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.
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.
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 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.