The 6 Best (and most stylish) Apple Watch bands for men

By: Peter Nguyen
Last Updated: August 19, 2021

As someone specializing in styling men in tech, is it any surprise that “stylish Apple watch bands” are one of the more common requests from my clients?

The Apple Watch always had a few aesthetic features that bugged me.

You’re locked into the non-traditional square shape. 

The large screen size is great for usability, but can feel big on some wrists.

But making the Apple Watch more stylish isn’t as tricky as it seems. You just need to be a little more thoughtful when choosing your bands! 

In this post, I share my client’s favorite, stylish Apple Watch bands, along with the watches that inspired them.

How I chose these stylish bands for my clients

I drew inspiration from classic men’s watches, imagining if brands like Rolex, IWC, and Cartier designed their own Apple Watch. 

From there, we hunted down and tested bands that matched these classic watches. We returned bands that didn’t live up to expectations in quality and/or design. 

Here’s what we ended up keeping:


rolex style apple watch band
Courtesy of Rolex & Epic Watch Brands

1. The classic metal band: The Rolex Oyster  

Do I even need to write an introduction to The Rolex band? 

Style is great for

All dress codes, from casual t-shirt and jeans to suits.

The band’s signature details

Rolex’s bands, or as they call them, bracelets, have a signature 3-link design (two small links on the outside with a larger link in the middle) along with a gliding folding-hinge clasp closure. 

My pick

Epic Watch Bands stainless steel link Apple Watch band ($49) nailed all the right details. Other options we tried had links that were too shiny, making the band feel cheap. Clients have also commented on the nice weight of the strap, making the watch feel a lot more premium.

iwc leather style apple watch band
Courtesy of IWC & Bandwerk

2. Rugged leather band: The IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII leather band

While the original IWC Mark 11 Pilot watch often sported a NATO strap (see #4!), I’ve always been a fan of the Mark XVIII edge-stitch calfskin leather strap. The move from NATO to leather tones the military vibes down, making it more wearable in dressier situations.

Style is great for

More casual to business-casual outfits. 

The thicker band style and patina of the leather gives it a more casual feel. I don’t recommend pairing it with formal looks. 

The band’s signature details

Like many luxury brands, IWC’s leather straps are crafted from calfskin, known for their durability and softness. Because you get more leather from a full-grown cow, calfskin can be 1.5-2x more expensive than cowskin. 

The other key detail of the band is the thick edge stitching, which gives the strap a bit more visual punch. (Cheaper brands will use thinner threads for the edge stitching, which can snap easier over time.)

My pick

Bandwerk’s Berlin Apple Watch strap ($97) While Bandwerk uses Italian cowhide, it wasn’t a dealbreaker for my clients or me. The quality of the leather was top-notch.

Bandwerk also chose Gütermann thread, an extremely nice quality thread that I preferred when I designed leather jackets. That tells me they know their stuff when it comes to leatherwork! The ability to add a butterfly clasp is a nice option.

Note: If you own a 42mm Apple Watch, make sure you note that in your order. Bandwerk only lists 40mm and 44mm, but will ship you a 42mm band adapter.

crocodile leather apple watch band
Courtesy of Cartier

3. The dressy leather band: The Cartier Tank leather croc band

I don’t recommend you sporting your Apple Watch when you’re rocking a tux. For any other situation that might require you to dress up a bit, nothing tops the look of a croc strap on a watch (including your Apple.) 

Seen on the wrist of men like Muhammed Ali to Andy Warhol, the Cartier Tank with a croc strap is my all-time favorite watch. 

Thanks to its signature rectangular design, the Cartier Tank’s aesthetic vibe translates well to the Apple Watch.

Style is great for

All dress codes. 

Despite its dressier appearance, the style surprisingly works especially well with casual looks. Just check out Muhammad Ali rocking one with a white t-shirt.

The band’s signature details

The crocodile pattern, of course. The Cartier Tank croc straps are also finished with a more “invisible” tone-on-tone edge stitching, creating a cleaner, elegant look. 

My pick

Hadley is the only brand I’ve seen offer real croc straps ($133) along with a much more affordable gator-embossed cowskin option ($63). My client’s also loved the ability to choose different buckle options. If you want to keep it classic, I recommend a black or brown croc strap with a silver or gold metal buckle.

olive nato strap apple watch band
Courtesy of IWC

4. The tactical military band: The IWC Mark 11 NATO strap

Like a lot of menswear, the NATO strap watch band originates from the military. Putting a nylon strap on a Rolex ala Sean Connery’s Bond can be a polarizing move. However, for your $400 Apple Watch (which is already polarizing enough), it’ll give you some cool tactical vibes.

Style is great for

More casual looks. 

The tactical, military style can be too much of a contrast with a suit and tie. 

The band’s signature details

Traditional NATO straps are notorious for being a bit “overkill”. The main nylon strap is extra long, and is worn by slipping it behind the watch (instead of the ends) before wearing it on your wrist. The extra step is said to help prevent the watch from moving, no doubt a failsafe artifact from the military. 

Some men find this extra material between your wrist and the watch too bulky. But you can reduce the bulk by adjusting how you strap it. (See video here)

Other key details I tried to look for are metal loops which are a lot more durable than fabric loops. 

My pick

Shinola’s Nylon Apple Watch strap ($75) It was near impossible to find a true long NATO strap for the Apple Watch. Most likely because the traditional strapping method would cover the sensors on the back of the watch. 

Of all the nylon strap options for the Apple Watch, what set Shinola apart was the quality of the hardware. My client’s found other buckles to be too light and cheap. Shinola’s buckles were much more substantial, with a finish that closely matched the Apple Watch. 

I also like the variety of color options, but I recommend olive or black for something classic. 

milanese mesh apple watch band

5. The elegant metal mesh: Seiko Sarb065 Cocktail Time mesh band

The fine chain-link style gained popularity in the 70s with the release of the Omega Seamaster Ploprof. The diver inspired many to give the band the nickname “shark mesh”, most likely due to its resemblance to shark mesh suits. (Even though it was not actually shark-proof.) 

Style is great for

Dressier looks. 

Despite its popularity with dive watches and armor-like aesthetics, the fine mesh’s elegance gives watches a dressier appearance. This makes it work particularly well more formal, tailored outfits. 

The band’s signature details

A fine chain-link metal, similar to medieval armor or shark mesh. 

My pick

Apple’s Milanese Loop ($99) There are many 3rd party mesh bands on the market, but many of my clients found the knockoffs wore down faster than Apple’s official model. 

Client’s also preferred the quality and finish of Apple’s loop band. A few noted Apple’s having a tighter mesh compared to competitors, which helped the band wrap much more comfortably around the wrist. 

6. The retro metal band: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak stainless steel band

The Royal Oak’s angular stainless steel construction is one of the most radical and legendary designs since its introduction in 1972. 

The watch has exploded in popularity in the last few years thanks to rappers and celebrities giving the iconic watch shoutouts. 

Style is great for

All dress codes.

The sleeks, minimalist aesthetic is surprisingly versatile. Take a cue from celebrities with their Royal Oaks, don’t be afraid to strap on the band with your casual and suit & tie outfits. 

The band’s signature details

Flat, angular brushed steel.

My pick

Apple’s own Silver Link Bracelet ($349) was the winner with my clients. The build felt premium and seamlessly blended with the Apple Watch. (No surprise there) 

The big standout feature is the very Apple-like adjusting mechanism, allowing you to add or remove links without any special tools. 

A few clients preferred Nomad’s Steel band ($149), citing the magnetic clasp and savings of $200 as the reason. I found Nomad’s silver steel band to be a bit too shiny for my taste. 

Of Nomad’s options, I personally like the brushed silver of Nomad’s silver titanium band ($249). Titanium is stronger than steel while being 45% lighter and is basically impossible to corrode with sweat or ocean water. These two bonuses are worth the $100 price bump. 

So why did I ultimately choose Apple’s Silver Link Bracelet over Nomads?

When it comes to aesthetics, I preferred the elegance of Apple’s links, which are flatter and overlap like scales. Nomad’s links are rounded, and from the side are a lot more noticeably chunky. 

There are certain luxury companies creating full cases (band and watch) that mimic the Royal Oak’s aesthetics, but neither I nor my clients could justify the $900 price tag.

nike and hermes apple watch band

What about the other Apple or Hermés bands?

Because Apple’s in-house straps are quite unique, they don’t really fit in this list, but here are some thoughts and recommendations.

The fluoroelastomer rubber Nike Sport Band ($49) is a favorite for clients who wear the Apple Watch while working out. The perforations help with breathability and prevent the watch from feeling too “sticky” during particularly long and sweaty workout sessions. 

The Hermés’ double tour bands ($489) are the more fashion-forward options out there. 

As a former owner of Hermés double tour watch, I was originally excited when they announced the signature strap for the Apple Watch. 

Unfortunately, I find an Apple Watch with a double tour strap too bulky for my liking. The double tour bands work best with smaller, thinner watch cases. 

If you’re going to pull the trigger on one of the more luxurious Apple Bands from Hermés, I recommend the single tour leather models ($339)   

(If you’re curious why Hermés bands cost so much, watch this great behind-the-scenes video of an Hermés watch strap atelier!)

Final thoughts

I hope this guide helped you see that you can still wear your tech and be stylish. 
Do you have an Apple Watch band you love that’s NOT on this list? I’d love to know what it is! Shoot me a message on my Instagram @TheEssentialMan

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