The Space Black Apple Watch I ordered came with the Link Bracelet. From the moment I saw it, I knew I had to have it. Link Bracelets have always been the band I think of when I think of watches. Real watches. Leather is elegant and sophisticated, but metal is mechanical and just plain cool. I should note that the Space Black Link Bracelet is not currently available to purchase separately. If you want to buy a link bracelet, you'll have to buy it in stainless steel. I'm showing the Space Black version here because that's the version that came with my Watch, but the design and wearability are identical. I'll note the differences in the finish where and as appropriate.
Link Bracelet video review
If you'd rather see than read, our Apple Watch Link Bracelet video review has all the highlights.
Revolutionizing the links
Link Bracelet design
The Link Bracelet might not have been the first type of watch band, but they've become one of the most popular. And it's easy to see why — metal looks great on metal. It feels great too, harkening back to bracers and armor. It's now a classic, in both the best and worst senses of the word. You can find it on highest end watches from the highest end watchmakers, but few if any of them have done any serious innovation on the form. Until Apple.
The manufacturing is impressive. According to Apple there're more than 100 components involved, and the machining involved is so precise it takes 9 hours to cut them for each and every band. Once assembled, the links are hand-brushed. Apple says it's to make sure the texture follows the contours of the band, and that may well be true. It greatly reduces shine and glare on the band, however, which could otherwise be distracting or even annoying to the eye.
Apple's band-swapping process, in general, is clever — push a button, slide out the old band, and slide in the new. Apple's Link Bracelet sizing mechanism is genius — six links on either side have a button; push it and the link disconnects; remove the link and the band is re-sized. That eliminates the need to go to a jeweler or to get an expensive set of jewelers tools just to get the proper fit. That's not just great for us; that's great for the watch industry.
Apple has also designed a custom butterfly closure. It folds so flat that it's barely distinguishable from the links. Then, thanks to a third button mechanism just as clever and ingenious as the first two, it easily, elegantly opens right back up again.
The result is something that looks as phenomenal as it works, and that's what truly great design is all about.
Link Bracelet wearability
On the spec sheet, the Link Bracelet is the heaviest band offered for the Apple Watch. 65g for the 38mm version and 75g for the 42mm. (The 38mm Link Bracelet fits wrists that are 135mm to 195mm, and the 42mm fits 140mm to 205mm.) In practice, like any Link Bracelet, once you start wearing it you quickly acclimatize. I did find, thanks to John Gruber's advice, that taking out an extra link and wearing it snugger rather than looser made for a much better fit.
The metal makes it water proof. That does mean it won't wick sweat or moisture off your wrist the way leather will. It also means unless it comes into contact with a substance that can specifically damage steel, it fears no liquid.
Wear is a different story. I've had stainless steel Link Bracelets previously, so I was familiar with the material. If you're not, here's what you need to realize: they scuff and scratch. It's absolutely normal. The end piece on my Milanese Loop, also stainless steel, started showing obvious signs of both a week into wearing it. If you want to buff it out periodically, you can take it to an experienced jeweler who offers the service, or get some supplies and do it yourself. Or, you can embrace the wear and enjoy the look as it ages. Welcome to the world of stainless steel watches!
(I should point out the diamond-like carbon coating on the Space Black Apple Watch is tough enough to prevent most incidental scratches and scuffs, but it also can't be buffed out in the same way if it ever does get damaged.)
Because of the high-quality materials Apple is using, and the manufacturing skill the company has brought to bear, the Link Bracelet itself feels as good as it looks. The stainless steel version is impeccable, but the Space Black... is almost mythical or otherworldly. Its the stuff of dragon scales, Batmobiles, or Krypton. I realize how that sounds, but I also realize how this feels — like metal but denser and darker. I can't emphasize how terrific the effect is.
Typically, with Link Bracelets past, I've had to take them off from time to time because they became uncomfortable, or they kept hitting my laptop as I typed. I haven't had to do that once with the Apple Watch Link Bracelet.
It just fits.
Should you buy?
The bottom line
The Link Bracelet isn't just the heaviest in Apple's lineup; it's the most expensive. It costs more than an entire Apple Watch Sport and band. That means its value to you has to exceed its cost.
I ordered a Watch that came with the Link Bracelet, not just because it was the only way to get the Space Black finish, but because I love the look of the Link Bracelet. It just was watch to me in a way no other band does. I'm also an ardent supporter of innovation, and I feel like this band does more for the state of the art of Link Bracelets than anything else I've ever seen. And I want those innovations everywhere.
If I'd gotten the stainless steel version of the Apple Watch, I would have gotten it with the Link Bracelet as well, and if for some reason I couldn't, I would have ordered one separately on the same day.
The Apple Watch Link Bracelet isn't just a great band; it's altogether great.