I’ve been into watches since the 1990s and started Fratello in 2004. Ever since I’ve seen a lot of different watch bracelets. It always amazed me that only a few watch brands are getting it ‘right’ with these bracelets. Sometimes, they look gorgeous but wear like crap. And other times, the looks aren’t very attractive but wear fantastic. It is a very personal and thus subjective matter of course, but let me share with you the best watch bracelets in my book.
The King, euh, President, of all bracelets as far as I am concerned. Only available in precious metals like white gold, yellow gold, red (Everose) gold and platinum. It consists of three semi-circular links per row and a concealed clasp (with a Rolex crown). A super comfortable bracelet, elegant looking and masculine at the same time. It was specifically designed for the Day-Date models (introduced in 1956). Since a couple of US presidents wore the Rolex Day-Date (on President bracelet), the entire watch was nicked ‘Rolex President’ and for some, it still is the Rolex President. I keep it at Day-Date with a President bracelet, as it was also available with another bracelet (Super-Oyster). The President is leading the best watch bracelets overview.
There is no single doubt in my mind that this is one of the best watch bracelets in the world. It combines looks and comfort and the most recent models have Rolex’ Easylink system to slightly adjust the clasp. Former models just had a couple of holes in the clasp, that you could resize yourself using a toothpick. Also worked fine. But the Easylink system is just genius. The Jubilee bracelet was introduced in 1945, for the launch of the Rolex Datejust in that year. Meanwhile, the Jubilee bracelet also has been used for other Rolex models. This bracelet is like silk on your wrist.
This Rolex bracelet even goes further back in time, and find its roots in the 1930s. It is a very easy to wear bracelet, very comfortable and it doesn’t draw much attention (if you have the all-stainless version with three brushed links). It also has an adjustable clasp (Easylink system) so you can shorten or extend the bracelet a bit, depending on the weather. This is probably also one of the most copied bracelet designs in the world. The Jubilee bracelet is more supple than the Oyster, but the latter is perhaps more versatile. Below, the Oyster bracelet in steel and Everose gold of the 2018 GMT-Master II Root Beer.
One of the most exciting bracelets to own and wear is one of the Royal Oak watches. I would even go a bit further and say that part of the fun in wearing a Royal Oak is the bracelet. It is well-made, beautifully finished, and very comfortable. When you look at the bracelet for the first time, you might think that it is a bit stiff and sharp. But that isn’t the case, it is a well-designed and engineered bracelet, with a stunning appearance. The brushed surfaces combined with the polished facets are beautiful. The clasp consists of the initials of this manufacturer.
A bit more refined and smoother than the Royal Oak bracelet, but less outspoken. The double clasp with safety lock is easy to use. The larger parts of the links are brushed while the centre parts are polished. People who can’t stand scratches should back away from it or live with the fact that it will get marks on there. The watch head and bracelet are integrated you could say, but not as nice as on the Audemars Piguet. This bracelet does look a bit more sophisticated that AP’s one though. A matter of taste really. There is little to criticize this level of watchmaking.
I kid you not, I had to check whether this brand was still alive and active. Awkward. It seems they are now only producing ladies watches. However, back in the day, this was a cool brand in my opinion. I wonder how they could have messed it up so badly. Anyway, their Ebel Chronograph watches with El Primero movement were awesome. Even Don Johnson sported one in Miami Vice. The bracelets on the Ebel Wave model were something else, perhaps still are. The flat stainless steel bracelet with the wave pattern did not only look good, it was very comfortable as well. The downside used to be how it was attached to the case, with two screws from below.
Not entirely fair, as I am talking generic mesh bracelets here. But the good thing is, you can find them basically anywhere in different sizes, so you can add them to your watch. The mesh is so smooth and supple, that there no real reason not to own one of these bracelets. Besides, a couple of brands use these mesh bracelets (branded of course), like IWC, Omega, Breitling, Eterna but also lower-end brands like Skagen. The people at StrapCode for example, also sell a wide variety of them. Also Watch Gecko has a couple.
The Cartier Santos model I am talking about was introduced in 1978. It was the first true all stainless steel watch for Cartier. All Santos Dumont models were only in gold or platinum. The bracelet underwent some changes through the years, but only on the inside of the bracelet. The typical screws remained. Then, Cartier introduced the Santos Galbée. A similar design, but a slightly bend case and slightly domed links in the bracelet. In 2005, the Galbée XL was introduced, with similar design, but bigger. Early 2018, for its 40th anniversary, the Santos was re-introduced with an in-house movement, new bezel shape, large(r) case and a new bracelet. Easy to adjust by yourself, using the micro-pushers on the inside of the bracelet.
I believe it is out of production since a while, but if you’ve ever watched the Seinfeld show. You know it. According to Breitling Source, it was also named ‘Bullet’ bracelet. It can still be seen once in a while on an older Chronomat you’ll come across. It was used on the Windrider series by Breitling, of which the Chronomat was just a model. Now, the Chronomat is a collection of its own. It just looks very camp, but very comfortable as well.
The last one in my best watch bracelets overview, but certainly not a bad one. You either love them or you hate them, the Seamaster 300M ‘Bond’ bracelets. Admitted, they look very 1990s with their array of links, but they are very sturdy and comfortable. They are also a bit more outspoken than the Speedmaster (style) bracelet. A little diving extension is there to wear it over your neoprene suit. Micro-adjustment was not possible on the first generations, but is now. There is (and was) also a version that consisted of titanium, Sedna (rose) gold and tantalum. Below an overview of the new Seamaster 300M (2018) bracelet and the previous versions on both sides.
These best watch bracelets are, of course, my own favourites that I’ve tried and experienced over the last two decades or so. You might have a completely different opinion of course. Funny thing is, that Rolex is taking 3 positions in my Top 10 best watch bracelets overview. Although I love and collect the Speedmaster watches myself, I’ve never been a fan of their bracelets. I think the older models are at least better than the current one(s). The mesh bracelets are a bit generically mentioned in my article, but I think you catch my drift. They are just very comfortable, although I am not always a fan of their appearance. It heavily depends on the type of watch you put them on.
It would be very interesting to learn about your favourite steel bracelets, so if you have any, please list them below in the (Disqus) comments.
*This article appeared first on August 31st, 2016 and has been updated with new images and/or relevant information.
Ever since he was a young child, Robert-Jan was drawn to watches, even though it were digital Casio and quartz Swatch models at the time. In the mid-1990s, his interest increased when he started to read about mechanical watches in... read more