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 7 minutes

Rolex Diver, Strapqueen: Which band for which watch?

By Christoph Odenthal

Looking to give your Rolex diver a facelift? Want to add a little more color to your everyday wardrobe? Interested in finding a comfortable band option for winter?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above, then I have a few tips to share. But let’s start at the beginning and check out the authentic Rolex bracelets.

What bracelets does Rolex offer?

There’s no denying that modern Rolex bracelets cannot be beat visually or performance-wise. They are known for their meticulously arranged, yet robust components and features. For diving watches, you have the choice between an Oyster or a Jubilee bracelet.

  • Oyster bracelet: There is no match for the streamlined and sporty Oyster bracelet in the whole of the luxury watch industry. After more than ten years wearing various Rolex models on my wrist, I still appreciate the solid nature of this bracelet every time I wear it. The Oysterlock clasp and Glidelock adjustment system are both functional masterpieces. The bracelet literally slips onto your wrist – no awkward tugging required. It’s akin to a second skin.
  • Jubilee bracelet: If you’d prefer a more elegant look for your Rolex watch, the Jubilee bracelet is the way to go. In contrast to the three-piece link Oyster, the Jubilee counts five links across. While this bracelet is mostly associated with the classic Rolex Datejust, it also looks great on the sportier Rolex GMT-Master II, i.e., the Batman, Pepsi, Sprite, etc. Don’t even get me started on comfort here; I could endlessly wax lyrical about the feel of this bracelet on the wrist.

Given the above, it seems impossible that we’d complain about Rolex bracelets, right? Well, there are certain circumstances in which an alternate band from a third-party manufacturer may be advantageous. I can think of many situations where this may be the case.

I’ll draw on my own experiences to illustrate this. Three Rolex divers have found their way into my collection over the years. What can I say? I’m a big fan of the iconic Rolex Sub design. You may be thinking, “Hang on, three Rolex diving watches in the same collection?” Yes, three. True, at first glance, the watches look almost identical; however, with different bands, these three timepieces can happily coexist in a single collection. Who doesn’t like a good reason to expand their collection?

The original Rolex bracelets are top of the line in terms of workmanship and haptics.

Three Rolex diving watches, three bands, three different looks

1. Rolex Submariner Ref. 114060: Oyster Bracelet

Have you had the pleasure of owning a Rolex Submariner ref. 114060? What about trying on the successor ref. 124060 on an Oyster bracelet? I’m the proud owner of a modern Sub with a ceramic bezel on a stainless steel bracelet. Compared to its predecessor (the Submariner ref. 14060), my bracelet feels slightly more substantial. I put this largely down to the solid links. The transition point from bracelet to lug is also an improvement over the previous version, and the evenly-spaced link arrangement affords the bracelet an air of calm. The masculine maxi case isn’t really suitable for pairing with a leather or NATO strap; it simply appears too bulky due to the angular drop at the lugs. Moreover, a classic NATO or ZULU strap, both of which run below the case back, would increase the overall height of the watch, making it difficult to slide under a shirt or jacket sleeve.

For me, the classic Rolex Oyster bracelet is the clear winner for Submariners with a ceramic bezel.

I prefer to wear my modern Rolex Sub on an Oyster bracelet, its predecessor on a NATO strap, and the Sea-Dweller on a rubber strap.

2. Rolex Submariner Ref. 14060: NATO/Leather Strap

Have you ever considered buying a vintage Rolex but been put off by the loss of tension in the stainless steel bracelet? The original bracelets for the Submariner ref. 14060 are simply not on par with the modern variant in terms of feel or functionality. While some people are big fans of this bracelet, you can clearly see and feel the differences between the two. I prefer to wear this retro timepiece with its aluminum bezel on a NATO strap, or occasionally on leather. There are several reasons for this.

  • A relaxed look: The Rolex Submariner ref. 14060 on a NATO strap exudes a certain simplicity and coolness, à la Sean Connery in the classic 007 films. Whether you pair it with jeans and a T-shirt or a tux, you can’t go wrong with this combo. The slightly raised case height due to the strap running behind it doesn’t detract from the overall comfort; on the contrary, the comparatively slimmer case still slides beautifully under any sleeve or cuff. Plus, on frosty winter days, it’s nice to have a bit of space between your wrist and the cool stainless steel case back. You don’t need any tools to change a classic NATO strap either, meaning you can switch it out quickly and easily, spontaneously adapting to a new outfit or mood. If you’re looking for Rolex’s understated or down-to-earth side, this watch-bracelet combination is where it’s at.
  • Cheaper than a Rolex bracelet: Decent NATO straps are available from numerous retailers, starting at as little as $15. If you want to go for a more classic look, the Rolex Submariner ref. 14060 also looks great on a leather strap. Given most leather straps have an exact lug width, the case-to-strap transition looks extremely smooth compared to that on the ref. 114060. If you’re in the market for a leather strap, check out the offerings from Colareb. This Italian manufacturer has a solid selection of material and color options, starting from just over $40. Austrian strap manufacturer Hirsch likewise carries suitable products in its lineup.
The Rolex Submariner ref. 14060 looks great on a NATO strap.

3. Sea-Dweller Ref. 126600: Rubber Strap

Have you ever taken a long, hard look at a Rolex Sea-Dweller Red and thought it was the ultimate beauty queen among Rolex divers? The perfectly proportioned maxi case, continuous scale on the ceramic bezel, helium escape valve, nostalgic red dial inscriptions, the history… The Rolex Sea-Dweller ref. 126600 is undoubtedly an impressive timepiece.

Thanks, but no, thanks? Do you already know the catch of this anniversary model? With a wrist circumference of 17 cm (about average), I can relate to many watch fans out there who know that a case of 39 to 41 mm is the ideal size for everyday wear. In my experience, you should tread carefully with cases larger than 41 mm. With that in mind, this 43-mm Rolex Sea-Dweller doesn’t sound very appealing. Worn on an Oyster bracelet, this heavyweight comes in at 195 g.
Lighten the load with a NATO strap? Nope! The bulky case and straight lugs make the pairing nearly impossible. Instead, you need a tailor-made solution with perfectly fitting rounded ends. It also needs to be made of a material that can support a case of this size and weight and still lie comfortably on the wrist.

The Rolex Sea-Dweller is much more comfortably worn on a rubber strap.

Rubber straps for the Sea-Dweller

Rubber B vs. Everest Horology

Rolex and rubber: a match made in heaven. Rolex unveiled its own rubber strap, the Oysterflex, on the Everose gold Yacht-Master at Baselworld 2015. However, if you want to look further afield, there are two rubber strap manufacturers that stand out from the crowd of low-cost suppliers: Rubber B and Everest Horology Products. I have tried both brands and must admit I prefer the latter, particularly in black. After careful consideration, I decided against the version with space to accommodate the original Rolex Oysterlock clasp, and instead opted for the Everest pin buckle. Anyone who has mounted one of their beloved timepieces on an Everest strap will likely agree with me when I say the overall quality leaves little to be desired. The Sea-Dweller Red’s sizable case is balanced by the seamless transition from strap to case, making it more suitable for my average-sized wrist. Plus, the lighter load compared to the stainless steel bracelet is really noticeable. Overall, this strap feels no different to the in-house Rolex variety in terms of fit or feel.
Some $250 for a piece of rubber?! Yes, some critics will find fault with Everest’s prices, but wouldn’t you rather wear a watch that costs as much as a small car on a high-quality strap?

The rubber polymer material has performed well over time on my wrist. It’s been exposed to UV light as well as extreme heat and cold during various vacations. Nevertheless, the strap remains a true, deep black. The surface isn’t susceptible to scratches or stains, and the pin buckle has stood the test of time, even when subjected to more vigorous outdoor activities. The strap has a robust look that is great for everyday wear. Wearing the Sea-Dweller Red on a rubber strap makes it slightly less noticeable – in a good way. The strap gives the watch a more subtle, more tool-like look. In fact, the watch often gets mistaken for a diver from Seiko or Citizen. So, for those of you who’d like to dive to 4,000 ft on your next scuba trip, or if you just want to slip under the watch radar for a little while, this could be the perfect choice for you.

Mixing up the bands of your diving watches keeps them fresh and gives them added versatility for everyday wear. You can achieve a specific look or function by switching out your Oyster or Jubliee bracelet for an alternate from elsewhere. This is just another way for these classic diving watches to continue reinventing themselves.

About the Author

Christoph Odenthal

Christoph Odenthal grew up in Düsseldorf in a family of watch lovers. His first watch was a gift from his grandfather in 1985: a Citizen Promaster Aqualand with an electronic depth gauge. Since then, many a watch has changed hands within the family, first and foremost from his favorite brand, Rolex.

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