Sorry Matt, but I would never put my Rolex Submariner on a rubber strap Sorry Matt, but I would never put my Rolex Submariner on a rubber strap

Sorry Matt, but I would never put my Rolex Submariner on a rubber strap

Zach Blass

Matt. I hear you. You made your case. But I would never, ever, remove the bracelet from my Rolex Submariner ref. 114060 – or any Rolex for that matter. I cry blasphemy here not because a rubber strap looks particularly bad on the watch, in fact I concede it looks fine and is probably very comfortable if you can affix your clasp to the strap to, in the case of the Submariner, maintain the level of adjustability offered by GlideLock. But I just couldn’t do it to my Rolex Sub. More often than not, I am known to be a factory configuration purist, the only exception swapping a factory leather for an aftermarket offering of higher quality or a better fit for my smaller sized wrist. In my opinion, since a Rolex is so hard to source these days, once one arrives in your collection isn’t it worth appreciating the full experience the crown offers? Let me explain…

Rolex Sub

Don’t f**k with an iconic design

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Rolex bracelets are heavily tied to the models they are outfitted on, so much so that each has a name everyone in the watch community knows: Jubilee, Oyster, and President/Presidential. To remove them is like removing jelly from the equation of a PB&J sandwich – sure a peanut butter sandwich would taste just fine, but wouldn’t you miss the jelly?  Yes, I know Sean Connery sported his Submariner on a NATO strap, but were I to look for one at auction I would definitely search for a complete model and its riveted bracelet. These bracelets also are finished quite well, the satin-brush executed on the Oyster bracelet is very rich compared to what you would find from competing brands such as Omega. I understand how it can be fun to further personalise a watch and make it your own, but Rolex designs are some of the most counterfeited or replicated in the world and this is, in part, because of the strength of the factory designs and their appeal to the marketplace.

Another quick example of this sentiment: seeing a Royal Oak or Nautilus on leather. These are even factory configurations, but in my opinion they just do not look at home on a strap – especially when you consider how many hours go into hand finishing the bracelet.

The luxurious heft of a Rolex

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Part of the modern Rolex experience is the precious metal like heft of their highly robust 904L stainless steel, and by removing the bracelet you are stripping the watch of its weight and feel. Especially now, with the bracelet links being solid versus hollow, the bracelet offers a solidity and heft unparalleled in the industry. Being so used to the bracelet and how comfortable and luxurious it feels, I feel like nothing else would stack up to the experience offered by its factory configuration.

Why you may see Rolex watches sold on rubber or leather straps on the secondhand market

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Image: Reddit

Vintage Rolex watches are very robust, but the bracelet used to be something of an Achilles heel. The hollow bracelets eventually suffer from “bracelet rattle”, stretching over time to the point where they can no longer be used or even serviced without a hefty bill. It is typically these instances where a Rolex is offered years later on an aftermarket strap or even a Rolex factory leather strap. It is done not as an upgrade, but out of a necessity to affix the watch to something functional and capable of being properly secured to a wrist.

Worn case / pristine bracelet: what about even ageing?

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A more practical fear of mine is that all watches inevitably begin to look worn over time. If a Rolex is your daily wearer, the case will build up hairline scratches and minor blemishes overtime. If your bracelet, however, is removed from the outset of your ownership then the moment you re-affix the bracelet to your case it will just look really out of place – or even worse to purists: seem like a refinished or replaced component. That’s the conundrum you face if you remove the bracelet. The lack of a worn look on the bracelet, paired with a worn case, will only further highlight and draw the eye towards the scratches the case has incurred. That’s not an issue if you just wear it on your bracelet. Imagine if a bronze watch only developed a patina on the top half of the case and never on the bottom half. So while I hear you Matt, and understand (to an extent) your desire to protect your investment from small children and desk diving, does it actually help if the result is uneven aging?

Rolex Sub

Sure Rolex offers the Yachtmaster on a rubber Oysterflex bracelet, so there is precedent for modern Rolex to be worn on rubber. I also have to imagine offering a Submariner on Oysterflex would be a relatively simple operation, one that many of you would probably welcome. But to me it just wouldn’t feel like a Submariner any more, it just is a watch I hold synonymous with its bracelet. Especially for an 114060, which is a representation of the Submariner boiled down to its simplest form, putting the watch on a rubber strap would totally change the look and feel of the watch. That’s ultimately why I just can’t do it. I spent years dreaming of owning this watch so now that I can finally wear one on my wrist, it seems crazy to suddenly try to re-interpret it. Personally, I think the Submariner is already perfect just as it is.