It’s difficult to pick the best Apple Watch bands when there are so many on sale. Apple has its own batch of options but there is a booming third party Apple Watch strap market with a dizzying number of options.
Not all of the bands and straps are great though, and that’s where we come in. We’ve used all the Apple Watch models since the first one in 2015 and know a thing or two when it comes to spotting which bands will be best to buy.
Apple updated the Apple Watch design with the Apple Watch 4 and Apple Watch 5, but straps will fit these models even if they are designed for an earlier version as the small and large sizes are interchangeable. You just have to make sure you’re buying the right size - Apple Watch 4 and 5 have 40mm (small) and 44mm (large) sizing, while older Watches are 38mm (small) and 42mm (large).
The biggest variables for straps are design and price - some bands are understated while some are extravagant accessories. Sometimes it’s hard to tell why one is more expensive than another, too.
We’ve ranked these Apple Watch band options from cheapest to most expensive. We think there’s something there for everybody until we see what Apple has to offer when it launches the Apple Watch 6 sometime later this year.
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
Best Apple Watch bands and straps at a glance:
- Chok Idea Innovative Buckle
- Clockwork Synergy Classic NATO Band
- Casetify Printed Apple Watch Band
- Southern Straps Nylon Apple Watch Band
- Hoco Original Stainless Steel Strap Bracelet for Apple Watch
- UAG Active Watch Band
- Apple Nike Sport Band
- Apple Sport Band
- Apple Sport Loop
- Apple Solo Loop
- Apple Pride Edition Sport Band
- Ullu Skinny Strap for Apple Watch
- Apple Leather Loop
- Apple Braided Solo Loop
- Apple Leather Modern Buckle
- Apple Milanese Loop
- Apple Link Bracelet band
- Hermès Fauve Barenia Leather Single Tour band
Best Apple Watch bands and straps
If you like the leather strap look but don’t want to fork out for the official Apple leather bands then look no further from this curiously named option. Chok Idea’s simple leather strap apes the fastening of the Apple Sport Loop for a true melding of ideas at a fine price.
The leather may be a tad stiff and take a few wears to break in but after that it should age splendidly. It’s available in either Watch size and a whole host of colours.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you’re the outdoorsy type then this is the strap for you. Available in orange, black and camo and made of a high strength nylon weave, it’s the perfect Watch band for the active lifestyle.
Compatible with all Apple Watch series of both sizes, the look is finished off with a big stainless steel buckle. It isn’t the most subtle of straps but if you dig the look then this will make a great wrist addition.
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.
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.
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.
Apple launched this all in one stretch loop strap with the Apple Watch 6 and Apple Watch SE. It’s the first official Watch band that’s one piece, a rubberised coloured loop that stretches over your fingers and snaps onto your wrist.
It comes in several dark and bright colours and is a good choice if you find any sort of puckle uncomfortable. The confusing point is that it comes in nine different sizes and requires you to work out which size you are with Apple’s size guide. But if you get the right size then it’s a good pick.
Apple has released a Pride watch band to the public yearly since 2017 and this is the new one for 2020 (there's also a Nike version). It’s the first time the company has made one in its classic Sport Band design, and it’s a bright bold statement of support and unity.
The strap is die-cut by machine and then compression moulded together, meaning the seams of the colour strips on each strap are unique.
It’s unclear if buying the band contributes money to LGBTQ organizations (like buying a Product Red Apple item does for the Red AIDS charity) but Apple does state that it works actively with “Encircle, Gender Spectrum, GLSEN, PFLAG, SMYAL, the National Center for Transgender Equality and The Trevor Project in the US; and ILGA World internationally.”
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.
A pricey official strap but an excellent one, the Apple Leather Loop comes in yellow, brown or black. Its party trick is its clever segmented magnetic closure that means you can get a precise and comfortable fit every time.
This is the Watch band to buy if you like wearing your Apple Watch to formal events or for work and feel a standard rubber one isn’t quite the right look. That’s what you get with leather that;s hand made in Arzignano, Italy.
Note though that this strap is only a 44mm option - so it’ll only fit the larger 44mm Apple Watch 4 and 5 and only the 42mm Apple Watch 1, 2 and 3.
Released alongside the rubber Solo Loop, this is Apple’s other one-piece strap. It’s made from a stretchable soft silicone material that’s threaded to feel soft. The advantage here is that it looks slightly more formal than other bands but is still sweat and water resistant.
You’ll just have to make sure you buy the right size (use Apple’s size guide) as there are nine different ones to choose from. There are only five colours to choose from though, so you might find a better choice elsewhere.
At $149/£149 they’re hardly cheap, but Apple’s leather Modern Buckle options are genuinely beautiful and are so much cheaper than the Apple/Hermes options.
The Modern Buckle is a smooth leather with a large rectangular buckle that echoes the shape of the Watch itself, and Apple keeps different colors in stock depending on the season.
It's a great option if you want an official leather band from Apple with a non-magnetic design.
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.
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.
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.
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