In my previous article, I talked about diver’s extensions clasps and whether or not they are useful. I brought up the idea that they are not useful for most of us, most of the time. But you know what is an absolute must? A great bracelet. Of course, I will immediately acknowledge the fact that bracelets are not everybody’s cup of tea. I for one didn’t care for them many years ago but now I can only swear by them. Over the past few years of collecting watches and writing about different brands, I became able to explain what makes for a good bracelet. And although it is subjective, I would assume that we might agree on that.
Although I will not claim to know what is involved in making a bracelet, as a watch enthusiast I can explain what attributes a bracelet must have in order to be nice to look at, comfortable, and robust. To exemplify my point, I will take the MONTA bracelet which has earned a solid reputation amongst the watch community for being one of the best bracelets out there. It competes with those from Swiss luxury brands and has become a staple of the MONTA collection in its own right.
So let’s dig in!
It Starts with a Good Taper
Regardless of the width of the end links, a good bracelet—and one that is comfortable to wear all day—tapers down toward the clasp. This guarantees that the bracelet wraps around the wrist better especially when it goes beyond the widest part of the radius (the largest bone of the forearm.) Bracelets that don’t taper feel a little awkward to wear. The ideal ratio for a good taper is to slim down the width of the bracelet by at least 2mm—I would say, however, that 4mm is better. For example, if the width of the end links is 20mm, a good taper means the bracelet is 16mm wide at the clasp.
Having a taper not only makes a bracelet feel better on the wrist, but it also looks better. Straight bracelets tend to look bulkier and command more wrist presence than necessary. The bracelet complements the watch head and does not steal the show from it. The MONTA bracelet has a dramatic taper from the end links to the clasp, and the latter is also narrow, keeping up the good form. (Some bracelets come with abnormally wide clasps.)
The Right Link Construction
Vintage bracelets came with folded links (as in a piece of metal was folded onto itself multiple times,) and hollow end-links. Although these bracelets were lighter, they were also less durable and created what is commonly referred to as “the rattle sound of a jingly old bracelet.” (Some absolutely love the rattle noise of old bracelets.) Having hollow end-links means breakage is more common, and since stainless steel bracelets are more often than not mounted on sports watches, you’d prefer to have something that is robust.Source: www.wornandwound.com
Another standout feature then of a good bracelet is the link construction in that the links and end-links are solid, and that each link is made of three parts: a middle section that is wider and two thinner sections that flank the middle one. This construction equals maximum comfort since the links are fully articulated guaranteeing, once again, that the bracelet wraps around the wrist in a natural way. The MONTA bracelet has solid links and end-links, a three-link construction, and each link is beveled and rounded so that they don’t pull arm hair and don’t feel rough on the skin.
A Safety Clasp with Tricks Up Its Sleeves
A bad clasp can ruin an otherwise good bracelet. A good clasp comes with three core features: a mechanism to guarantee it won’t accidentally open; on-the-fly micro-adjustments; a milled lower section (the one generally referred to as the “scissor” part of the clasp.) Given the fact that bracelets are made to be robust and to be used in a variety of scenarios, it must be securely attached to your wrist. This is why the MONTA bracelet has a safety latch that prevents the clasp from opening if it receives a shock. (I have had bracelets that didn’t come with it and indeed opened with even a minor shock.)
On-the-fly micro-adjustments are a must in order to slightly adjust the length of the bracelet throughout the day. Our wrists tend to swell a little bit, especially in hot weather, which can make wearing a bracelet uncomfortable. The MONTA clasp comes with a patented tool-less micro-adjustment system that makes it possible to add and remove a few millimeters without needing any tool. (I would also note that the bracelet comes with half-links to make sizing the bracelet easier and more precise.)
Lastly, the scissor part of the clasp—in other words, the deployant section that makes it possible to put on and remove the bracelet from the wrist—is milled on the MONTA bracelet as opposed to being pressed. The latter were the norm a few decades ago and had the advantage of being lighter and more comfortable. However they were not durable which is why MONTA opted for a milled scissor section.
Lastly: Male or Female End Links?
There is a debate regarding the end links of bracelets and whether male or female end links are better. As their name may indicate, a female end link is one where the center portion is recessed, making it so the bracelet’s middle part of the last link anchors itself onto the end link. A male end link is one where the center portion protrudes out and anchors itself on the last link of the bracelet. Female end links are generally regarded as being better because they shorten the lug-to-lug distance of the watch. This also means the bracelet can taper down from the case instead of protruding outward.
Bracelet design and engineering have come a long way in the past few decades and brands continue to improve constantly. The characteristics described above are generally accepted as being the ones of better bracelets, but all of this is personal. In my own experience, having a bracelet that tapers, that has thin and rounded off links, solid links and end-links, female end-links, and tool-less micro-adjustment clasps are a joy to wear. These quality bracelets normally retail for several hundreds of dollars on their own, but you won’t be paying that much for a MONTA bracelet.