as “blocked integration”. This rigid structure allows the curved ends to sit flush against the case with no gap or articulation for a bespoke feel. All this technology is excellent for a $280 rubber strap. But does it suit the intended $260 watch? Let’s find out.
These days, I have little time to read other watch publications. Seven or eight years ago, however, I was constantly bouncing between the most prolific watch blogs on the web. I’d do my best to keep up with the latest articles on Fratello, Hodinkee, WatchesBySJX, ABlogToWatch, and others. The recent announcement that Jack Forster is leaving Hodinkee for WatchBox caused me to reminisce on one of Forster’s early articles, “The Value Proposition: A Seventy-Five Dollar Watch That Looks Like A Million Bucks”. On the surface, the article serves the needs of budding watch buyers clamoring for an easy path into the mechanical-watch hobby. But the writing went a layer deeper than that, which is why it echoes in my mind seven years later. Rereading it was a good reminder that Forster spins a good yarn, of course, but it also had me trying to figure out why it sticks with me to this day.
A clash of worlds
I reckon the article resonates as the strap on the Seiko 5 costs three times what the watch does, according to Forster. The rolled-edge crocodile strap elevates the plain-Jane aesthetic of the Japanese watch with a Malaysian movement. It’s the exotic leather that you often see paired with a Patek Philippe or F.P. Journe. The combination shouldn’t work on paper, but true to Forster’s word, the Seiko 5 “looks like a million bucks” as a result. Today, I find myself in a similar predicament where the strap is more costly than the watch. Although it’s only 20 bucks more rather than three times as expensive, it’s still an unusual situation. Will it provide the same thrill of taking a watch upmarket?
The watch in question is the Omega × Swatch Speedmaster MoonSwatch Mission to Neptune. I opt to use the full name as it’s often argued whether it’s an authentic Omega or only a Swatch. I suppose Swatch runs production, but the design is notably from Omega (and it says so on the dial), so choosing the collaborative name is the safest option. By now, the MoonSwatch is relatively well known by the readership. Fratello has been at the forefront of unveiling the MoonSwatch and providing as many details as possible via text, audio, and video. But if you’ve been under a rock since March 25th, here’s the lowdown. Nick Hayek, CEO of the Swatch Group, was keen to promote the Bioceramic material utilized at Swatch. His shortlist included many brands and models to collaborate with, but the stories and iconic lines of the Speedmaster were too strong to ignore.
In secrecy, with only a few senior officials taking part, the MoonSwatch was formed in eleven distinct executions representing eleven celestial bodies in the Solar System. The Bioceramic case has a powdery matte surface that follows the lines of the latest Speedmaster with caliber 3861. The 2021 Speedy bases itself on the fourth-generation Professional Moonwatch case that succeeded the straight-lug designs of the late ’50s and early ’60s. The MoonSwatch retains the classical cues such as lyre lugs, a dot-over-ninety bezel, and even the stamp (“S” in this case) in the center of the glass. It’s a fun accompaniment to Speedy owners and a gateway for potential buyers — if you can get a MoonSwatch, of course. But if there’s one component that owners agree is lacking on the MoonSwatch, it’s the Velcro strap.
The strap is similar in style to the previously announced Velcro strap for the Moonwatch. The Omega strap was a scaled-down version of the ones astronauts wore over their spacesuits. The strap features the NASA “meatball” logo and has metallic hardware to hook and loop to the wrist. While the MoonSwatch’s strap shares the concept, the execution and feel are entirely different. As you should expect, at €190, nearly the cost of the MoonSwatch, the Omega strap is far more substantial with neater stitching and better materials. Conversely, the MoonSwatch strap feels cheap and plasticky as the hoop is of the same Bioceramic material as the case. I understand the simple strap helps the MoonSwatch remain attainable at $260, yet most wearers select an alternative option.
Rubber B bespoke feel
I’ve tried a few straps, from the Artem Sailcloth to NATOs and even leather straps. But each one felt like the MoonSwatch was a disservice to the strap. It possibly comes from the lack of aftermarket options even months after release. Such was the shock and surprise release of the MoonSwatch; many makers did not cater to Swatch at all. That was until Rubber B, the top rubber-strap manufacturer based in Switzerland, offered its services to the humble Swatch. The curved-end rubber strap with solid inserts is a mighty feat of engineering for such a basic watch, but there’s no arguing about the results. The premium rubber strap elevates the MoonSwatch by having a bespoke feel. It helps that it is custom-fit for the MoonSwatch with matching stripes depending on the MoonSwatch variation.
Suddenly, I experienced the same clash of worlds as Forster did with the Seiko 5 and crocodile strap. It shouldn’t work in principle, but the Rubber B strap takes the MoonSwatch to another level. As mine is the Mission to Neptune, naturally, I chose the blue-stripe version. But what surprised me was how similar the shade of blue was despite the different materials. The Rubber B is now my strap of choice, opening up the inevitable question of price. At US$280, the strap is $20 more than the MoonSwatch, which is dear regardless of watch choice. But many are willing to pay $500 and upwards for a MoonSwatch pre-owned. Paying over the list price for a MoonSwatch is pointless. It’s not limited but just requires careful planning and patience. I suggest waiting for the right time to strike and using the leftover funds for a nice strap like the Rubber B.
Of course, with the MoonSwatch and Moonwatch sharing such similar dimensions, I thought I’d try the strap on my caliber-3861-powered Speedmaster. The Rubber B strap fits securely but has a little more wiggle than on the MoonSwatch due to the placement of the lug holes. While it’s a reasonably snug fit that works well on the wrist, the Rubber B feels more at home on the MoonSwatch. For more information about this strap, visit the official Rubber B website, and let me know your thoughts on this combination in the comments.