All You Need to Know About Rubber Watch Straps
What would you say is the best kind of strap for a watch? You’ll probably say that each strap or bracelet has its own advantage, whether it’s a metal bracelet, a leather strap, or made of rubber. And you’re not wrong! They serve different purposes, but in this article, we will be focusing on rubber straps.
They all have their unique aesthetics. Source: Fashion Beans
While rubber watch straps started as an uncomfortable material that tended to crack under the sun or go sticky when you sweat, they have since evolved into stylish watch accessories that can dress down a watch so you can wear it more often, or style it up with different styles, patterns and colors.
Let’s look at rubber watch straps in more detail.
When it Went Mainstream
Rubber has a long history, and dates back to the 1600s when it was first harvested from plants in Central and South America, where they were formed into balls used for primitive basketball-style games. In 1834, an American inventor discovered how to vulcanize rubber, making it more durable. It paved the way for the invention of tires, gaskets, and various other manufacturing necessities, becoming one of the key drivers of the industrial revolution.
The harvesting process. Source: Edge Effects
Natural rubber was hard to get due to geopolitical issues, so chemists invented a synthetic version that was alike to the natural material. Similarly, it was oil and water-repellent, and can withstand high temperatures and even radiation. It was a miracle material, and the watch industry was closely paying attention.
In the 50’s, Rolex released the first popular rubber strap called the Tropic strap. It was formed from a strong compound with a basket weave pattern, and was fitted on their popular Submariner diver watch. The natural lightness and water-resistance of rubber made it a perfect material for use with diving watches, and Rolex owners fell in love with the strap right from the get-go.
Look at that weave! Source: Bulang and Sons
While Rolex made it clear that rubber was a match made in heaven for dive watches, it wasn’t until decades late8r when Hublot was established and used rubber for a luxury watch. The watch brand was a newly-founded house in 1980 and entered Baselworld (an international watch and jewelry show) with the first Hublot watch: a golden dress watch with a black dial and black rubber strap.
Ironically, rubber makes the watch look more refined. Source: Hublot SG
Up to that point, luxury brands only used metal for their high end offerings which is why the Hublot style of fusing different materials was such an industry head-turner. Years later, more brands like Chopard, Audemars Piguet, and Rolex followed suit as they realized that rubber for luxury watch straps was there to stay.
Different Types of Rubber Used for Watch Straps
Highly elastic and cheap to acquire and work into raw materials, natural rubber is an easily available resource that is used for watch bands. Its low cost makes it viable for mass production, however, you will not find this being used in high-end watches.
The reason being that natural rubber is not as resistant to sweat as other types. Worn on a hot day, it will feel particularly icky. It also tends to degrade faster under sunlight as UV rays break down its polymers more easily.
Silicone / Silicon is a synthetic form of rubber that overcomes many of the limits of natural rubber. It is water resistant and good for use with diving watches, and is also great against heat and light, making it a good matchup with sports watches. It can be easily shaped and colored, leading to many fun designs.
A great material, but not ideal for everyone. Source: Exporters India
That said, silicone straps are not resistant to oil which makes it a bad choice for people who have oily skin. It can feel sticky, and is also a notorious dust and lint magnet.
FKM is a high class synthetic rubber with uses in the automotive and even the aerospace industry. It’s extremely resistant to oils, heat, high pressure and even chemicals, with levels almost reaching that of steel materials. You’d usually see this used in o-rings and gaskets of cars, in shafts or fuel hoses, or in other electrical connectors. It works in temperatures between - 40C up to 200C. Not like you’d ever be wearing your watch in these environments, but it’s a bragging right that not many other strap materials can claim.
This type of rubber is also called VITON and is used synonymously with FKM, although this is actually a registered trademark by the company who originally developed rubber which is Du Pont. When it comes to rating the best possible rubber variant to use for watch straps, FKM goes very high in the list, if not at the very top.
Why Use a Rubber Watch Strap
They are Affordable
Compared to leather and steel bracelets, rubber is quite the economic choice. Due to the accessibility of the material and the optimized manufacturing of rubber, they come easy on the wallet. What’s more, rubber straps are durable too, and one band can last you for years before needing to get a new one.
They are Washable
No need for chemicals when cleaning! Source: PCMag YT
Steel bracelets are not always water-resistant, and nylon/NATO straps can trap dirt in the fabric if not properly dried. Don’t even get us started on wetting leather! Unlike others, rubber watch straps are easily washable and most stains come off it with just running water. No worries of rusting, or getting brittle, and they can always look brand new.
They have Fun Designs
Since they are easier and cheaper to mold than others, rubber watch straps can come in different designs and colors. Want the subdued look of a black minimalist watch band? You got it! Want a bright orange strap with intricate patterns that can be easily spotted in a crowded room? That’s trendy, and you got it!
They are Resistant to the Elements
Whether you’re bringing it along at the beach or a mountain trek, a rubber watch strap will fare much better than a metal or leather strap. It’s quite flexible and doesn’t mind bumps or dings, it’s temperature resistant, it doesn’t trap dirt and dust, and it’s light on the hands. It won’t feel too hot to wear on a hot summer day, or too cold on a chilly evening. It’s the all-purpose material for any occasion.
Namoki Rubber Straps
Now that you’re convinced that you need at least one rubber watch strap in your collection, here are some Namoki straps that you can choose from:
The waffle strap design is a true classic, dating back to 1967. It’s the first diver strap developed and released by Seiko, and got its name from the raised spikes design in four rows at the front that resembles those spikes in a waffle cooking iron. These days, it’s quite hard to find an OEM Seiko Waffle Strap and definitely too brittle by now, that’s why the namokiMODS Waffle Strap is your next best bet. It is available in 20mm and 22mm versions and comes in Black, Grey, Navy, and Orange.
As mentioned earlier, the basket weave pattern on the Tropics strap was a delight to the Rolex owners that owned Submariners featuring this design. It’s a subtle pattern that only shows itself at close inspection, and is an icon both to divers and non-divers. Aside from the Sub, another watch that used a strap with this pattern was the original 62MAS. The namokiMODS Tropics Strap also comes in 20mm to 22mm in the same Black, Grey, Navy and Orange offerings.
New Launch: FKM Rubber Straps
Considered the holy grail of rubber straps at present, many watch enthusiasts will tell you that when you want a high quality diver strap, you'd want to go for FKM. Short for "Fluoroelastomer," it is a carbon-based synthetic rubber with all the characteristics anyone would want to have in a watch strap:
- Resistant to chemicals, acids and fuels
- Durable even in extreme temperatures
- Does not age as quickly as other rubber types
- Soft to the touch but not sticky, and light on the wrist
- Does not cause skin rashes
- Very easy to clean
While these maybe extra appealing to divers, it is also quite practical for the average diver watch fan. Who doesn't want a strap that's comfortable and is ready for any kind of environment you may find yourself in? Whether you're modding a diver, a field watch, or maybe even a casual dress watch, you'll find that FKM Curved End rubber straps are a good choice.
Our FKM straps come in a variety of colors to match a wide range of mods, and fits the curve of SKX007 and SKX013 sized cases. And that's not all! Since these are top-shelf materials, it would only be right to put them in a premium package before we ship them out to you. Check them out here.
Changing the bracelet is probably among the first mods you did to your watch because it is the easiest part to replace and requires little to no tools. This makes it appealing to keep changing what strap you have on your daily worn watch, perhaps depending on where you’re wearing it, or just depending on your mood for the day.
If you’re looking for a rubber strap for your diver mod, your field build, or maybe even your OEM watch, feel free to visit our selections and see if anything suits your fancy. If you’re on the market for some metal bracelets or NATO straps, those are available too! We like to offer all parts that a watch modder might be looking for, so shop around, and send us an email if you have any questions or need advice.