When rubber was originally discovered, it was primarily used for objects like tires, o-rings, and gaskets. It was waterproof, moldable, and flexible, making it perfect for various uses in several industrial sectors. So how did such a rugged material end up next to precious metals and miniaturized horological movements in luxury watches? Welcome to the evolution of the rubber watch strap.
Fluoroelastomers Change The Game
Natural rubber was heated and mixed with other compounds to form vulcanized rubber, a much more resilient form of rubber that made its uses and applications more versatile. However, the access to natural rubber in trees was limited and often politically fraught. To that end, chemists worked to create a synthetic version of rubber that would have many of the same uses but not depend on a natural rubber supply as the base component. After years of experimentation, fluoroelastomers emerged as a viable alternative. Like natural rubber, these synthetic rubbers were incredibly strong repelled water and oil and were resistant to temperature changes and UV radiation. With the process for creating synthetic rubbers solidified, the movement of fluoroelastomers into other industries was inevitable. Synthetic rubber materials moved out of purely functional and industrial uses and into areas like footwear, belts, and recreational equipment.
The Beloved Rolex Tropic Strap
Just as the manufacturing of synthetic rubber was catching up to the availability of natural rubber, Rolex began offering its Submariner on an unusual rubber strap. The strap was made of strong rubber woven in a basketweave or checkerboard style, and it quickly became an object of desire for many Sub owners. The new waterproof band was known as the Tropic strap. The natural water-resistant properties of rubber made it ideal for attaching to a dive watch, especially if it was being used to time deepwater dives. Tropic straps were sold by both Rolex and authorized dealers as a waterproof alternative to leather and a durable, lightweight option in lieu of a stainless steel bracelet. Rolex’s rubber tropic straps were extremely popular in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Recently, tropic straps have seen a surge in interest. Collectors are interested both in the original straps, which are few and far between, as well as reproductions and homages made by newer companies.
Hublot Takes a Chance On Rubber
After the Tropic strap, luxury watches on rubber weren’t commonly seen until Baselworld 1980. At that event, the very first Hublot watch was unveiled. Along with its unusual bezel shape and aesthetics, it was one of the first luxury watches to be constructed with a rubber strap, and it quickly garnered the attention of the horological world. Not everyone was a fan, but no one could deny the gutsiness and innovation Hublot showed in moving away from traditional metal and leather and into an entirely new space.
The First Rolex Watch On A Rubber Strap
Once Hublot broke the rubber sound barrier, rubber began appearing on other luxury watches in the following years. Chopard played around with embossed rubber straps. Even the well-respected Audemars Piguet experimented with a rubber strap and rubber gasketed pushers on one of its Royal Oak Offshore models. It took several years for Rolex to offer a watch on a rubber strap, but after years of design and development, the 2015 Everose Yachtmaster landed at Baselworld on an Oysterflex strap, Rolex’s patented elastomer rubber bracelet. Later, Rolex extended the Oysterflex bracelet to include precious metal Daytona references as well.
Rubber Straps For Swiss-Made Watches
Everest Bands provides carefully designed, durable, Swiss-made rubber straps so that you can have the look of a rubber watch band on many watches in your collection. With a variety of colors and models, you can create a custom look for your Rolex that will set your watch apart. Shop our watch bands with over 2000 five-star reviews now.
Written by Meghan Clark
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