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How to build a fun and varied Apple Watch band collection

You could just buy an Apple Watch and only ever use the band that comes with it, but to ignore the amazingly varied world of bands, straps, and bracelets available would mean missing out on the chance to truly make it your own. Building a small collection of bands means your Apple Watch never looks out of place with what you’re wearing or the activity you’re engaged in, and it keeps things fresh and interesting.

If you’re new to the Apple Watch and aren’t sure where to start, I’ve spent a little time building a core collection of bands that I find are suitable for all situations. If you do the same, get ready to change the band on your Apple Watch on a very regular basis. I assure you it’s worth it.

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A band apart

What’s wrong with the basic Apple Sport Band or Sport Loop that comes with most Apple Watch models? Absolutely nothing, and one of these bands is so good it makes it on to my essentials list. It’s limiting yourself just to this one band that I’m suggesting you avoid. Changing the band on the Apple Watch isn’t time-intensive, there’s no risk of losing bits when you take it apart, you don’t need any special tools, and the end result is a completely different look and feel on your wrist.

A collection of Apple Watch bands.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Apple Watch does many different jobs, but one band doesn’t really cover them all very effectively. A Sport Loop band is great for casual wear and exercise, but it’s not so suited to smart wear. The Sport Band is better for smart wear, but it’s not the most comfortable for sleep tracking, and can’t really be called classy. To get the best from your Apple Watch, you need to wear it most of the time, so it’s a great idea to invest in a few different bands.

Where do you start? In my collection, I wanted to cover all the bases with a band for everyday, one for general comfort, a metal bracelet, a leather band, and something fun and unusual. I’m not saying you should follow exactly this list, or that my choices are the absolute best you can get. Instead, this is a guide to what I find works best for the Apple Watch, as well as some great examples for you to consider.

One for everyday wear

This is where you should start, as Apple makes the best everyday wear bands you can buy. Ordering your Apple Watch with either the Sport Loop or the Braided Solo Loop is my advice, as they are both supremely comfortable, very versatile, and come in a wide variety of colors. They’re soft and pliable, and in the case of the Sport Loop, highly adjustable, too.

The Sport Loop is the best all-rounder. I like the latest Nike versions, which have the Nike Swoosh imprinted in the hook-and-loop fastening material, but if it’s too sporty, the normal versions are just as good. It’s easily tightened up for more accurate heart rate tracking, and loosened if it’s hot. It’s easy to clean (warm soapy water makes mine look like new), and should last for years. It also won’t cost you any extra when buying your Apple Watch.

You pay a little more to get the Apple Watch with a Braided Solo Loop band. It’s even less noticeable on your wrist than the Sport Loop and certainly the best option if you want to use the Apple Watch to track sleep. I also use it when I’m double-wristing watches (a traditional watch on one wrist and the Apple Watch on the other) in a muted color that doesn’t make a statement, so your traditional watch gets the attention.

Sizing can be a pain. If you can’t visit an Apple Store to try a Braided Solo Loop on, you have to use Apple’s printable guide. In one of the photos above, you can see the small difference between a size 6 and a size 7 Braided Sport Loop. The Apple measurement tool recommended I buy a size 7, but in reality, it’s much too loose, and the size 6 is a far better fit. Just bear this in mind when you’re ordering.

I actually consider both these everyday wear straps to be essentials in any collection. They’re the ones you will likely use the most, but the Sport Loop is better if you want to keep your Watch close to your skin for heart rate and other health-tracking purposes. The Braided Solo Loop looks amazing and is very versatile, but it can’t be tightened up on your wrist.

A cool metal band

Finding a good metal Apple Watch band can be a challenge, and I’ve learned the hard way that the cheaper the metal band, the more likely it is to mercilessly strip the hair from your arm. If you’re going to splurge on one band, make sure it’s the metal version. Easily the best I’ve tried outside of Apple’s Milanese Loop is Nomad’s Titanium Band. It’s incredibly light — the 44mm Apple Watch Series 7 with the titanium band is just 91 grams — and it has never caught the hair on my arm at all.

The magnetic clasp is simple and secure, the Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC) coating means it’s strong and resists scratches, and its proportions are excellent. The lug design adds a little length to the Watch body, which looks superb. The dark color means it only really works with dark-colored Apple Watch models, though. Nomad’s Titanium Band is also expensive and costs as much as the basic Apple Watch, which will understandably put some people off, but it’s really worth it.

What it’s not very good for is exercise. I’m always concerned that the clips on the magnetic clasp may get knocked, and the watch will fall off my wrist. There’s no way to tighten it up either. This is why you need a good everyday band to go along with it.

A stylish leather band

A staple of most watch band collections, the leather band goes with everything, is hardwearing, and if you choose wisely, only gets better-looking the more you wear it. There’s also a massive choice, almost regardless of how much money you want to spend. It’s worth paying a little more for great-quality leather, though. The Noreve Leather Strap comes in either 20mm or 24mm sizes, is made in France from high-grade leather, and is available in several different colors.

I’m wearing the Marino Blue version with black hardware, and it looks great with the dark Apple Watch. It’s not too soft and does need wearing in (I’m only a week into wearing this one), but I really like the intricate stitching, dual keepers, and stainless steel buckle. The other leather strap I have is Southern Straps’ brown leather band. I’ve worn it on and off for years, and it has aged very nicely, with the brown leather taking on a pleasing patina without losing its color or texture.

Something fun and unusual

The leather, metal, and everyday wear bands are all safe, established, expected choices. Adding a fun or unusual band to your collection gives you choice. It’s probably not going to be one you wear often, so going a little crazy is fine. I think the Hermés Double Tour band fits into this category (or a more reasonably priced alternative), along with bands attached to cases or bands where the Apple Watch fits inside a bracelet.

My choice is the Casetify Clear TPU Band, which can be customized with your own text. For full-on craziness, I chose the Spaceship version, which glows in the dark. — yes, really, and it actually looks pretty cool. Best worn loosely for maximum comfort, the Casetify band is genuinely different, and because it can be customized, it’ll likely be unlike any other. It’s unfortunate you can’t choose different hardware colors, though, so you have to make do with the steel option.

Completing the look

Once you’ve attached your new band, changing the watch face is the final step to completing your new look. Some watch faces work better with certain bands. The California face looks great with the leather strap, while I like the GMT face with the metal bracelet. I usually choose the Contour or Numerals Duo with the Sport Loop or Braided Sport Loop. Apple’s Face Sharing feature (long press on the screen and select Share) makes it easy to grab a friend’s version, too.

If you do start a small Apple Watch band collection, assuming Apple continues to make all bands fit future Apple Watch models, you will still be able to use them even after upgrading your Watch in the future. Building a collection of bands for your Apple Watch really does make it more fun, more personal, and longer lasting.

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