There is a saying in the jewelry industry that diamonds are forever. In the watchmaking industry, it is no exaggeration to say that metal chains (mainly gold, steel, titanium and platinum) also enjoy a similar reputation. But this is not entirely accurate. In recent years, the rubber strap has been continuously developed, and its high added value has made it catch up with the metal chain strap. In terms of strength, durability, creativity, performance, and even development costs, rubber is becoming an increasingly valuable material.
In the world of watchmaking, no one can deny Biwi’s central role in the progressive evolution of rubber. This family-owned company in Glovelier, Switzerland has won the respect of well-known brands in the industry. It seems that prudence is one of its key attributes. We do not know the major brands supplied by Biwi. However, RICHARDMILLE has established a fruitful partnership with this company, and the results include a transparent rubber strap that took two years to develop.
Chopard Mille Miglia Race Edition
There are two main reasons why rubber straps can achieve such high popularity and technical achievements: one is plasticity, and the other is ‘meltability’. Plasticity includes shapes, materials, and colors, as well as antibacterial and deodorizing treatments. Anything, or almost everything, is possible. ‘Fusion’ also contains infinite possibilities. For example, the HysekKilada 41mm stainless steel automatic chronograph inserts ‘H’ inserts in rubber straps in honor of the brand logo. The ‘H’ inserts are available in different materials, steel, titanium or gold, depending on the model.
Athens Watch Dive
Another key feature of rubber is its close association with car tires, and this applies to almost all watchmaking brands seeking inspiration from the automotive world. In this regard, Chopard is a pioneer in the industry. The most representative example is a strap with the same outline as the Dunlop tires of the 1960s. At that time, Dunlop tires were regarded as the best tires on the market, and Karl Scheufele (the father of Karl-FriedrichScheufele) chose this type of tire. In 1995, Chopard decided to reproduce the fashion of the times with the MilleMiglia series.
Eberhard & Co. Scafograf GMT ‘The Black Sheep’
Two years later, another Genevan manufacturer, Patek Philippe, put this idea into practice, and the brand specially designed the famous ‘Tropical’ strap for the Aquanaut series. The development of this watchband took more than a year, and manufacturing required a number of specific steps, using a variety of machines, including 150-ton presses.
Hysek Kilada 41 mm stainless steel automatic chronograph
The latest example of tyre and strap fusion comes from Roger Dubuis. As part of the partnership, Roger Dubuis manufactures straps from Pirelli-assembled racing tires. In this very unique collection, each watch corresponds to seven famous color schemes of Pirelli. There is even an ExcaliburSpiderPirelliSottozero watch in this series. Its strap is inlaid with titanium studs, echoing Pirelli’s famous snow tire.
Patek Philippe Aquanaut watch with ‘Tropical’ strap
Rubber straps are developing rapidly, but given their novelty, there is still plenty of room for exploration. One possibility is to add fluorescent materials; the other possibility is to work on strength and thickness to develop an ultra-thin rubber strap with robust performance, just like an ultra-thin watch. For example, the strap of RICHARDMILLE can withstand a traction of 20 kg.
Roger Dubuis Excalibur Spider Pirelli Sottozero
In the end, there is no doubt that the belt will follow another major trend: customization. We can look forward to seeing some colors not found in the brand’s common palette (the specific color depends on customer needs), more or less special materials (Sand Bart’s sand, Havana’s cigar leaves, UAE Crude oil), and shapes never seen before (such as rubber cuffs). The future is very promising, but the production of rubber straps is still in the hands of subcontractors. Increasing relevance may change the status quo, and we may see related mergers and acquisitions in the future. (Photo / text watch home compiled by Xu Chaoyang)