Taking watchbands to bits

Every sports- and smartwatch owner faces this all-important question: Is it really worth spending around 50 Euros on one single quick-change watchband? Or is a cheap no-brand alternative just as good?

The crucial importance of having a watch band to match every outfit and every mood notwithstanding, it’s also nice to not lose or damage your watch. There are differences between Garmin and no-brand cheap bands. If those differences are worth the extra price is another matter.

  • Type of screws used: Torx on Garmin vs. cross on others
  • Attachment of the buckle to the band: screw pin vs. springloaded pushpin
  • Number of springs inside the clip mechanism : 3 vs. 2. I took a random sample of 5 cheap bands to bits, all had 2, sometimes very weak, springs.
  • Size of the clip slider: adequate vs. widely different
  • Overall quality of the materials: good vs. widely different
  • Range of colors: limited vs. many.

Cheap bands may have the following weak points:

  • the push-pin on the buckle often has an inadequate spring and/or is not a perfect fit, replacing with a sturdy one or a good screw bar type buckle is best
  • the clips are sometimes too short and/or have weak springs behind them. You could add a third spring, it is just as easy as trying to get an unwilling cat to swallow pills. Screws and springs go everywhere, frustration and humiliation will be long remembered.
  • some are made of material that tears easily
Left: Garmin, Right: no-brand

Not all cheap bands are made badly. If you are satisfied (after a bit of physical ‘stresstesting’) that the buckle stays on and the watch bars don’t slip out of the clips, it’s probably OK for everyday wear indoors.

If you fall or hit your hand or arm on something, weak clips can spontaneously open. For outdoors use or swimming, it depends on your risk assessment.

Left: spring-loaded push pin, right: screw bar buckle

The good old Nato strap is also quick-change without tools, and really safe. It covers up the watches’ heart rate sensor. But if you use a heart rate chest strap anyway, that is no problem. And crucially, it looks really cool.

The watchbands in the pictures on this page are of:

  • A Garmin “Amp Yellow” Silicone QuickFit 22 watch band (of the type that’s been introduced with the Fenix 6)
  • A JKER green 22mm Silicone Quick Release Watchband from Aliexpress. Which is not the cheapest, it’s sturdy, and may even have 3 springs inside, but I didn’t take it apart. The buckle is not the greatest and is best replaced.
  • With opened up clip: a Garmin black Silicone QuickFit 22 watch band (of the type that’s been introduced with the Fenix 5)
  • With opened up clip: a very cheap blue 22 mm quick change band that was so flimsy it was unusable.
  • The depicted NATO strap is a standard model available everywhere.

A note on the color “amp yellow”: it is a different shade than the bright neon limegreen of the no-brand bands that are shown all over the web. It is more of a “banana yellow”. Never minding the exact type of yellow, an advantage of any light color is that the shiny spots which develop on silicone bands over time, hardly show up.

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