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The best Apple Watch bands of 2024: Expert tested and reviewed

The best Apple Watch bands of 2024: Expert tested and reviewed
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As Apple’s flagship smartwatch gobbles up the market and Apple Watches become a staple in our daily lives, it’s easy to see why we want to personalize them. Just like iPhones and cases, Apple Watches can be upgraded and customized for many situations, from casual to dressy, thanks to their interchangeable watch bands. 

I’ve been an Apple Watch user for a few years now, and I recently upgraded from a Series 3 watch to the latest Watch SE. Over the last several months, I’ve embarked on a journey to test Apple Watch bands from brands like Apple, Nomad, Spigen, and more, to find the best watch bands made of materials ranging from stainless steel to fabric to leather. I’ve also included input from other ZDNET experts who frequently try different watch bands and switch up their looks and consulted staff and customer reviews for bands across the market. Every pick on this list is backed by hands-on testing from ZDNET staff. 

Also: The best Apple Watches you can buy

What’s the best Apple Watch band right now?

After months of wearing different bands during my daily activities and considering the rest of the ZDNET staff’s extensive hands-on analysis of watch bands, my pick for the best Apple Watch band overall is Nomad’s Sport Band thanks to its comfortable and breathable wear and its numerous color choices, including limited edition drops, for a nice upgrade over the plain sports band that came with my Apple Watch.

Not looking for a sport band pick? Don’t worry. This list includes options that work perfectly for heavy exercise, swimming, everyday comfort, work, or dressing up. 

Also: The best Apple Watch Ultra bands of 2024

The best Apple Watch bands of 2024

Pros

  • Numerous color options (including limited edition designs)
  • Durable
  • High quality
  • Interior ventilation

Cons

  • A bit expensive
  • Wish there were more pastel color options
  • Some wear on stainless steel pin

Nomad’s sport band is like a more sophisticated version of Apple’s classic sport band. It is designed for intense workouts and everyday wear. Plus, it’s 100% waterproof, so you can wear it as you exercise in rain, sleet, or snow without worrying about damage. Its lightweight design that encourages ventilation has also solved my sweaty gym wrists (if you know, you know). 

If you’re looking to purchase a sport band or you love Nomad’s bands, we recommend keeping an eye on their website because the company regularly offers Limited Edition models with cool colors and styles (including the one pictured above on my Apple Watch SE). These historically sell out quickly, so if you see a limited edition offering, it’s smart to make your purchase quickly.

I tested the Nomad Sport band in the limited edition glow-in-the-dark Glow 2.0 design, and I was impressed with how similar it felt and performed to my original Apple sport band. Although not every sport band features this fun glow, they all offer the same features. 

Also: Nomad’s glow-in-the-dark iPhone case just sold out, but its alternatives are just as good

When I tested the Nomad sport band, I liked the durable yet comfortable material, the numerous color options available, the customizable adjustability, and the overall look of the band. Getting the band initially secured was a little difficult, but over time, I got it on and off quickly. It’s a nice upgrade from the standard Apple band, and should work for most people. Since it offers more notch options, it felt more secure on my wrist than the Apple sport band, and I felt it stayed cleaner than my Apple band typically does. 

I only have two issues with this band. The first is that after a few weeks of wear, the coating on the stainless steel pin started coming off, although it isn’t noticeable unless I look very closely. Secondly, despite the numerous color options, I wish Nomad offered more, like some softer pastels.

Nomad sport band customers on Reddit said they liked the quality, color options (including limited edition designs), and overall value of the band. Some customers said the band did not sit flush with the Apple Watch Ultra, and one customer said the stainless steel pin broke off their band (although they reported customer service promptly replaced their purchase). 

Nomad Sport Band features: Material: Fluoroelastomer rubber | Waterproof: Yes | Compatibility: Apple Watch Ultra, Series 9, 8, 7, 6, SE, and all previous versions of Apple Watch | Band sizes: 45mm/49mm or 40mm/41mm

Pros

  • Two-tone design
  • Similar feel to jewelry watch
  • Clasp closure
  • Affordable luxury
  • Adjustable

Cons

  • Clasp can sometimes clip skin
  • Requires careful wear/proper care

Since I began exploring Apple watch bands, I’ve been searching for one that I can use to dress up my everyday look. This Burga watch band offers a two-tone stainless steel strap and an easy clasp closure. The inside is designed for comfort, and the band can support everyday wear and tear.

When I tested this Burga watch over a few weeks, I was immediately impressed with its overall appearance. It looked expensive and of quality, echoing the same look as a non-smart watch. It has a nice weight, and it was easy to follow the adjustment instructions to fit it to my wrist. 

Throughout testing, I received several compliments on this band — which doesn’t often happen despite the number of products I test through my work, and I was happy with the affordable luxury look it gave my Watch SE. I had no issues with tarnishing or chipping after my few weeks of wear, although I was careful around water, did not wear the band while applying lotion, makeup, or perfume, and used a jewelry cloth to wipe it down every few wears or so. I also did not wear this band during intense workouts, but it was fine during my casual walks, usually 3-5 miles daily. 

With proper care, this watch band offers great value. It looks much more expensive than it is, and it is worth the money if you’re looking to switch up your look for a special occasion or a few times a week. It is slightly pricier than bands made of less expensive materials but significantly less expensive than titanium options. 

Current Burga customers said they liked this watch band’s overall design and quality, with some saying it looks and feels like an affordable luxury.  

Burga Stainless Steel Two-Tone Apple Watch band features: Material: Stainless steel | Waterproof: No | Compatibility: All current Apple Watch models | Band sizes: 42mm/44mm/45mm/49mm or 38mm/40mm/41mm

Pros

  • Durable
  • High quality
  • Interior ventilation
  • Slim profile
  • Good for small wrists

Cons

  • Limited color options
  • Slight wear on stainless steel pin
  • A little pricey

Nomad’s slim sport band is a thinner version of the brand’s sport band. Though it features a similar design, material, and overall feel, the slim band has a thinner construction and a smaller overall look on the wearer’s wrist. 

Like the classic sport band, the slim band is 100% waterproof, features a lightweight design that encourages ventilation, and is made of the same durable material. I was able to test the slim sport band for several weeks with my Apple Watch SE in starlight, and I liked how similar in color and feel it was to the Apple-issue sport band that came with my watch. 

When I tested the band, I was also impressed with how secure the stainless steel pin kept the watch despite its more delicate profile. I prefer the slim band over Nomad’s classic sport band for everyday wear, though I can understand why this style may not be the best for someone with larger wrists or a desire for a more prominent watch band. 

Like the sport band, it was a little tough to put on at first, but it became easier to do so the more I wore it. I have also seen some chipping on the stainless steel pin’s coating, and like with the sport band, I wish there were more color options. Since the slim band is my preferred style, it’s a bit of a disappointment that there are only four color options, especially when the larger sport band has quite a bit more and limited edition offerings. I’d love to see more punchy colors and some soft pastels in the slim band — it’s a great option for often smaller women’s wrists. 

Regardless of my feelings about the color selection, I enjoyed testing the slim band, and since then, I’ve been frequently wearing it in my daily activities. 

Nomad Slim Sport Band features: Material: Fluoroelastomer rubber | Waterproof: Yes | Compatibility: Apple Watch Ultra, Series 9, 8, 7, 6, SE, and all previous versions of Apple Watch Band sizes: 45mm/49mm or 40mm/41mm

Pros

  • Truly clear
  • Case and band combo
  • Easy to take on and off
  • Easy to insert watch
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Needs breaking in
  • Silicone not the most malleable

Spigen’s Liquid Proband is both an Apple watch strap and a case in one. Simply pop in your Apple Watch and fasten it to your wrist — you don’t have to deal with sliding any bands in. The Liquid Pro is available in crystal clear and black space clear colors. 

It is made of soft silicone for comfort, fastens with a traditional buckle, and features a unibody design. I wasn’t expecting to like this band and case combo as much as I did. While I don’t think I’d consider this for myself for everyday wear, this is a great option for kids thanks to its all-in-one approach or for those looking to minimize the appearance of their watch thanks to the crystal clear design. 

When I tested this watch band over a few months, I liked how easy it was to pop my watch in and out of this case yet how secure it remained. I also liked that the built-in case provided extra protection around my watch. The watch band itself is pretty comfortable overall, though the silicone wasn’t extremely malleable and is still a bit stiff. I predict that over more daily wear, it will eventually contour more to one’s wrist, but it definitely needs breaking in. 

Spigen Liquid Crystal Pro Apple Watch features: Material: Silicone | Waterproof: Yes | Compatibility: Apple Watch | Band sizes: 40mm/44mm/45mm

Pros

  • Comfortable
  • Breathes well
  • Durable
  • Fun colors

Cons

  • Dust and residue collect in the holes
  • Requires cleaning

Nike’s flagship sports band is the athletic brand’s take on the classic Apple sports band. With a similar overall design and thickness, the Nike band deviates in its ventilation and color options. You can wear it while training, cooking, or cleaning around the house. 

The band features six colors with flecks randomly strewn across. For added breathability, compression-molded perforations (a.k.a. small holes across the band) keep it durable, lightweight, strong, and soft. 

Review: Apple Watch Series 9 

ZDNET editor-in-chief Jason Hiner tested the Nike band on the Apple Watch Series 9 when it first launched and said he was impressed with how the watch remained secure during intense workouts without squeezing his wrist too much. However, one potential issue for some is that the numerous holes can collect dust and dirt, which could take some time to clean. 

Verified customers from Best Buy said they liked the Nike sport band’s overall value, quality, and ease of use. They also said they liked the multicolor options and built-in ventilation. 

Nike Sport Band features: Material: Fluoroelastomer rubber | Waterproof: Yes | Compatibility: Apple Watch models 41mm / 45mm (can also find 38mm, 40mm) | Band sizes: fit S/M (130-180mm) and M/L (150-200mm)

Pros

  • Handmade in the UK
  • Ships worldwide
  • Company makes straps in custom lengths
  • Multiple color options

Cons

  • Must pay shipping to US
  • A bit pricey

If you’re looking for a super adjustable yet comfortable Apple Watch band option for more rugged wear, the Zulu Alpha strap may suit you. Handmade in the UK and designed for comfort in challenging environments, the Zulu Alpha Apple Strap features tubular bonded polyester webbing, which withstands abrasions better than nylon does. The material also dries more quickly, so you can wear your watch with less downtime or more comfortably if it gets wet while on your wrist. Metal connectors, which you can choose in steel or black, are sewn into the straps for a perfect fit.

Also: My search for the ultimate Apple Watch Ultra strap is over

ZDNET contributor Adrian Kingsley-Hughes tested this band with his Apple Watch Ultra and said he liked the strong stitching, the tri-glide buckle that fastens with ease, and the overall comfort. “This is a strap that will no doubt outlast the Apple Watch Ultra itself,” he said in his review. 

What’s even better? The strap is made to order and made by hand, taking around 1.5 hours to complete. Before shipping to you, three pairs of hands evaluate the Alpha strap. These straps aren’t mass-produced or gathering dust on a shelf before they reach your door. Instead, they’re carefully crafted with high-quality materials to sustain your rugged adventures. 

Zulu Alpha strap features: Material: Tubular bonded polyester webbing | Thickness: 1.2mm | Width: 22mm | Waterproof: Yes | Compatibility: All Apple Watches | Band sizes: 38mm / 40mm / 41mm or 42mm / 44mm / 45mm / 49mm

The best Apple Watch band for your lifestyle will ultimately be a uniquely personal decision, often depending on the occasion and use case. If you want an all-in-one band for workouts and daily wear, consider a band like the Nomad Sport band, Nomad Slim band, or the Nike Sport band. If you want to dress up your look, check out options like the Burga stainless steel band or titanium options. 

Here’s how our top picks compare to each other in cost and material, but be sure to check out our other tested alternatives at the bottom of this list. 

Best Apple Watch bands Material Cost
Nomad Sport Band Fluoroelastomer rubber $60
Burga Stainless Steel Two-tone Band Stainless steel $100
Nomad Slim Sport Band Fluoroelastomer rubber $60
Spigen Liquid Crystal Pro Band Silicone $35
Nike Sport Band Fluoroelastomer rubber $49
Zulu Alpha Band Tubular bonded polyester webbing $89* (at time of publication)

*MSRP price at the time of writing. Please note that prices may vary based on retailer and available promotions, sales, or discounts. The Zulu Alpha band is UK-based, and price conversion is based on the time of publication. 

As we’ve said, the best watch for you will depend on your wants, needs, and lifestyle. Here’s how our top picks compare based on our expert-suggested use cases. 

Choose this best Apple Watch band… If you want…
Nomad Sport Band The best Apple Watch band for everyday wear and intense workouts available in a variety of colors.
Burga Stainless Steel Two-tone Band A stylish, yet practical two-tone stainless steel watch band to upgrade your Apple watch.
Nomad Slim Sport Band A slimmer, smaller version of our best overall Apple watch band with the same great features.
Spigen Liquid Crystal Pro Band A crystal clear all-in-one watch band and case duo.
Nike Sport Band A durable sport band with added ventilation designed for recycled ventilation.
Zulu Alpha Band A handmade polyester bonded strap with custom adjustability.

When searching for the best Apple Watch bands, I recommend considering a few factors that can guide your shopping and help condense your search. 

  • Compatibility: It is critical to ensure that the Apple Watch band you buy is compatible with your type of Apple Watch. Often, Apple Watch bands from third-party brands are sized according to the display size of your watch, such as 40mm, 45mm, 49mm, etc, but they are not necessarily your watch model. Some bands may also have wrist-size options, such as Apple’s flagship sport bands, which are S/M and M/L, but other options don’t specify wrist sizes (they ensure adjustability for a great fit). Be sure you know what band size and potentially what wrist size you need. 
  • Durability: A purchase is hardly worth it if your Apple Watch band breaks or cracks, so it’s important to consider the long-term durability while searching for watch bands. We don’t want you to waste your cash on cheap options, so we’ve tested the picks on this list before recommending them. 

  • Cost: As with other purchases, what you’re willing to spend is critical. Establishing a budget can help narrow down your search parameters and ensure you’re purchasing within your comfort range. Keep in mind that the material will often drive the cost of Apple Watch bands up. Several metal band options on this list, particularly the titanium options, are over $100. 

  • Comfort: If you’re purchasing a watch band, you might want it to be comfortable. When I tested watch bands over the last several months, I considered comfort on my own wrist before recommending anything on this list. Your watch band must be secure, too, especially if you’re using your watch during intense workouts or for heart rate monitoring. 

We went hands-on with every Apple Watch band on this list before selecting and recommending our picks. I conducted hands-on testing over several months on over a dozen watch bands and incorporated even more analysis and hands-on testing from ZDNET staff. 

We spent time wearing these bands in our day-to-day lives, during work, errands, workouts, and more to get a feel for each band’s comfort, security, adjustability, and more — not just for a day or two, but over the course of a few weeks to really get a feel for each product’s add-in value. Can you “add” this product into your life and benefit from its presence, or is it just another fad product that’s too good to be true or collects dust after the buzz wears off? 

If we think another product is worth your money, we’ll update this list or write up a spotlight review highlighting its best qualities and specifying who it’s for. 

Plus, we routinely scour the web for new products worthy of testing, follow news on product rollouts and upgrades, and source the best deals. We know buying anything in the current economy is not just for your whims, and that’s why this list, as well as our other advice, is tailored to your needs, wants, and budget. Our picks are expert-tested and expert-vetted. 

Before buying the best Apple Watch band for your Apple Watch, you need to know which size to buy. If you are not sure, Apple provides a convenient sizing template that you can use to check sizing. However, most bands today from non-Apple brands are adjustable and customizable for fit, so the band size isn’t of consideration. I only needed to remove links for the metal options I tested the last few months — for every other band option, I could self-adjust easily. 

The most important factor is to confirm that your Apple Watch works with your chosen band to ensure a seamless fit when putting the two together. This means if you have a 49mm watch, you want to look for a band that specifies that size. Essentially, just know what model and display size you purchased for your watch, and you’ll be okay. 

The cost of Apple Watch bands can run the gamut, ranging from around $30 to upwards of hundreds of dollars. Many metal bands can easily bring you into the hundreds — Nomad’s titanium band is a whopping $300, and iterations of Apple’s Milanese Loop can get pricey, too. However, most of the picks on this list are under $100 and sit comfortably between the $30-$80 range.

Apple offers several band options that are included with its watches, some dependent on the model purchased. The most frequent band options, often included with new Apple watches like the Series 9, are the Sport Band and Sport Loop, available in several colors, such as Midnight, Starlight, White, Red, Pink, and more. 

Other band options include the Ocean Band, Alpine Loop, Milanese Loop, Trail Loop, Solo Loop, Braided Solo Loop, and more. Apple and other retailers offer tons of bands made of differing materials in a multitude of colors and designs as well. 

Apple has a lengthy lineup of Apple Watches, with several iterations over the last few years. The two newest watch releases are the Apple Watch Series 9 and the Apple Watch Ultra 2, which were released in September 2023. The Apple Watch SE (2nd Gen) remains the most up-to-date base model. With multiple old and new models available, you’ll be sure to find a watch that fits your needs and your price point. 

Yes, your Apple Watch, as long as it is a Series 6 or newer, can track your AFib or irregular heartbeat. In fact, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently awarded the status of medical device development tool (MDDT) to the Apple Watch’s atrial fibrillation (AFib) history tracker. The feature is the first piece of digital health technology to earn MDDT status, the FDA said in a statement.

Also: Your Apple Watch’s AFib history could soon be used in clinical studies

Other Apple Watch Bands we’ve tested

We’ve tested numerous Apple Watch bands from many brands. Here are a few other picks our expert team tested that didn’t make our top spots. We broke them down by material. 

Metal Apple Watch bands 

View at SpigenView at Nomad GoodsView at Withitgear

Fabric Apple Watch bands

View at AmazonView at Apple

Leather Apple Watch bands 

View at Nomad GoodsView at Nomad Goods

Synthetic Apple Watch bands 

View at AppleView at AmazonView at Apple

More Apple Watch bands to consider

Still can’t find something you like? Here’s a few more picks our editors came across in our research. 

View at OtterboxView at RingbanditsView at Casetify

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