I have advocated for the life-changing magic of getting a new watch strap before. Which is why I recently got myself a new one. Again.
This time around, it’s a Jubilee bracelet — ‘bracelet’ rather than ‘strap’ since the band in question is made of metal. The material was a big part of the selling point for me, as it happens. A few months back, with warm weather on the horizon, I was looking to get a new strap option for spring and summer. I had mostly worn NATO straps in the balmier months for the last few years, but I was looking to mix it up a little in part because the Seiko 5 diver I wear most often is a little on the bulky end for pairing with a nylon strap. It just never seemed like quite the right fit. And what with sweat, sunscreen, and the general heavy wear that comes with outdoor activities, I figured metal was my best option.
I should clarify that my Seiko did originally come with a metal band — a shark mesh number I liked but that felt a tad fussy for the more carefree summer look I was going for. Its intricate surface just didn’t gel with the tees and short shorts I planned to wear poolside. Plus, the prospect of trying to scrub its Daedalian surface clean after several sweaty weeks of summer was not exactly a plus.
So I cast my eye around for other metallic options — or, more accurately, I gave into a desire that I had been nursing from the minute I bought the Seiko in question. See, I’ve always loved Jubilee straps on Seiko watches. The kind you see on those beat-up old divers that watch enthusiasts drool over. At any given time the camera roll on my phone is essentially all screenshots of clothes I want to buy, a few photos of old Italian men in suits, and then just photo upon photo of vintage Seikos on Jubilee straps. And, lest there be any doubt, I will trash pictures of my loved ones without a second thought should I ever need to make space for the latter.
I think the appeal of the Jubilee bracelet (on Seikos as on other watches) is that it is the perfect Goldilocks watch band. For one thing, its aforementioned metallic makeup splits the difference in formality and wearability between leather on the formal end versus something more casual like nylon or rubber. Then, even when limiting oneself to the well-known metal options, it looks dressier than plain and simple Oyster links but is, historically speaking, considered less fancy than a President bracelet all while fitting comfortably in every context from boardwalk to boardroom to ballroom. What’s more is that it fits comfortably on a range of watches, including a dressy Datejust, a globetrotting GMT, a utilitarian dive watch, and even (a Google image search has just informed me) a futuristic smartwatch. Plus, a jubilee bracelet somehow feels equally as at home alongside a hoodie and flip-flops as it does a swanky suit and sport coat. I would go so far as to argue that it offers a degree of aesthetic versatility that is unrivalled in the world of watch straps.
It is, however, difficult to say exactly why. Partly, it’s down to the Jubilee’s heritage. As with so many iconic watch bands (the previously mentioned Oyster and President included), it comes to us via Rolex, who first introduced the design back in 1945 along with the first Datejust for their fortieth anniversary — hence the name. It was the company’s first in-house bracelet and was initially only available in solid gold, but when the high-end President bracelet was launched a decade later, the Jubilee got something of a downgrade and assumed its place as the more versatile strap we know today. Rolex came to offer it in two-tone and steel versions, and it was eventually made available on several sports models, perhaps most notably the GMT-Master.
In terms of its design — which tellingly has remained visibly unchanged for going on eighty years — there is, to my eye, an innate and obvious appeal to the Jubilee’s famous five-link structure. It features two larger brushed pieces at the edges with three smaller, polished bits in the centre, creating a subtle textural and geometric effect that is far more pleasing to the eye than the functional minimalism of, say, the arguably more famous and popular Oyster model. What’s more, the increased number of links and their semi-circular design (they lie flat and snug against the wrist on the inside of the bracelet) means that the band catches the light beautifully, leaving it looking not unlike a piece of jewellery in its own right.
In other words, the Jubilee ticks just about every box. It’s timeless, elegant, functional, comfortable, attractive, and even unisex, plus they’re pretty affordable (provided you aren’t buying one made by Rolex, at which point the cost of the strap is the least of your concerns financially speaking). Which is why I eventually gave in and bought a genuine article from Seiko off Etsy — although you can find them everywhere from Amazon, to eBay, to your online watch vendor of choice — and I have been dazzled from the minute it arrived.
Do the links occasionally get a little jammed? Sure. Does it sometimes tug at my arm hair? Of course it does. But I enjoy it beyond all reason regardless, to the point where I have all but abandoned wearing any other watch since putting it on my Seiko 5 a few months back. It is a pure delight to wear, which feels etymologically in keeping with the name, ‘jubilation’ being in the same lexical ballpark as ‘jubilee’. Having looked up the real origins of jubilee, however, it originally comes from the Hebrew word yōbhēl, referring to a ram’s horn that was blown as a trumpet. Sure enough, I’m happy to announce from the rooftops to all who will listen: Wearing a Jubilee strap is an absolute joy.
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