If you’re a fan of changing up the straps and bracelets of your watch, you know what a difference it makes to the overall design of the timepiece. In fact, there are watch bracelet designs that are so distinctive that they’re as recognizable as the watch models themselves. And we’ve rounded them up right here for you with a handful of some of the most iconic watch bracelets ever made.
Aside from making the world’s most desirable watches, there are also several iconic Rolex bracelet types, notably, the Oyster, Jubilee, and President bracelets.
Introduced in the late 1930s and patented the following decade, the Rolex Oyster bracelet is the brand’s most ubiquitous, available in a range of materials and across nearly all Rolex collections. It is characterized by flat links in a three-piece configuration and adds a sporty touch to any watch.
On the other hand, the Rolex Jubilee bracelet is the dressier option, featuring semi-circular links in a five-link formation. The Jubilee bracelet made its debut in 1945 on the then-new Datejust watch and continues to be the classic choice for that particular model.
Finally, the Rolex President bracelet is the most luxurious option, only offered by Rolex in solid gold or platinum and exclusively available with Day-Date watches and select Lady-Datejust watches. The bracelet features semi-circular links in a three-piece arrangement and it’s such an integral part of the watch’s design that it’s partly responsible for the Day-Date watch being commonly referred to as the “President” or “Presidential” watch.
Breitling is yet another brand that takes great pride in its iconic watch bracelets, including the Professional, Pilot, and Navitimer bracelets.
While all Breitling Professional bracelets are three-link style bracelets, there have been several iterations over the years. The original Professional had straight links but it was eventually replaced by the Professional II bracelet in the mid-2000s, which had slanted links. The Professional III bracelet followed in the early-2010s, which retained the slanted links but the center links are now wider than the outer ones.
Breitling debuted the now-beloved Pilot Bracelet in the early 1990s, featuring five rows of slanted links. The three inner links of the Breitling Pilot bracelet are slightly thinner than the two outer rows and the whole bracelet is built using 120 components.
Whilst the Navitimer watch came with the option of the Pilot bracelet for a handful of years, Breitling decided to up the ante with the Navitimer bracelet. Although the Navitimer bracelet also has slanted links like the Pilot bracelet, it has seven rows rather than five. Furthermore, Breitling uses 170 parts to construct the band, resulting in a handsome and exceedingly supple steel watch bracelet.
Throughout the course of its history, Omega has also produced some eye-catching bracelets for specific watches.
Take the Speedmaster bracelet, for instance, associated with Omega’s famed chronograph collection. Although there have been many variations on this particular watch band, generally speaking, the Omega Speedmaster style bracelet contains three rows of links, where the center links are wider than the outer ones.
On the other hand, the Omega Seamaster style bracelet is a design associated with the Seamaster Professional diving watch that made its silver screen debut in the 007 film, GoldenEye in 1995. Just like James Bond, the bracelet is dressy but robust, comprising of five links with two rows of train track-like high-polished links weaving through it.
Another famous bracelet put forth by Omega is the Ploprof “Shark Mesh” design, which gained popularity in the 1970s. Short for “shark-proof mesh” this Omega mesh bracelet is a tougher version of the renowned Milanese mesh bracelet due to its lack of pins between its links and intertwined loops structure.
Gay Frères Bracelets
While it’s common today for luxury watch brands to manufacture bracelets in-house, the industry was not always structured this way. Rather, the Swiss watch industry was home to a multitude of specialists, such as dial makers, case makers, caliber makers, and bracelet makers that would supply the brands with components. One of the leading bracelet manufacturers in the early-20th century was Gay Frères, which supplied the likes of Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantin, Rolex, Zenith, IWC, Heuer, and others with renowned bracelet styles like beads-of-rice, ladder, Bonklip, and integrated.
As its name suggests, the Beads of Rice style bracelet, which was highly popular for high-end watches during the early era of wristwatches, resembles the tiny grains, intricately grouped together in a beautiful fashion. There’s nothing quite like pairing a vintage watch with a Beads-of-Rice style bracelet.
With its long and extendable links, the Bonklip style bracelet (sometimes called the Bamboo bracelet,) was typically destined for sportier watches thanks to its bold look and ability to stretch around various wrist sizes. It’s been reported that the design of the original Rolex Oyster bracelet was based on the Gay Frères Bonklip.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Gay Frères built Ladder bracelets for the revolutionary Zenith El Primero chronographs. In contrast to traditional conventional solid three-link bracelets, Ladder watch bracelets have alternating center links, which leave open spaces in the middle of the band—much like a ladder does. In addition to its unique look, the Ladder bracelet also provides breathability and flexibility.
Undoubtedly one of the most renowned bracelet designs of all time is the Integrated bracelet, first made famous by the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak in the early 1970s and quickly followed by the Patek Philippe Nautilus, Rolex Oysterquartz, Omega Constellation Manhattan, IWC Ingenieur SL, and so many others since. The Integrated bracelet sitting flush with the case does away with the open gaps found on traditional straps attached to lugs, thereby creating strong lines and angular appeal.
From Bonklip to Oyster, Beads-of-Rice to Shark Mesh, Professional to Ladder, how a bracelet transforms the style of a watch is undeniable. So the next time you’re searching for a new strap for your watch, why not look to these iconic watch bracelets for inspiration.
What are some of your favorite watch bracelet designs? Let us know in the comments below.