Talking Apple Watch Straps

Eric Brain of Hypebeast interviewed Apple’s Evans Hankey and Stan Ng about the range of Apple Watch bands. It is unfortunately a pretty light interview — all marketing, no insight — but it made me reflect on how long Apple has been shipping some of these bands for, virtually unchanged.

The big, as-yet unanswered question is what it take for Apple to break backwards compatibility, or if that is something in the cards. Many Apple Watch owners have built up enormous collections of bands, and the longer Apple retains compatibility, the longer it will feel like that is a given.

So far, no strap has been exclusive to an Apple Watch series because of case size, though there are subtle fit issues when, say, putting a band designed for a 38mm model onto a 41mm Series 7. Apple says that the Solo Loop and Braided Solo Loop are only compatible with Series 4 or newer models, but the fit is not terrible on older models. It is not outright incompatible. There are also a handful of bands that have been exclusive to one of the smaller or larger models, like the Modern Buckle and now-discontinued Leather Loop.

In traditional watch terms, Apple has maintained a nearly consistent lug width in each size bracket. This fascinates me. It seems like every new iPhone has slightly different measurements for justifiable reasons like a different camera system and, so, needs a different case. But if you can still use the exact same bands as you used on the Apple Watch of six years ago, so long as you continue to buy either the small or large model.

For comparison, Rolex has been making versions of its iconic Submariner for nearly seventy years, but it consistently took 20mm straps until last year. It would be unwise to speculate that Apple will also take decades to change, but Watch hardware itself have been fairly consistent year-over-year. It is similarly iconic.