Whether you're looking for protection, style or a little bit of both, these are the best Apple Watch bands for most wrists available right now.
Russell Holly is a Managing Editor on the Commerce team at CNET. He works with all of CNET to assemble top recommendations as well as helping everyone find the best way to buy anything at the best price. When not writing for CNET you can find him riding a bike, running around in Jedi robes, or contributing to WOSU public radio's Tech Tuesday segment.
Expertise7 years experience as a smartphone reviewer and analyst, 5 years experience as a competitive cyclistCredentials
I have used every version of the Apple Watch since the original, both as a casual watch and a fitness device. My Apple Watch has recorded triathlons, multi-day hiking trips, and trips to just about every major theme park in the US. One thing I can say for sure is the watch band you're wearing matters no matter what you are doing.
While there are a ton of great Apple Watch bands out there made by many different companies, and there's no such thing as a single watch band ideal for every situation, the one I recommend most is made by Apple. The Solo Loop from Apple is my favorite watch band largely because it works well in the most environments. It's thinner than most watch bands because it's a single piece of liquid silicone, so works under dress shirts and thermal hiking gear alike.
It's simple, unassuming, and one of the most comfortable watch bands you can own. Unlike most Apple Watch bands, which allow you to adjust the strap until it fits you, Apple's Solo Loop band is sold in specific sizes. The stretchy silicone band connects as a single piece, so it takes up way less space on your wrist and goes on and off with ease.
Like most silicone bands, Solo Loop's "liquid silicone" is sweatproof and swimproof and cleans easily. It's available in a healthy variety of colors and while it's not the cheapest watch strap in the world it's a healthy balance between the more expensive leather straps and the less durable standard silicone. The only real downside is getting the size right, which can be time consuming if you don't live near an Apple Store.
A protective case and band combo is a smart option for anyone who wears their Apple Watch while doing any sort of manual labor, high-intensity exercise with weights, outdoor activities like rock climbing or any other activities that could damage your watch.
This protective Apple Watch band comes from Supcase, which has long made quality protective cases for the iPhone. The Supcase Unicorn Beetle Pro doubles as a case, which snaps onto your Apple Watch to provide shock absorption, and the raised bezel design acts as screen protectors to help you avoid screen damage and scratches.
There are a lot of silicone Apple Watch bands out there, but there aren't many with this thick, textured design. The tire-tread silicone on this Carterjett band makes it perfect for people who need durability in a band, and the rugged aesthetic is a bonus for outdoorsy or adventurous types. This watch strap comes in a variety of color option choices with sizes from small to extra-large.
Apple manufactures its own suite of leather Apple Watch bands, but the least expensive leather band models start at $99, and the rest (especially those Hermès bands) are priced high enough to sticker shock most people. Though I'm the last to say $80 is inexpensive for a watch band, the Nomad Modern Strap, made from Horween leather, still helps you save compared with Apple Watch leather bands. And, this leather option is still high quality, highly rated and provides a comfortable fit. Linked here is the genuine Apple Watch leather band in rustic brown with matte black hardware, but this leather band comes in other colors too.
If you want an Apple Watch band to go with your formal looks, the Harber London Modern Leather band won't disappoint. It's made of full grain leather that is touted to age beautifully, gaining a unique patina over time. The leather band is compatible with all Apple Watches and comes in three colors: tan, black and deep brown.
These handmade elastic Apple Watch bands are spunky and stretchy. They come in fun, bright colors and easily slip on and off your wrist with no need for buckling and unbuckling. If you do a lot of computer work and find that metal clasps bother your wrist, an elastic band might eradicate that issue, as they're soft and smooth throughout.
For those who want to stick with the classic, simple smartwatch look, nylon is the way to go. This woven style can be extremely durable and long-lasting if you choose the right brand. Salty USA, a Utah-based company that makes Apple accessories, offers budget-friendly woven nylon Apple Watch bands in two sizes (38/40mm and 42/44mm), and they come in more than 20 colors.
Many people, particularly those with smaller wrists, feel that most watch bands fit too wide or thick. If you're looking to wear a thin wristband, try this Secbolt leather watch band that's earned an Amazon's Choice label. This leather strap comes in more than 20 colors and patterns, and the brand offers a one-year full warranty so you can buy with confidence. The genuine leather wrist strap with fine stitching conforms easily to small wrists, and the leather strap can be adjusted to wrist size, thanks to the stainless steel buckle.
If you have large wrists or long or muscular arms, you might find that many watch bands look oddly minuscule on you -- or they don't fit at all. Epic Bands solves this problem with its adjustable stainless steel link bands, which you can customize to fit any size wrist. The band itself is already rather hefty (Epic Bands even clarifies that customers with smaller wrists may not like this band), and it fits wrists up to 8.7 inches (220 mm) as is. If you need the band to fit a larger wrist, you can purchase additional links to make the watch band as long as you need.
Again, Apple's official Apple Watch model accessory bands are hardly cheap, but some are worth the price tag. The popular Milanese Loop band is a great choice when you want something more professional than silicone, but aren't into a leather strap. The Milanese Loop features a woven design. This Apple Watch strap comes in stainless steel, in rose gold, silver or black, which results in a flexible fit and comfortable yet sturdy band that you can wear with professional clothes.
You can surely find rubber watch bands on Amazon for less than $49 (the official Apple Watch bands aren't the most affordable), but I'd urge buyers to be cautious if they have plans to wear a watch band during high-intensity, sweaty workouts. If you like to throw down in the weight room, consider the sports band made in partnership with one of the largest sportswear manufacturers worldwide.
Looking for a sleek steel upgrade from the basic silicone band your Apple Watch came with? Try a stainless steel watchband -- combined with an analog clock face, your smartwatch could look as classic as a high-end designer timepiece on your wrist. This Kades stainless band comes in a brushed-metal finish that looks just as great with a casual outfit as it does with a formal one.
Factors to consider when choosing Apple Watch bands
Before you start researching, it's probably a good idea to give yourself a budget for Apple Watch bands. While there are some affordable options out there, durability tends to suffer with the saved cost. At the same time, there are a number of bands available for $100 or more and made of some incredibly premium materials. If you're looking for something in between, you'll find no shortage of options.
Are you planning to run every day with your watch, or some other strenuous activity? The watch band you want for things like that may not be the same watch band you want to wear to the office or out on a date. It's important to know what you want your watch band for, and prepare yourself if the answer is multiple watch bands.
This may not seem like the most important feature at first, but trust someone who has completed a Century bike ride using an Apple Watch band made of cotton and elastic when I say the ease with which you can clean your band matters. If it's a fabric band and can't survive a few runs through the washer, it's probably not a good idea to use that band when you sweat.
How we test Apple Watch bands
Apple Watch bands are largely tested by wearing them, but specific criteria exist to determine what makes the list. Those criteria are comfort, features, availability and value.
Comfort: It's not enough for an Apple Watch to feel good on your wrist, it should also be able to be worn under a bunch of different clothing types to ensure there's no catching or pulling on your clothes.
Features: Some watch bands can do more than just exist on your wrist. Features like flexibility or elasticity, as well as ease of attachment and removal are tested to ensure it's not bulky or awkward to use in different situations.
Availability: Apple Watches have come in a variety of sizes over the last couple of years, so when a band is available in multiple sizes and colors to better help you express yourself, it matters.
Value: There's a big difference between the price of a watch band whether it's actually worth that price tag because it's well assembled, which is a big thing we look for in determining value.
Apple Watch bands FAQ
How often should you change your Apple Watch band?
You can chance your Apple Watch band as often as you like, unless you work out a lot. If you consider yourself an active person and use your Apple Watch to record a workout more than three times a week, it's a good idea to take the band off completely to fully clean everything once a month.
Do all bands fit any Apple Watch?
No. While there are a lot of Apple Watch bands out there claiming to support multiple sizes, it's important to make sure your specific Apple Watch size is on that list before making a purchase. If you buy the wrong size, you will immediately notice the band does not fit quite right.
Is it OK to wear your Apple Watch band all the time?
Your Apple Watch is designed to be worn all day, but whether you wear it at night is up to you. Apple Watch sleep tracking only works when you're wearing it at night, so if you're going to wear your watch to bed it's important to make sure the band you choose to wear is comfortable and won't pinch you in your sleep.