Classic Buckle band for Apple Watch review

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I didn't order the Classic Buckle for Apple Watch the same time as I ordered the Watch itself and the Leather Loop. I ordered it later, when I was at the try-ons, and I was speaking to one of the Apple reps about it. I'd almost dismissed it before then. The Link Bracelet was going to be my classic strap, after all, and the loop, my leather. But we got to talking, then trying, and then liking... From there it was one tiny step to ordering.

I actually managed to find it at Apple Retail and buy it before my online order shipped, so I've had more time with it than I might have otherwise. I've worn it, off and on, for almost two weeks, and have worn it frequently over the last week. More frequently than I'd ever expected I would.

Quick take

Classic Buckle video review

If you'd rather see than read, our Apple Watch Classic Buckle video review has all the highlights.

Back to basics

Classic Buckle design

When Apple says classic, they mean it. You've got leather and you've got a buckle. It doesn't get any more classic than that. The leather on the Classic Buckle is milled, but the texture is far subtler than on the Leather Loop. Also: no quilting. The result is something smooth but not dull, calm yet considered.

The classic buckle is all about contrasts, both with itself and with the rest of the Apple Watch line. Absent clever magnets or ingenious sizing mechanisms, there's nothing to distract. The Classic Buckle is, simply, what it is. That makes execution key: taking the most basic of ingredients and simmering them to perfection. And for the most part, Apple succeeds brilliantly.

Unlike the Leather Loop and Modern Buckle, which come in a small variety of colors, the Classic Buckle is only available in black. A midnight blue version exists, but it's exclusive to the gold Edition line, and not sold separately or with steel rather than gold lugs. It does, however, come sized for both the 38mm and 42mm cases, which is great.

Unfortunately, the Classic Buckle only comes with polished steel lugs. That means it looks great with the polished steel Apple Watch and fine with the silver Sport Watch. With the Space Black or Space Gray, however, it stands out.

Some people won't care. Some might even like the look. Others would no doubt prefer a lug option as black as the case. I'm in the latter camp. It's not a deal-breaker for me, but I'd absolutely love to see it matched.

Everything else about the design Apple absolutely nailed, especially the buckle. It's not two pieces that come together, it's two pieces that are formed together. That keeps the profile down, which doesn't just reduce bulk and prevent bits of it from catching on things, it looks better. Like of a melding more than a binding.

I especially love how the polished stainless steel ellipses play against the squared edges of the textured leather. It makes this oldest of bands look remarkable fresh and new.

Comfort bands

Classic Buckle wearability

The leather of the Classic Buckle is on the stiff side. Mine has softened slightly over the last couple of weeks, but only ever so. I imagine it'll soften more, but I'm not sure by how much. I not sure how much I want it to soften either. I like my watch bands to have substance and the Classic Buckle absolutely does. And that's despite it being the lightest of the Apple Watch bands, weighing only 16g for the 38mm and 19g for the 42mm.

Some might find the leather band itself too narrow. I like it. It's not wide enough to impede mobility, nor is it thin enough to cut into the skin from even slight angles. It's well balanced.

Because it's a traditional leather strap, the Classic Buckle uses a buckle tongue and adjustment holes. There's also only one size option — optimized for 145mm to 215mm wrists. That doesn't allow for the extracting fit of the magnetic loop bands, which come in multiple sizes.

With the Sport Band, Apple provided two versions of the adjustment hole side, and seems to have staggered the placement of the holes. That greatly increased the odds of getting a perfect fit. I hope Apple considers doing the same with Classic Buckle. Right now though, no such luck.

Fastening the buckle was much easier than I thought it would be. I've struggled with some classic buckles from other manufacturers when the deformation of the leather and looseness of the buckle tongue combined to make for more frustration than fastening. A combination of the stiffer leather and the incredibly well crafted buckle makes this one a swift, simple delight. Like with the Link Bracelet, I found going a little snug gave the best results.

The free loop, likewise, is easy enough to position but doesn't slide around and let the band come loose afterwards. I'll chalk that up to manufacturing precision as well.

Like other leather bands, it's not as water resistant as rubber or metal. I'm fine with it in the rain or while washing up, but I wouldn't take it into the shower or swim with it. The upside is that the leather keeps my wrist drier and cooler than rubber and metal bands when I'm out and about as well.

Though I've only had it for a couple weeks at this point, so far there's no observable wear or tear, and no staining or discoloration. I'm eager to see how that continues over the weeks and months ahead.

All of that combines to make this buckle as comfortable as it is classic.

Should you buy?

The bottom line

The Classic Buckle is like a song you've heard your entire life, remastered in a way that makes you feel not just like you're hearing it again, but hearing it again for the first time.

It's got all the elements of all the traditional watch straps ever made, but considered and assembled in a way that shows why those elements are so great. It's a band that requires flawless execution and Apple has come close to exactly that. It's not high performance rubber, it's not heavy metal. It's what it's name comes right out and says — classic.

This is a band for anyone and everyone who loves traditional leather bands. It's for hobnobbing and town painting, wining and dining, the boardroom and the game room. It's the band that makes the Apple Watch look most like a watch. And all that metal and glass, bits and pixels, meeting leather and buckle is perhaps the most enjoyable contrast of all.

More Apple Watch reviews

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • OH wow I didn't even notice the silver lugs standing out until it was mentioned. Now it is all I can see. Put me in the camp of not liking that at all. Hope the modern buckle isn't the same. That's the one I was considering... But for $250, if it is also silver lugs, forget it.
  • Rene... I usually love your blogs, however I have to disagree with all these strap reviews.
    Either you have more money than brains, or never really had a quality watch/strap. Maybe apple is paying you to big up all these straps.
    I have tried on all the straps, and I can honestly say that the leather offerings feel cheap and skimpy, and the only thing cool about the stainless one is the fact that you don't need tools to remove links.
    They all are insanely overpriced.. especially here in Canada. I have Movados and Tags that cost less and feel way better... even the leather strap on my Guess watch has a much better feel than these apple leather straps.
    I love my apple watch, but after trying the bands, I am happy I went with the sport band, and cant wait until I can piece together my own solution for leather/stainless band.
  • How familiar are you with premium watch straps? If you don't like my take, here's what Ben, the founder of high-end watch blog Hodinkee had to say:
    And that leads me to my next point. Apple absolutely, positively, indisputably NAILED its straps and bracelets. In addition to offering a bevy of options from leather to fluoroelastomer to link bracelets to Milanese, it is here that you really see how much attention Apple was paying to the way people wear watches, and the how bad existing options were.
    And specifically on the Classic Buckle:
    I mentioned the Ikepod style closure of the Sport watch straps above, which is clearly just a superior way of closing a strap like that. But, it gets better. The leather is super soft, super high quality. It is much nicer than any leather strap I've ever felt on a $350 analog watch. Then, look at the buckle. It looks like a normal tang, but notice that the tang itself doesn't simply sit on top of the crossbar – it's actually integrated into the buckle itself.
    So I get where you're coming from, and I think Apple will face issues with tech people about just this kind of stuff, but understand that my review is absolutely in context and reason.
  • I'm very familiar with premium watch bands and I think that this is a great band. I love the hardware of the Classic Buckle because as Panerai watch afficiandos know, this it's a 100% knockoff of the 1930's Panerai Radiomir lugs as well as their tang system. So not to dish, but if folks think that Apple came up with this lug and buckle design, they are wrong...they took it right from Panerai. But that's okay IMO. This is probably one of the reasons why watch blogs like Hodinkee and aBlogToWatch have been so complimentary of the  Watch. Apple showed great respect and consideration of some iconic legacy Swiss watch design cues in the watch but of course they also put their own spin on it with the loops, intricate design of the link bracelet, etc., besides the unique technology experience. As far as this band goes, I'm also looking forward to being able to buy the these just these lugs and buckle/tang so I can find some really cool 3rd party leather bands to also use.
  • I do own premium watches in both leather and stainless and I still stand by my opinion that the apple ones feel cheap. I read that whole article that you linked, and even though it seems like Ben knows what he is talking about, I still think that Apple somehow kicks back to them for good reviews... they know that thousands of people read their blogs. Invite them to a keynote, give em a free review watch and the rest writes itself. At the end of the day, Apple is a tech company, not a watch company... and their primary concern is cheap labour, huge markup, and volume. This is why I feel the straps have come up short. They can write up some elaborate story about where it was made or whatever, but its not fooling me.
    I above anyone would prefer to use official apple accessories with my apple products, but in my opinion these are not worth the tag. The leather on my Apple Iphone Case feels better!
  • I think you're crazy if you think the black leather band feels "cheap". But what I really like about it is the texture and look of the grain. If you think the Apple band looks cheap then I'd love to hear your take on the Amazon knock-off that is $26. I also think that when you buy the black leather band, you're probably paying more for the lugs and Apple's quick release system than you are the actual leather.
  • That would make sense if the leather loop wasn't the same price.... Leather loop has no lugs... I read somewhere apple is going to sell the lugs separate... If that is true I wonder how much they will want for those! Sent from the iMore App
  • I didn't care for mine, I removed the lugs and put them on a non Apple band that I like much better.
  • Rene, et al., I appreciate the thorough Apple Watch band reviews. I've had my 42mm Space Gray Sport with black sport band since 12 May and at first didn't think about getting another band. Now, after reading about some of them, I'm considering giving the leather bands a look as well as the Milanese Loop.
  • The problem with all this apple watch stuff is for some people they have never felt a good quality watch band but think they have so what they are use to is comfortable to them. Once a really well made band hits their wrist its instantly compared to what they think is called quality and it will feel or act different so they will not like it. And people can you all please stop thinking that calling something overpriced will matter to anyone that don't care about the price of what they are buying. Women buy $500 hand bags and some people have 3 or 4 pair of shoes or sneakers at $150-$200 a pop. Overpriced or expensive is not an argument for something not being a good prodect.
  • hmmmm i own an apple watch. And i think this blog is giving apple way too much credit on bands lol If you don't know jack about high quality bands - apple bands are high quality to you because well you don't know any better. But wear a high quality band and then toy with the apple ones and you will see how fake and low quality they feel. I purchased the leather loop in black simply because i needed something for day to day, did not want to wear my sport band always that is only used for working out. But the leather loop while attractive and modern. It is cheap. Doesn't even feel like leather. I considered the modern buckle, classic as well but way too expansive for cheap second hand quality.
  • I guess everyone has their own experience. My current “fancy watch” is a solid gold Omega. So that’s my standard. I have the Apple blue leather loop on my sport and I appreciate the quality of the material and the magnets. It fits snug all day without the need to readjust and makes my less expensive Sport Watch feel more expensive. In fact I prefer the look of the leather loop on the Sport over the Apple Watch. I’m not going to pretend that I'm an expert on watch bands, but my sister who works in the watch industry (her client is Marks&Spencer) was very dubious about the Apple Watch. However, when she saw it on her boss's wrist, she said that Apple have done a very good job. When I consulted her about her opinion on Hermes, she again said that Apple had done a very good job. This was very interesting to me since until the release she was very dismissive of the Apple Watch and I would consider her opinion as, well more expert that mine.
  • Apsolutely, Positively, Indisputably NAILED these straps right to your wallet. For $150.00 for basicly a cheap leather band. Don't care if it's made in Switzerland, that just means Apple got a deal to make them cheaper then anywhere else. Good looking and like the way they just slip on but $150.00 is about $100.00 over priced.
  • yup
  • I got my Watch with the Milanese Loop, however it was a hard choice for me between that and the Classic Buckle. I do like the elegance of the Loop, but I keep looking longingly at the leather bands. After reading your review, this Watch band is definitely on my birthday wish list.
  • The leather looks ok if not spectacular. The part where the metal actually attaches to the watch face, i don't like. I looks a bit tacked on. Like they welded a bar to it. I think it's the shape. It reminds me of a mini towel rack. I think if the attachment had been more contoured from the watch fact to the shape of the strap i'd like it more, maybe similar to this Regardless, i'm not buying a watch so it need not appeal to me. lol.
  • Hey Rene.. Thanks for the review. Just wanted to drop in and say thanks again for all the reviews you do and covering up on apple/tech. Ive been on this site since I was a kid in high school and I'm still on it as I'm about to grad. Catching up on this site over the years has just pushed me more towards being into tech and structure of apple. Thanks Rene, keep it coming!!
  • I hope they come out with Apple Watch Straps made of Crocodile leather like the one on my Omega.
  • make straps for the Apple watch in alligator leather
  • I tried it and it is a very nice band. Classy and it seems of great quality. I own some great watches including some more pricy ones, but this is really nice. Didn't expected it to be so beautiful and elegant. Beside the fact that I like the watch as well too. It is such a fun machine.
  • Rene, did you notice the difference between old classic buckle band and new classic buckle band? How would you compare them?