When you're choosing which Apple Watch to purchase, you also have to decide which band pairing you want, too.

Apple doesn't sell the Apple Watch casings and bands separately, much as we want them to. Like other high-end watchmakers, the company doesn't want to sell you pieces and parts — it wants to provide users with an "experience."

We can argue another time as to whether that experience is better than pairing watches together a la carte, but regardless, it means that when you're considering which Apple Watch casing to pick up, you're also getting a paired band.

With 27 band and case options, five different band styles (10 total sub-styles), and different colors, that can prove a bit difficult. So let's break it down.

Some Apple Watch band and casing FAQs


Before deciding which bands you're going to get, let's look at how Apple pairs bands to the watch.

Which band options are there?

There are three major watch collections from Apple currently on sale: Series 1, Series 3 GPS-only, and Series 3 GPS + Cellular. Each of these collections has different casings and watch band pairings.

Last updated September 2017: Added latest Series 3 casings and bands. Band colors and casings may change at any time; check Apple's website for the most up-to-date listings.

Series 1

Sport Bands:

  • White with Silver Aluminum Apple Watch
  • Black with Space Gray Aluminum Apple Watch

Series 3 GPS-only

Sport Bands:

  • Fog with Silver Aluminum Apple Watch
  • Pink Sand with Gold Aluminum Apple Watch
  • Gray with Space Gray Aluminum Apple Watch
  • Black with Space Gray Aluminum Apple Watch

Nike+ Sport Bands:

  • Pure Platinum/Black with Silver Aluminum Apple Watch
  • Anthracite/Black with Space Gray Aluminum Apple Watch

Series 3 GPS + Cellular

Sport Bands:

  • Fog with Silver Aluminum Apple Watch
  • Pink Sand with Gold Aluminum Apple Watch
  • Gray with Space Gray Aluminum Apple Watch
  • Black with Space Gray Aluminum Apple Watch
  • White with Stainless Steel Apple Watch
  • Black with Space Black Stainless Steel Apple Watch

Nike+ Sport Bands:

  • Pure Platinum/Black with Silver Aluminum Apple Watch
  • Anthracite/Black with Space Gray Aluminum Apple Watch

Ceramic Sport Bands:

  • Soft White/Pebble with White Ceramic Apple Watch Edition
  • Gray/Black with Gray Ceramic Apple Watch Edition

Sport Loops:

  • Seashell Loop with Silver Aluminum Apple Watch
  • Pink Sand Loop with Gold Aluminum Apple Watch
  • Dark Olive Loop with Space Gray Aluminum Apple Watch

Nike+ Sport Loops:

  • Bright Crimson/Black with Silver Aluminum Apple Watch
  • Black/Pure Platinum Loop with Space Gray Aluminum Apple Watch

Milanese:

  • Silver with Stainless Steel Apple Watch
  • Space Black with Space Black Stainless Steel Apple Watch

Hermès:

  • Marine Gala Leather Single Tour Eperon d'Or with Stainless Steel Apple Watch (38mm and 42mm)
  • Fauve Barenia Leather Single Tour with Stainless Steel Apple Watch (38mm and 42mm)
  • Indigo Swift Leather Double Tour with Stainless Steel Apple Watch (38mm only)
  • Fauve Barenia Leather Double Tour with Stainless Steel Apple Watch (38mm only)
  • Single Tour Rallye with Stainless Steel Apple Watch (42mm only)
  • Indigo Swift Leather Single Tour with Stainless Steel Apple Watch (42mm only)
  • Ébène Barenia Leather Single Tour Deployment Buckle with Stainless Steel Apple Watch (42mm only)
  • Fauve Barenia Leather Single Tour Deployment Buckle with Stainless Steel Apple Watch (42mm only)

Do I have to get a certain band with my new Apple Watch?

Yep. While Apple sells a wide variety of bands online and in Apple Stores, the company only offers limited styles with the Apple Watch — usually ones that have recently been updated, like 2017's Sport Loop.

This is part of buying the watch: You're going to get the band the company has decided to pair with that casing. It doesn't mean you have to keep that band or wear it often, but it's how the company wants to sell the Apple Watch at present.

Of course, you can also always sell that band on eBay and pick up your own.

See a la carte Apple Watch Bands at Apple

What band pairings can I not buy separately?

It's worth noting that Apple's paired bands often have clasps and lugs that color-match to the casing style, or exclusive bands you can't buy a la carte outside of purchasing an Apple Watch in that style.

Bands that are exclusive to their casings include:

  • Nike+ Bright Crimson/Black Sport Loop (with Silver Aluminum Nike+ Apple Watch Series 3 GPS + Cellular)
  • Nike+ Black/Pure Platinum Sport Loop (with Space Gray Aluminum Nike+ Apple Watch Series 3 GPS + Cellular)
  • Ceramic Soft White/Pebble Sport Band (White Ceramic Apple Watch Watch Series 3 GPS + Cellular)
  • Ceramic Gray/Black Sport Band (White Ceramic Apple Watch Watch Series 3 GPS + Cellular)
  • All Hermès band pairings

Why do some band pairings not come in both sizes?

All of Apple's bands come in both 38mm and 42mm casing sizes; any 38mm band will fit a 38mm case, and any 42mm band will fit a 42mm case of any Apple Watch Series.

But Apple's luxury partner, Hermès, has certain bands that are limited to either the 38mm or 42mm size. This is intentional, although sometimes frustrating, and means that if you want those bands, you have to be willing to buy the paired case size.

Yes, you can always attach a 42mm band to a 38mm case if you don't mind a little lug overhang, or a 38mm band to a 42mm case if you don't mind the lugs being too small. But it's not a great compromise.

What materials are the bands made of?

Apple's paired bands come in fluoroelastomer-style rubber (Sport Band & Nike+ Sport Band), nylon (Sport Loop & Nike+ Sport Band), stainless steel (Milanese), and leather (Hermès). Each has its own peculiarities when it comes to allergies — if you're worried about how your skin might react, we recommend reading more on band materials from Apple's support site.

How do the bands do with water?

Most of the Apple Watch's paired bands should work well under most conditions. Some bands, however, will be better suited to specific use cases. If you want to work out with your Apple Watch's paired band, the Sport Band or Sport Loop (or their Nike+ counterparts) are your best bet. Likewise if you plan to get it wet: The Milanese Loop and Hermès bands don't do well in the shower.

It is worth noting, however, that all Hermès bands come with an orange Sport Band, so you can avoid getting your high-priced leather band wet.

How do the clasps work?

Each of the Apple Watch's options are slightly different. The Sport Band has a stainless steel or ceramic pin-and-tuck clasp,

Buckles are timeless. Everyone knows how they look and work. Loops are newer. They use magnets. That makes them almost like elastic waist-bands. Unlike buckles, where you can fall between the notches, loops can fit any size along the range. Also, they can easily be adjusted during the day to ensure maximum comfort even for minor fluctuations for hydration or any other factor.

Who should buy an Apple Watch + Sport Band?

The sports band is for those who want to be active, and is the company's classic Apple Watch band. It's available with every model, whether you buy a Series 1 or Series 3 GPS + Cellular, and also the cheapest.

Most Sport Bands have band-colored lugs and stainless steel pins, but certain options (white ceramic, gray ceramic, space gray aluminum, and space black stainless steel) have pins that match the color of their casing. These are often also pairing-exclusive, so you can't buy them outside of when you buy a new Apple Watch.

The Nike+ Sport Bands look slightly different from the traditional Sport loop, with perforated two-tone holes on each side to allow for better airflow while exercising.

The fluoroelastomer — think high-performance rubber — is ideal for walking or running, for taking into the gym or even into the shower or pool (Series 3 only). In our testing, they do tend to cause more sweat or irritation than Apple's comparable nylon bands, but your mileage may vary.

White might show dirt or discoloration more, black might show dust or scratches more, but Apple's been making materials for a long time now and they last a good long while. They're also the least expensive pairings alongside the Sport Loop models, so if you need to replace or even swap them, it won't break the bank.


Who should buy an Apple Watch + Sport Loop?

The Sport Loop is Apple's newest inexpensive exercise band, and is paired solely with the Series 3 GPS + Cellular aluminum models. It combines the design of the Leather Loop along with the materials of the Woven Nylon band to create an entirely new workout band.

The Nike+ Sport Loop colors are currently exclusive to their case pairings, but are otherwise identical to the regular Sport Loop band.

Though the entire band is nylon with a hook-and-loop closure, it feels almost like terrycloth against the skin, providing a really light — and snug — experience on the wrist. Runners and others who have difficulty getting heart readings with looser bands should love this fit, and the new colors bring a spirited look to your wrist.

Who should buy an Apple Watch + Milanese?

Apple's Milanese band is metal, but feels more like fabric. It's paired solely with the Series 3 GPS + Cellular stainless steel and space gray stainless steel models, and designed as the luxury pick for the midrange Apple Watch.

It's incredibly soft and supple, but also tough and durable. Named for a design from late 19th century Milan, the stainless steel loop is woven on special Italian machines to create a mesh that's both tough as metal and yet supple as leather.

The closure is magnetic, which means you can make just as exactly tight or loose as you like. That makes the Milanese loop ideal for anyone who wants something old and yet distinctive, hard and yet soft, and as adjustable as possible.

Who should buy an Apple Watch + Hermès?

Apple's Hermès collection is all about luxury; it's paired solely with the Series 3 GPS + Cellular stainless steel model. If you want something soft and supple that looks good when you go out, Hermès leather can be both casual and formal. As always, lighter colors may be more susceptible to dirt and stains, and darker colors to dust and scratches. Hermès casings additionally come with an Orange Sport Band for on-the-go exercising or water usage.

All Hermès pairings are exclusive to these sets and they frequently change what bands are available based on the season. As such, if you like an Hermès band pairing, you should buy an Hermès watch — because it likely won't last long before being discontinued.

Still undecided?

At the end of the day, get the band you like best. Everything else is manufactured anxiety. Just close your eyes, picture your Apple Watch on your wrist, and picture the band around it. Then buy that. If you later change your mind, you can always pick up an extra band in a different style or color.

Updated September 2017: Completely rewritten for Series 3.