There is a saying in the jewelry industry that diamonds are long-lasting. In the watchmaking industry, it is no exaggeration to say that metal chain bracelets (mainly gold, stainless steel, titanium and platinum) enjoy a similar reputation. But this is not completely accurate. In recent years, rubber straps have continued to develop, and high added value has made it catch up with metal chain bracelets. Rubber is becoming an increasingly valuable material in terms of strength, durability, creativity, performance, and even development costs.
In the watchmaking world, no one can deny Biwi’s central role in the gradual transformation of rubber. This family company in Glovelier, Switzerland, has earned the respect of well-known brands in the industry. It seems that prudence is one of its key attributes. The main brands supplied by Biwi are unknown, but for a long time, RICHARD MILLE has established a fruitful partnership with the company, which includes a transparent rubber strap that has been developed over two years.
Richard Mille Wristwatches With Rubber Strap
Rubber straps can achieve such high visibility and technical achievements mainly for two reasons: one is plasticity and the other is “melting”. Plasticity includes shape, material and color, as well as antibacterial and deodorant treatments. Everything, or almost everything, is possible. The “melting” also contains unlimited possibilities. For example, the Hysek Kilada 41mm stainless steel automatic chronograph inserts the “H” insert in the rubber strap to pay tribute to the brand logo. The “H” inserts vary in material, steel, titanium or gold, depending on the model.
Hysek Kilada 4MM Stainless Steel Automatic Chronograph Rubber Strap Watch
Another major feature of rubber is its close connection to automotive 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 the strap with the same contour as the Dunlop tires of the 1960s. At the time, Dunlop tires were considered the best tires on the market, and the tires of Karl Scheufele (the father of Karl-Friedrich Scheufele) chose this type of tire. In 1995, Chopard decided to recreate the era with the Mille Miglia collection.
Chopard Mille Miglia Race Edition Rubber Strap Wristwatch
Two years later, another Geneva manufacturer, Patek Philippe, put this idea into practice, and the brand specially designed the famous “Tropical” strap for the Aquanaut series watch. The development of such straps took more than a year, and multiple steps were required in manufacturing, using a variety of machines, including 150-ton presses.
Patek Philippe Aquanaut Tropical Strap Watch
The latest example of the integration of tires and straps comes from Roger Dubuis. As part of the collaboration, Roger Dubuis manufactures straps from Pirelli’s assembled racing tires. In this very unique collection, each watch corresponds to the seven famous color schemes of Pirelli. There is even an Excalibur Spider Pirelli Sottozero in the collection with a titanium stud in the rubber strap, echoing Pirelli’s famous snow tires.
Roger Dubuis Excalibur Spider Pirelli Sottozero Rubber Strap With Titanium Studs Wristwatch
Rubber straps are growing rapidly, but given the novelty, there is still much room for exploration. One possibility is to add fluorescent materials; another is to make a fuss about strength and thickness to develop a robust rubber strap that is as robust as an ultra-thin watch. For example, the RICHARD MILLE strap can withstand 20 kg of traction.
Richard Mille Wristwatches With Rubber Strap
Eberhard & Co. Scafograf GMT “The Black Sheep” Rubber Strap Wristwatch
Ulysse Nardin Diver Deep Dive Rubber Strap Watch 3203-500LE-3/93
In the end, there is no doubt that the bracelet will follow another major trend: customization. We can look forward to seeing some of the colors that are not yet found in the brand’s popular palette (specifically, depending on customer needs), with more or less special materials (Santa Barth’s sand, Havana’s cigar leaves, UAE’s Crude oil), as well as shapes that have never been seen before (such as rubber cuffs). The prospects are very broad, but the production of temporary rubber straps is still in the hands of subcontractors. Increasing correlations may change the status, and we may see related mergers and acquisitions in the future.