Skip to main content

Review: Pad & Quill’s Classic Band dresses Apple Watch in rugged, American leather

P&Q Apple Watch

Like a lot of 9to5Mac readers, I’m generally a purist when it comes to matching Apple hardware with accessories: I prefer iPhones and iPads without cases unless using one of Apple’s iPhone 6 Leather Cases or iPad Air Smart Covers and I can’t resist their overpriced Lightning Docks. If Apple made an Apple Watch Charging Stand, I’d be tempted to toss my Spigen Nightstand in a drawer in favor of the official solution.

And while I own both the Classic Buckle and Milanese Loop Apple Watch bands, I wear the simpler black Sport band on most days aside from a nice dinner or more formal occasion. Both are fine bands, but Classic Buckle can feel a bit too dressy with a t-shirt and shorts and Milanese Loop isn’t as comfortable as the other bands. For myself, I’ve found that there’s a space in between completely casual and totally formal for Apple Watch bands. Pad & Quill’s Classic Apple Watch Band takes a more traditional strap approach than even Apple’s Classic Buckle and fits this space, with four leather color options and two metal finishes that match stainless steel Apple Watches or Space Gray/Space Black Apple Watches.

I’ve been eager to try the Classic Apple Watch Band since Pad & Quill began transitioning their expertise in fine leather bag and case making toward prototyping Apple Watch bands a few months ago. After finally getting my hands on a Whiskey-colored American leather version, I’ve settled on a few first impressions on what is now my first favorite third-party Apple Watch band. Read on for details:

Key Details:

  • Alternative leather Apple Watch strap
  • Offered in 38mm & 42mm sizes
  • Fits wrists 130-210mm in size
  • Comes in 4 leather colors, 2 metal finishes
  • Priced below Apple leather bands
  • 25 year leather warranty

Classic Apple Watch Band ships in the same tasteful packaging style as Pad & Quill’s Apple Watch stands with a wax stamp sealing the box shut. Inside the sturdy cardboard rectangle you’ll find the leather band on soft padding to fill the box plus a paper insert describing Pad & Quill’s history, care instructions, plus P&Q’s 30-day money back guarantee and 25 year leather warranty. No adhesives or plastic to recycle or discard like you find with Apple’s bands; just excellent, minimal packaging and a pleasant leather smell not unlike opening new boots.

P&Q Apple Watch

Classic Apple Watch Band uses the same lugs and connectors as Apple’s own bands so swapping bands is exactly the same: squeeze either button under Apple Watch to release your current band and slide the Pad & Quill band in just the same. Both lugs on mine fit just the same as Apple’s own bands without any gaps or excess metal that I’ve seen on other, cheaper third-party bands. And I had zero concern about the strap coming loose during normal wearing.

P&Q Apple Watch

P&Q offers Classic Apple Watch Band in either color matching stainless steel silver for shiny Apple Watches or darker polished black metal to match Space Gray Sport or Space Black Apple Watch models. Picking the silver option can dress up a silver aluminum Apple Watch Sport, although the finish won’t be totally matched. No gold option for you Apple Watch Edition fans out there, but I imagine the polished black finish would look pretty classy.

P&Q Apple Watch

Compared to Apple’s Classic Buckle strap, Pad & Quill’s Classic Apple Watch Band feels much stiffer before getting worn in and conforming to the shape of your wrist. This makes it feel much more rugged and sturdy in comparison. I did find it noticeably more difficult to initially remove when worn snug, but this quickly became a non-issue after wearing and removing it a few times. From the start, I found it completely comfortable to wear in various contexts: writing at my desk, outside in summer heat during activity, or just sitting idle. No issues with tugging arm hair or irritating skin on contact.

P&Q Apple Watch

While the metal clasps on Apple’s Classic Buckle band and P&Q’s Classic Band are mostly the same, the latter strap does feature two loops for holding the loose end of the band rather than one. One loop is fixed and boxier while the other loop is adjustable and features Pad & Quill’s signature orange stitching to honor the World Vision organization and add a unique touch. Further adding a one-of-a-kind mark is the artisan’s signature on the top half of the band’s backside; there’s zero visible Pad & Quill branding when wearing Classic Band, but underneath the lower half you’ll find a tasteful company stamp printed in the leather.

Further comparing Classic Band and Classic Buckle, Apple’s version features 12 rectangular notches along the longer strap while Pad & Quill’s holds just 9 circular slots for sizing. With either 42mm band, I have 4 slots open toward the watch; for reference, I use the third slot on the medium 42mm Sport band with 4 open inner slots. With either band, the leather quickly picks up an indention of wear near every slot you frequently use.

P&Q Apple Watch

Also of note, Pad & Quill’s strap features a more defined width increase toward the watch with the end about as wide as the watch face itself and just barely slimmer than the casing. Personally, I find this makes P&Q’s band feel more substantial with the emphasis near the watch body less on the lugs and more on the leather. This also differentiates Classic Band from Classic Buckle and makes it a much more unique strap compared to Apple’s own leather option.

P&Q Apple Watch

While I generally don’t dislike Apple’s Classic Buckle Apple Watch band, I do find Pad & Quill’s Classic Apple Watch Band better in a few ways. While it does feel a bit stiffer and may initially be more difficult to remove in comparison, I’m personally a fan of its more rugged, almost John Wayne cowboy style, which makes it feel even less like a smartwatch and more like a fine timepiece.

Apple Watch sort of feels more mechanical than digital with Classic Band, which I find highly appealing. The richer, rugged style looks especially nice with watchOS 2’s upcoming Timelapse watch face of Mack Lake. Really makes me want to explore the great outdoors (a little sun couldn’t hurt, I know!).

As a final observation, wearing Apple Watch with Classic Band at a comfortable and snug level makes feeling the Taptic Engine, or haptic feedback, more noticeable than with Apple’s Classic Buckle strap. This likely varies based on wrist size and band tightness, but it’s an important detail in my case as I generally haven’t found Apple Watch vibrations to be especially noticeable in many instances.

If you own either stainless steel Apple Watch and want a well designed leather strap that has a little more to offer than Apple’s Classic Buckle offering, Pad & Quill’s Classic Band is an easy recommendation. If you’re an Apple Watch Sport owner wanting to dress up your watch without breaking the bank, Classic Band’s under $100 price tag especially makes it a no-brainer.

Pad & Quill’s Classic Apple Watch Band is the first third-party strap that I’d even consider (and actually will!) wear daily. There’s nothing subpar or knock off about it; just a sturdy and good looking strap from experts at turning leather into something special.

Even from the perspective of an Apple accessory purist, I can recommend Pad & Quill’s Classic Band as totally worthy of matching your Apple Watch. Available in British Tan (orangish brown), Whiskey (that’s my poison), Chocolate (darker brown), and Galloper Black with either stainless steel or polished black metal, Pad & Quill’s Classic Apple Watch Band is available for pre-order now and ships in mid-September. In short: this is by far my favorite thing Pad & Quill makes.

Pad & Quill
Apple Watch

FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.

You’re reading 9to5Mac — experts who break news about Apple and its surrounding ecosystem, day after day. Be sure to check out our homepage for all the latest news, and follow 9to5Mac on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to stay in the loop. Don’t know where to start? Check out our exclusive stories, reviews, how-tos, and subscribe to our YouTube channel


  1. chrisl84 - 8 years ago

    ….whats with the Ebola Virus wax seal

  2. missbeccas - 8 years ago

    Fuck that’s ugly.

  3. stevelawrence - 8 years ago

    You guys review a LOT of Pad & Quill stuff. Are these sponsored posts?

    • Chandler (@piacere2327) - 8 years ago

      and yes… I would like to know that too. Do you get to keep the product after reviewing it? Or are P&Q in any other way financially involved in 9to5 here? It wouldn’t change my view of the product itself (I adore their style!), but would prefer to see it marked as a sponsored review.

    • Lee Emmert (@lemworld) - 7 years ago

      Looks like the bitly URLs used throughout the post to link to the product redirects to Viglink, a referral marketing company. So yes, the author has an extreme financial incentive to get people to click his links to buy this band.

  4. John A. Stevens - 8 years ago

    what’s with the gap around the attachment lug in the last picture? looks like it’s about to pull out of the watch.

  5. Chase Smith - 7 years ago

    How close of a match is the polished black clasp to the Apple Watch Sport?

  6. Bob Loney - 7 years ago

    The P&Q Classic Watch Band is quite stiff initially, a bit too bulky where it buckles and relatively difficult to remove (this might get easier as the leather gets softer. My 38mm band took a whole 2 months to ship instead of the 2 weeks estimated when I ordered. It’s acceptable quality, but not exceptional. It looks nice, and gives a different appearance than the Apple straps. The lugs fitting into the Apple Watch (stainless) fit quite snuggly (good) with no slop on this new batch. The buckle tongue does indeed sit pointing outwards but has not caught on my clothing yet. The shorter strap (without the buckle) is quite short and so the area of the buckle with straps and loops is quite bulky. My wrists are quite narrow and if they were much wider, I’m not sure the strap would fit in booth retaining loops. Overall I’m happy with the purchase, but not sure I’d buy another P&Q strap. The Milanese Loop is the most comfortable band to my mind. It is infinitely adjustable, light and breathable. Never had a hair pull. It might be uncomfortable if you tighten it too much.


Avatar for Zac Hall Zac Hall

Zac covers Apple news for 9to5Mac and hosts the 9to5Mac Happy Hour and 9to5Mac Watch Time podcasts.