Why you should care
Because this season’s fashion statement is all about the wrist.
It’s iWatch season and tech street style is all about that Apple wrist candy. You know you’ll be judged on your choice of band, even if it’s just, “You got the Sport Band because that was cheapest, huh?” (although the cheapest Apple watch package is still $349!). But don’t let sticker shock ruin your fashion forwardness — less expensive options are available if you leave Apple’s ecosystem. Entrepreneurs are selling compatible watchbands for sartorial pleasure, and at lower costs.
Leslie Jones was inspired to found the Silicon Valley company Monowear after being “stunned at the pricing on the watchbands.” Her friends — who are (luckily) engineers and designers — agreed, and on New Year’s Eve they sketched out designs for new straps. They achieved 100 percent of their Kickstarter goal within 12 hours. Monowear sells 18 stylish straps, with 10 of their colored nylon bands priced at $59.99. Their most expensive is a sleek military-esque metal band for $119.99.
One company offers customized printed bands for $70 and up. Another: hand-embroidered strap covers.
Designed using 3-D printed models and components, the big test was if the straps would fit. Apple didn’t provide samples, and Jones says there have been no discussions with Apple. Monowear wanted to create a separate identity, where all watch users can “express their individuality … in different moments and occasions,” she says. On April 25, the company announced that its straps fit, and started shipping May 11.
Gear Diary editor-in-chief Judie Lipsett Stanford says that it was stressful choosing her watch package (you need to buy the Apple Watch’s face with a strap to start; the face is not currently sold on its own), as band costs escalate quickly. She says that Monowear’s designs seem stylish and affordable, but she’ll reserve judgment till they arrive, in case they aren’t as attractive in person.
Other innovators in this space include engineering student Brandon Hudson of Rochester, New York, who launched Click to provide people with $27.99 Apple Watch adapters. His adapter snaps onto the watch face and allows any 22-millimeter watch band to be used. Then there’s Casetify, who offer customized printed bands for $70 and up. Want to go low-tech? Etsy store MakeMeMaker sells hand-embroidered strap covers to disguise the sport band.
But these new businesses may be in jeopardy. In April, Apple (which didn’t respond to a request for comment) was granted the patent for their interchangeable lock mechanism. The company added to this by publishing guidelines for third-party manufacturers, and if Monowear, Click et al. don’t adhere, they might receive cease and desist orders from Apple’s lawyers. Your alternative is staying with the official Apple bands, where you’re limited to six styles in multiple colorways for $49 to $449.
It’s good to know there are companies trying to get your wrist looking more stylish, but just remember: Everything that’s on that fancy smartwatch can already be accessed by you right now. How, you ask? Just check your phone.