I am constantly reading up on watches, complications, and brands. I find myself going down rabbit holes: looking up all sorts of random information even vaguely related to to horology. This is why, for example, I wrote an article entitled “History of Iconic Metal Watch Bracelets” and, more recently, an article about how bracelets links are attached to one another. Maybe I’m alone here, but I’m fascinated by watch bracelet design and history. As we see more and more brands revive vintage bracelet designs, I ask myself, why would someone bring back such a bracelet? Today’s topic is the Bonklip: first created in the 1920s and revived by two brands in the past decade. The Bonklip is fascinating because of how it was made and how adjustable it is. Let’s talk about it.
History of the Bonklip Bracelet
Truth be told, I already told the story of the Bonklip when I wrote about iconic metal bracelets. I won’t repeat what I have already said, instead recalibrating the facts for some context. Collectors cannot agree on who made the first Bonklip, but it certainly appeared in the early to mid 1920s. Back then, it was rare for brands to sell watches on anything but a leather band. It was quite unique to see a metal bracelet being offered by non-watch brands (because yes, neither of the two potential creators of the Bonklip -- Walter M. Krementz from New Jersey and an anonymous British jeweler -- made and/or sold watches). The Bonklip was created to elevate the elegance of any watch and to be practical, since it could be adjusted to any wrist size.
Because of its adjustability and compatibility, the Bonklip was first used en masse by the British Royal Air Force during World War II. A bit in the same way NASA used Forstner’s Komfit bracelets for their astronauts—it could be adjusted to any wrist size and worn outside a space suit. This latter fact is quite fascinating to me; the Bonklip looks extremely elegant and fancy. Anything fully made of stainless steel tends to look quite nice, however, due to the Bonklip's utilitarian military origins, it could be seen as an ancestor of the NATO, single-pass RAF, and Marine Nationale straps used by soldiers before, during, and after World War II. Indeed, the aforementioned straps were popular because of their adjustability. However, these straps were cheap. The first Bonklips weren’t.
The Joseph Bonnie Bonklip
Nowadays, there are two brands that make modern Bonklip bracelets. One of them being Joseph Bonnie, a French purveyor of straps and bracelets. To give you a little backstory: the principal co-founder of the watch brand Serica used to work for Joseph Bonnie. He developed the modern Bonklip for Serica’s first model, the 4512 field watch. Based on photos of vintage Bonklips, I can confidently say that Joseph Bonnie’s looks most similar to the original 1920's bracelet. It has the finest link construction and smallest end links, making it very, very comfortable to wear. One could also say that it looks quite elegant given how close each link is to one another. This also means that one can truly fine-tune the adjustments due to the ability to wedge the tiny clasp in between one of many links.
The Forstner Klip
The second brand that is best known for making modern Bonklip-style bracelets is Forstner. Unlike Joseph Bonnie, Forstner has a long and rich history of making some of the most ingenious and unique bracelets on the market. As mentioned above, Forstner created the famous Komfit bracelet: initially designed to be paired with dress watches but eventually became popular with space explorers. Forstner also patented a design for the Klip as early as the 1940s. The Klip was used for World War II pilot watches. Their version, although less elegant than Joseph Bonnie’s, has a better clasp as it is made of two tiny pushers (the one from Joseph Bonnie is made of a tiny tooth that is wedged between two links). Forstner’s Klip also has its own unique link construction which the brand refers to as a “ladder” or “bamboo” style.
Learning about various designs of bracelets shows how much more creative we used to be. Jewelers and designers made metal watch bands for a variety of watches and brands, each created to fulfill a particular need. Nowadays, brands make their own bracelets, most of which look more or less the same (slightly modified versions of an Oyster, H-Link, Jubilee, or Flat Link bracelet). Seeing two brands recreate something like the Bonklip means we have more options. And it also means that instead of using a leather, rubber, or a fabric strap, we can use a Bonklip to elevate the look of a watch: all without compromising comfort and adjustability.Featured image: www.fratellowatches.com