The Top 5 Metal Watch Bracelet Designs You Should Know About
We can't talk about the history of watch bracelets without jumping into the history of Rolex. The dynamic duo that created the brand were inadvertently working at the right moment and in the right place to impact the watch industry forever.
Swiss citizen Hans Wilsdorf and his English partner Alfred James Davis (who married Wilsdorf’s younger sister) entered the market initially providing pocket watches for gentlemen and also a few models intended for women to be worn on the wrist.
At the time – men didn't put watches on their wrists.
A Bit of History on Watch Straps
Back in the old days, the majority of the watches available in the marketplace were intended for women and bracelets weren't seen as appropriate for masculine gentlemen.
This gender differentiation in consumer watches started changing by the time the two Boers Wars occurred in South Africa by the late 1800s.
The hot weather in South Africa during the Boers Wars impeded soldiers from wearing jackets that could carry their pocket watches, so troopers managed to manually adapt a rudimentary leather strap to hold their “masculine” pocket watch to their wrists.
Imagine having to wear a jacket in that weather. Source: Owlcation
Also, soldiers were able to read the time faster from their wrists than pulling out their chained pocket watches, which was important when engaged in battle.
So once again in human history, a real necessity gives way to breakthrough inventions, and it's exactly here where the Wilsdorf and Davis duo, under the new Rolex brand born in 1908, seized their opportunity.
In the beginning, Rolex included leather straps with their early wrist watch models, but later modernized their models with primarily metal bracelets.
Leather looks good but metal is arguably a better choice for Rolex. Source: A Blog to Watch
Metal bracelets come in many different metals, different styles, and finishes. The metals can be basic stainless steel up to precious metals like white gold or platinum for luxury or jewelry watches – as well as yellow gold.
Not only the iconic Rolex brand, but other watch manufacturers internationally known like high-end Swiss brands Patek Philippe, Omega, Tag Heuer, among others and brands like Seiko or Casio also adopted metal bracelets for their watch models.
The Best Designs
The Oyster bracelet can be considered as the iconic metal bracelet from the 20th Century up to this day. It is ‘the classic metal bracelet design’ for the watch industry.
Many see Rolex to be its creator as the company matched its watches with an early version of the Oyster bracelet back in the 1930s, and also claimed design ownership with a patent by the late 1940s.
Currently, different versions of the Oyster bracelet are being used by several watch manufacturers – and many people just associate the design with watches in general.
Sleek. Source: Millenary Watches
The ‘oyster’ moniker for this bracelet design was given by Rolex developers in relation to the diving or water-resistant watch cases manufactured in the 1930s (the famous Submariner as a later innovation in this series).
The Oyster is the sportiest and most casual bracelet used by Rolex to fit its ‘field’ or professional/sports watches. The renowned family of Rolex sports watches that come out of factory with an Oyster bracelet are: the Submariner, Sea Dweller, Yacht Master, Daytona, Air King and Explorer (as well as a few other less popular models).
Easy to see why this bracelet can be found on many of Rolex's models. Source: Rolex
Several modifications in its design over the decades resulted in the current version with solid links and a robust clasp to deliver secure attachment to the wrist, and some have a system to make adjustments to the length quickly.
What makes the Oyster one of the most popular metal bracelets available in the watch industry is the big bar in the center which strengthens the links and minimizes stretching over time, making it one of the most durable bracelets.
The Oyster bracelet is a wonderful match for almost any watch. On a large watch, the large links settle more proportionately, but it may also look fantastic on a smaller one. If you want to experiment with putting Oyster bracelets on your watch, this is a fantastic place to start!
In celebration of Rolex’s 40th anniversary, the Jubilee metal bracelet was introduced in 1945 and has remained largely unmodified since then.
A look that celebrates the rich history of watches. Source: Rolex Forums
Rolex presented the Jubilee bracelet together with the classy Rolex Datejust luxury timepiece in solid gold. Later, the Jubilee was offered in a two-tone arrangement of gold and stainless steel and actually became available with sports watch models – like the GMT Master.
Despite this employment on mainstream watches after its launch, the Jubilee is definitely a more dressy choice than the Oyster bracelet.
Polished center links and brushed outer links are the Jubilee’s bracelet trademark. The “five-piece link” design evokes a variety of small X-shaped patterns.
When worn on a wristwatch, the Jubilee bracelet focuses attention to the center of the dial, reducing the size of the watch's footprint. The illusion is accentuated with two-tone variations, especially when the central links are a different color than the watch casing.
Two-tone versions are perfect for semi-casual attire. Source: Watchmaster
As a result, a Jubilee bracelet (whether steel or two-tone) is a good choice for both large and small watches, as it brings out the best features of each.
The Jubilee bracelet's sole flaw is its proclivity for stretching over long periods of time. The small links on the bracelet weakens its structural integrity. The pins that hold each link together tend to expand and loosen with time eventually stretching past the wearer's natural wrist size.
Fortunately, contemporary construction techniques have corrected many of the structural flaws, so the slightly reduced durability is only seen on vintage versions. You should never have to worry about a Jubilee strap wearing out unless you put it through some sort of abuse.
Beads of Rice Bracelet
This particular design of watch bracelet was originally created by Gay Freres in the 1950s to supply watch manufacturers Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin but later became a design chosen by several more manufacturers (like Rolex or Tag Heuer).
The early Beads of Rice bracelet had various versions created in stainless steel or precious metals for both sporty timepieces or dressy jewelry watches. Back in the present, vintage versions of Beads of Rice as well as adapted modern ones are offered by watch manufacturers.
Beads of rice was highly-acclaimed when it released. Source: Bulang and Sons
The story of Gay Freres manufacturing company, born in 1835 in Switzerland to supply the marketplace with pocket watch chains, has a relevant role in the evolution of watch metal bracelets. One of Frere’s notable early clients was the young watch brand Rolex, who commissioned Frere’s company to manufacture those initial Oyster bracelets.
As a consequence of the Oyster bracelet success in the marketplace, Rolex’s natural competitors also hired Gay Freres manufcturing services – and in the 1940s and 50s Fréres supplied the major high-end watch manufcturers with metal bracelets as well.
As an example, the most expensive watch ever sold in history, the Patek Philippe reference 1518, came with a Gay Frères beads-of-rice bracelet.
By 1998 Rolex directly bought the Fréres manufacturing company to address this competition issue. Rolex is known to employ as much in-house production as possible, to the extent of casting their own gold.
Current collectors pursue those vintage Fréres bracelets for its high value, becoming sometimes more valuable than the old chronographs that used them initially.
Originally born in Milan, Italy in the 19th Century, these metal bracelets were later improved in Germany in the early 20th Century.
This type of mesh bracelet was popular on both dress and field/sports watches in the first half of the 20th Century but became heavier by the latter half of the century winning the title of ‘shark mesh’.
Omega refreshed the mesh bracelet's popularity by launching the Omega SeaMaster 600m in the 1970s. The company claimed, as a marketing strategy, their watch to be ‘shark bite proof’ which interestingly doesn’t address how the diver would survive a shark attack.
We doubt this protects against shark attacks but great marketing nonetheless. Source: Watchgecko
In the present day, the mesh bracelet came back among design conscious watch manufacturers and even Apple chose it to launch their groundbreaking Apple Watch.
These Milanese or mesh bracelets are made of a tightly woven metal mesh, giving it a smooth appearance to the eye.
This type of construction is not the most durable in hard use conditions but as they are likely to be worn in more dressy or formal environments, this durability issue is not much of a concern. Also, the mesh in such a tight weave may cause some feeling of rigidity for some wearers.
Despite these downsides, Milanese or mesh bracelets are a suitable choice for all types of wrist watches. Though these may look and feel somewhat vintage, they match very well with modern watches.
This iconic metal bracelet won its name in 1956 when it was given as a token of respect to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, in celebration of the 150,000th chronometer certified piece manufactured by Rolex.
The President bracelet is crafted exclusively in precious metals (gold and platinum) and only Rolex Day-Dates are exclusively fitted with this style. This bracelet is similar in design to the Oyster but differs slightly as it has smaller three-piece links with a rounded bar across the middle.
Even presidents cannot resist the beauty of this design. Source: Millenary Watches
The larger amount of smaller links makes it denser than the Oyster resulting in a more comfortable feel on the wrist. Because of its tiny links, the President bracelet is less durable in tough environments than the Oyster, which is not an issue since it is meant for formal wear.
President bracelets work well with timepieces that are small to medium in size.
Other Common Materials for Straps
Leather is the oldest and most popular watch strap material. These leather straps can be of a variety of styles and can also be made from exotic skins. The typical cowskin is probably the most common – but luxurious options like kangaroos, serpents, big rodents or crocodiles are out there.
Leather Straps in Dress Code
Source: Luxe Digital
Dressy leather straps are meant to be used on formal occasions. These usually tend to be monochrome and rarely display visible stitches. Usually, these leather straps match with high-end belts and shoes ideally of the same type of animal skin and same color tone. Black is more formal than brown.
Leather Straps and Casual Wear
Leather straps meant for casual wear have no need to hide the stitching and come in a variety of types, colors and origin. Casual leather straps can be matched to literally any informal wear style. Informal leather straps are ideal for field and sports watches and chronographs, and are regularly seen on diver watches ruining with style the promise of ‘water proof’ features.
Rubber is a very popular strap material. This material is mostly seen in modern digital and smart watches as well as some classic divers. Rubber is sweat and water resistant, and is suited for people with active lifestyles.
The best choice for people with an active lifestyle. Source: Meticulist
Rubber straps on watches have been around wrist watch users since at least the 1960s.
Early models used rubber based on the ‘purpose’ of it rather than its attractiveness. Today, this ‘ugliness’ issue is solved with appealing versions of rubber like silicone, and other modern compounds that provide better comfort and attractiveness.
To improve on the unappealing side of plain rubber, watch manufacturers came up with silicone to provide a softer and pliable strap to the wearer. Silicone watch straps maintain the water and sweat proof capabilities but are incredibly comfortable and far better than the earlier pure rubber versions.
Nylon watch straps are also very popular. Perfect for casual wear – these straps combine comfort and durability. Nylon straps were originally conceived for military purposes. So called G10 or NATO straps, these military born straps became popular after World War II.
Similar in feel and style to the nylon straps, the canvas watch straps differ in the organic compound of the material. Canvas is made of natural material while Nylon is a synthetic compound.
Over the years, watch manufacturers have paired field watches with long lasting robust canvas straps but later manufacturers switched to synthetic canvas for cost-related and durability purposes.
Source: Vintage Straps
Synthetic canvas straps are tougher and last longer than the natural versions, and also gain in stain and water-resistance.
It's a perfect choice to match a canvas strap with a diver or field watch. The feel and look of the strap inspires adventure.
Why change your bracelet?
There are several reasons for which you may want to replace your watch strap. These range from practical repairs to more stylistic ones. Changing the bracelet on a watch can have a massive effect on how it looks.
It also happens that some truly high-quality timepieces get straps from the factory that aren't great. Being able to remove the OEM strap and replace it with a new one is a great thing if you don't like the strap that is on your watch!
Pin & Collar vs Screw-in Systems
There is an open discussion on bracelets replacement and resizing, on whether Seiko’s ‘pin and collar’ system is easier to handle compared to the ‘screw in’ system.
The Pin and Collar linking system is the most familiar to Seiko enthusiasts. This system uses holes on the sides of the links to allow the insertion of pins and collars to keep the links attached.
A well-established design for Seiko. Source: Watchuseek
The collars are very tiny and thin metal cylinders that slide into the links together with the pin to lock the bracelet’s links.
When a bracelet with this system needs to be resized, the pin and collar must be removed so that the links come apart and then a link can be added or removed to obtain your perfect wrist fit.
It is extremely important to use specific tools and work over a clean clear surface (like a white cloth over the working table) so as to eye-spot the tiny pieces clearly.
Screw-In Link Bracelets
The screw-linked system is the simplest and therefore most reliable for amateur watch collectors when needing to resize or replace a watch bracelet. Instead of the pin and collars described above, this system replaces them with a simple screw (typically of the size of an eyeglass screw).
Screw-linked bracelets are easy to disassemble and reassemble, it’s only a matter of unscrewing to loosen and screwing to fasten back the links together. Yet it is possible to damage the bracelet if you cross-thread the link.
Easy to work with but can cause damage if threaded incorrectly. Source: RWG
Regardless of the bracelet system you are dealing with; if you are new to DIY repair and modding we recommend taking your watch to resize or bracelet replacement to a professional, and closely watch how the watchmaker or jeweler handles your piece before trying on your own.
When you decide to put your own hands into the amazing world of modding and self-maintenance of your watch, we strongly recommend you use the appropriate tools, work with magnified lenses or a lupe – and work over a suitable desk with a covering that will make the work easier.
Quality clasps - Stamped metal clasp (original) vs. Milled clasp (aftermarket)
Another open discussion among watch lovers is about how a clasp should be made. The answer is a matter of user experience and personal impressions – although most watch companies only used stamped metal to cut costs.
According to conversations found in watch fans forums and articles, it looks like the differences are very mild and the choice relies more on aesthetics than practical reasons.
The milled clasp has a cleaner look and holds its shape better over time in comparison to the legendary stamped metal clasps. But in terms of endurance, stamped clasps are thought to last a lifetime while milled clasps are expected to last for approximately 25 years, which for many users is fair enough.
Stamped clasps are bigger and have strengthening curves while milled clasps are smaller and will possibly be more attractive when unfolded.
All metal bracelets share the same weak points: the springbar where the bracelet and case join, the spring bar that connects the bracket to the end of the clasp and finally the spring bar that connects the two halves of the clasp.
All these spring bars can fail over time.
Bracelet Variety in Design and Color
Being able to remove and replace the original strap of your watch is an enjoyable activity since there are countless options, styles and materials to make your watch look completely new.
No matter if it’s a replacement for worn out watch bands or a complete change of your watch looks, at namokiMODS you can find the suitable bracelet to renew your watch.
Any Seiko mods fan can find a wide variety of metal bracelets in different design styles like Oyster, President, Beads of Rice and more at the namokiMODS website.
To an observing eye, sometimes the watch band sticks out more visibly than the face of a watch itself. A decent strap is a key companion to any decent watch. Take a look at how much a bracelet can change the overall look of a SKX007 mod.
Metal bracelets can be worn on dressy occasions or when practicing sports or when you are walking your dog in casual wear. Seiko mod parts come in a range of quality standards – and we offer some of the best quality aftermarket Seiko Bracelet in the market.
Take a look at our extensive online catalog to see some of the best parts available for watch modding. If you take the time to do your own watch modification – you should be working with our parts.
At namokiMODS – we feature a wide selection of skx007 mod parts – and a lot more!