Hands-on with an affordable alternative to Apple’s Link Bracelet for Apple Watch

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When Apple first announced Apple Watch, one of the things I was most excited about was the ability to use third-party bands. I was surprised when Apple announced the capability and even though I was pretty sure I was going to buy an Apple Watch, third-party band support solidified my choice. Apple Watch has now been on the market for two months and so far, companies have been slow to release their aftermarket bands. With iPhone, companies usually have cases available the day the device launches, but Apple Watch has presented a whole new set of challenges for accessory makers.

When I purchased Apple Watch, I went with the stainless model with the classic buckle. Since my initial purchase, I have also bought a black Sport band, a Milanese Loop and now, an aftermarket stainless steel Link Bracelet. I love the idea of the band for my Watch matching the Watch itself, but Apple’s Link Bracelet offering seems absurdly high-priced at $449. Looking to save money, I went with an aftermarket solution

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Key Details:

  • Made with stainless steel
  • Classic link design, as opposed to Apple’s modern take
  • Compatible with all Apple Watch models
  • Same connectors as first-party bands
  • Strong, sturdy design

Before everyone loses their temper about using a third-party Apple Watch band, seemingly made by a no-name company, hear me out. The band is sold on Amazon (Update: Now sold out, more options below) and made by a company called Leakind. On Amazon, it has a three and a half star review average, with some of the reviews docking stars for issues that have now been fixed. I’ll admit that when I purchased this stainless steel Apple Watch band, I had incredibly low expectations, but when I received it, I was pleasantly surprised.

Attaching the band to Apple Watch was just as easy as attaching a first-party band. You simply slide the connectors into either side of the device and then slide the band onto your wrist. From there you push the clasp between the two ends of the band to your wrist, then press both ends of the band to the clasp until you hear a click.

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One thing I was obviously worried about with the Leakind band was the sturdiness of the connectors to the Watch itself. I didn’t want to walk around worried that my $600 Watch was going to fall off of my wrist at any given second. In my usage with it so far, however,the band seems just as sturdy as an official Apple band. The connectors to the Watch are identical to the ones found on Apple bands, as well.

Looking at the design of the band you’ll notice that it’s not the same as Apple’s Link Bracelet. While Apple’s Link Bracelet provides a more modern take on the link design, this third-party band is a classicly designed bracelet. Being that it is a Link Bracelet, you do have to remove links from the band for it to correctly fit your wrist. The packaging for the band provides no instructions on how to do this, so I was let to my own devices to figure it out. A quick Google search led me to several great guides on how to remove the links. You could also, of course, take the band to a jeweler if you aren’t as confident in your own abilities to size the band. With Apple’s Bracelet, it’s incredibly easy to remove links though.

Another thing I was concerned about with the aftermarket band was the finish and polish of the steel of the band matching the design of Apple Watch. After using the band for a while, I’ve decided that while the polishes don’t match perfectly, they match close enough to where no one will notice any differences unless they are specifically looking for them. The look of the band appears to be ever so slightly darker than that of the Watch. Apple’s Link Bracelet, however, is also darker than the Watch because it’s brushed rather than polished.

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As far as comfort goes, this Link Bracelet is certainly heavier than bands like Apple’s Classic Buckle and Sport band, but it’s no heavier than Apple’s own Link Bracelet. It seemed jarring when I put it on for the first time, but I’ve gradually gotten used to it and other bands seem too light at this point.

Obviously there are always some pitfalls to using a third-party band. It’s hard to know how well the band and its clasp mechanism will hold up after extended use. I also have concerns regarding the quality of the steel used with the aftermarket band. After using it for a week, there are some light scratches that are visible only in direct light, but there are also scratches on my Apple Watch, so it remains to be seen how the band will look after two months usage.

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Another thing you have to consider is that there are also MFi Apple Watch bands coming too. While those will likely be touted as higher quality than third-party options like this one, they will also be more expensive. They will, however, use Apple lugs and are approved by Apple.

Overall, the Leakind steel Apple Watch link band is a decent alternative to Apple’s own link bracelet. The Leakind band comes in at just $35 on Amazon, which is a steal compared to the $449 Apple charges for its link bracelet. As I mentioned before, however, that price difference had to come from somewhere, so there are of course some downsides to using an aftermarket band. It’s up to you to decided whether the added comfort of using an Apple-made product is worth the price difference. If not, the Leakind Apple Watch link bracelet is available on Amazon for $35. But remember, you get what you pay for.

Update: The Leakind band has sold out on Amazon. There are other affordable alternatives, however I can’t vouch for their quality:

Manufacturer:
Leakind
Price:
$35
Compatibility:
Apple Watch

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Comments

  1. twelve01 - 8 years ago

    The link bracelet has that Apple lust factor that is hard to describe. Still this looks like a nice alternative.

    • Chance Miller - 8 years ago

      I agree entirely. It’s just hard to justify $449 for the lust factor.

      • James Katt - 8 years ago

        You mean you won’t pay $1000 for a diamond bracelet for your wife? At $1000 that is a cheap diamond bracelet.

      • What has a $1000 diamond bracelet got to do with a $449 link bracelet, which hasn’t got diamonds in it?

      • Robert Nixon - 8 years ago

        @James Katt But it’s not a diamond bracelet, it’s a Watch band that’s worth less than you paid for it the moment you open the box.

    • George Lafflin - 8 years ago

      this $35 looks cheap and ruins the watch. id just go with the milanese loop that is what i did.

      • drhalftone - 8 years ago

        Too bad the milanese loop cost less than $35 to make.

      • rnc - 8 years ago

        Yeah, and this band costs less than the Milanese loop to make

      • Robert Nixon - 8 years ago

        @drhalfton too bad this band probably costs a few dollars to make.

      • drhalftone - 8 years ago

        I’m saying that a milanese loop looks like a $35 band because its a $35 band.

  2. rskapof - 8 years ago

    I am very happy to get after market bands for my watch but I still expect some quality. The band reviewed here reminds me of a fossil watch band. The band links appear to be different sizes even though they most likes aren’t (perhaps due to larger radii) and the polished finished is a concern for scratches. Most watched bands are brushed on the flat and polished on the edges. I feel that the watch craftsmanship and finish is dragged down by the poorly manufactured link bands. However, some of the aftermarket leather bands look great and I plan to get one.

  3. techsticles - 8 years ago

    After Apple’s you definately chose a really nice one. I have the T-Trees one since it was Prime and it feels like a quality band but it doesn’t match so well with the Sport Space Grey Watch. I’m waiting for a black link band to arrive.

  4. rnc - 8 years ago

    Seriously, this looks like crap, and not matter what option you got, this looks way worse than the band that came with your watch.

    This is s downgrade.

    For $35 is cheap, but if you want Apple’s links bracelet, you can’t substitute it with these cheap bands, there’s no compassion.

    The best to do is get directly Apple’s version and spend 449, it’s cheaper than buying this pot 35 and then buying the apple one for 449…

  5. Bam Bam - 8 years ago

    Despite my initial concern, the T-Trees Stainless Band (5 pointer, not 3) is fantastic. I actually think I prefer it to Apple’s $449 version.

  6. Soluble Apps - 8 years ago

    I just received the Hoco band and I’m pretty happy with it. It looks great with the watch, for 1/10 the price.

    I got the “tarnished” version, to go with my space grey Sport, and the only issue I have is that the colour of the watch is slightly more blue than the strap, but that difference is only visible in certain lights.

  7. Atlas (@Metascover) - 8 years ago

    That looks super cheap.

  8. Kris404 - 8 years ago

    The TabPow and T-Trees are also Hoco bands. Ottim also looks like a Hoco band with a different label.

    I have the T-Trees bundle which is a Hoco 3-pin version band+screen guard+link removal tool, pretty decent.

  9. Andrew John - 8 years ago

    Love the watch bands. But I am more interested in the weather at Floyds Knobs. (First pic) Awesome joke name.

  10. sknaf - 8 years ago

    I like link design better on the one you bought above vs the apple one. Would like to see a high quality version of that style made. Sorry but he apple “stacked” link design does not do it for me.

    • jimr450 - 8 years ago

      I still say the Apple stacked link design does fit the Apple Watch better though given the curves of the links match the curve of the edge of the Watch. But Apple leather loop all the way, personally.

  11. jimr450 - 8 years ago

    Personally, I don’t care for any metal bands on the Apple Watch. I leave that sort of thing to my nice Swiss timepiece when I dress up. The Apple Watch is the daily driver, the watch to wear every day as it provides all those nice benefits of quick notifications and activity tracking for better health, but the fancy bracelets just seem off to me. I find the standard rubber band and especially the Leather Loop to be the best fit to what the Apple Watch is. Comfortable, light, practical, usable. No bling needed.
    My personal favorite is my own setup, the Space Grey Sport with black leather loop. Super nice and comfortable, doesn’t pull your hair like link bracelets always do, won’t scratch your Macbook, looks awesome, and the magnetic clasp is brilliant.

  12. vkd108 - 8 years ago

    Way to go. Defeat the greed!

  13. ctyrider (@ctyrider) - 8 years ago

    There is a good expression – “you get what you paid for”. And this looks like utter crap.

  14. That is such an ugly band. It doesn’t even look like it matches the watch. Not worth five cents. I’m more likely to pay $449 for the link bracelet.

  15. i have the HOCO from ebay for $30 and i was surprised of the quality. It actually had some weight to it, the clasp is seamless and strong.

  16. Dan (@danmdan) - 7 years ago

    And there are almost exact replicas of the Apple design out there – I have one, and on the watch, it really just looks like the Apple version, but without the easier link removal of Apple.

  17. Summer Yin - 5 years ago

    For replica link bracelet for apple watch, I love the hoco new look link band which sells at affordable price and amazing quality:
    https://goo.gl/HbOItr24 Thanks

Author

Avatar for Chance Miller Chance Miller

Chance is an editor for the entire 9to5 network and covers the latest Apple news for 9to5Mac.

Tips, questions, typos to chance@9to5mac.com