Review: Apple Watch Milanese Loop band
Although I was extremely happy with the black sport band that came with my steel Apple Watch, I had a hankering for something a bit more dressy: A strap that would make the watch look more like a desirable Swiss timepiece.
My initial preference was for the steel link bracelet, similar in operation to the band I have been used to on the IWC Chronograph and other Swiss watches. But link bracelets, although they look great, have one disadvantage. It is often difficult to achieve a perfect fit.
Every year, for instance, I find that during July and August my wrist swells, presumably something to do with the heat, and I have to put in an extra link. Then, the link bracelet is a tad too loose. Carrying expensive spare links (and, believe me, IWC links are eye-wateringly expensive) on vacation is asking for trouble, even though necessary. One August in Greece I did not have a spare link with me and the IWC became so uncomfortably tight that I could no longer wear it. I ended up buying a cheap Swatch for the rest of the holiday.
Apple's Milanese Loop neatly addresses this problem since it is infinitely adjustable, thanks to the magnet fastening. It looks almost as good as the link bracelet and some would say it is even more attractive, but that is a matter of personal choice.
I tried the Milanese Loop in-store soon after ordering the steel watch and found it comfortable and very attractive. So I ordered one and then waited two months for it to arrive. It came on June 18 and has been on my wrist ever since.
In the period between ordering and delivery I read several less-than-enthusiastic reviews of the Milanese Loop strap. One reviewer thought it was uncomfortable, another said that the magnetic fixing gradually worked loose (especially during vigorous exercise) while someone else complained of the mesh trapping wrist hairs. None of these criticisms are valid in my view. It is just possible that after initial criticism the magnets were beefed up and I have the Mark II version.
Before the loop arrived I had not investigated removing and attaching a strap to the watch. It proved to be very simple, just slide out the old strap and attach the new. As with all genuine Apple straps, the lugs on either side are perfectly matched with the watch and almost disappear when properly fixed in place.
This strap is extremely accommodating and after a few days I did not notice it on my wrist. It is at least as comfortable as the rubberised sport band and considerably less bulky. It moulds to the wrist and the magnetic fastening feels secure at all times.
My wrist is quite small and you will see from the photograph that the magnetic fixing comes to within an inch of the watch lug. I doubt it would be a problem with a smaller wrist but I am fairly confident that there is plenty of adjustment for a large wrist.
I have used it in the gym and, although my exercise might not be as intense as other testers' activity, I have never found the strap coming loose. It is much easier with this strap to achieve the perfect close-but-not-too-tight fitting to ensure optimum heart-rate monitoring.
The mesh is silky smooth and almost fabric-light in its flexibility. And, despite being blessed with a few wrist hairs, I have not once felt any discomfort. In my opinion there is no problem with trapped hairs. Then again, everyone is different and it is a good idea to try out the strap in the Apple Store before ordering.
How secure is the magnetic fastening? It definitely stays in place and I cannot easily dislodge it. If it does come undone (usually only if the magnetic fixing is deliberately pulled away from the band) it will immediately grab another part of the strap. When removing the Watch from the wrist, the strap stays in place on the watch since the magnetic end cannot pass through the watch lugs. Because of this the watch cannot easily be pulled off the wrist by muggers and there is no danger of it falling off inadvertently.
Above all, the Milanese Loop is a high-quality watch band that perfectly complements the polished steel finish of the Apple Watch. It is far better than I imagined, both in appearance and in use. As I have written before, I am now addicted to the Watch and I find it difficult to imagine going back to an old-fashioned analogue timepiece. If I did have any hankerings for the quality of a fine Swiss watch, the Milanese Loop has managed to quell them.
At £129, the Milanese Loop is relatively inexpensive for a top-quality steel wrist strap. It is also practical, comfortable and highly desirable. I can recommend it without the slightest reservation. For me, it is a better solution than the link bracelet which costs three times as much at £379.