I replaced the S/S Jubilee bracelet from my Rolex Datejust a few years ago and after looking and trying a few leather straps have finally replaced it with a Hirsch Leonardo shaped leather strap with a deployment clasp from the excellent Watch Obsession. They are the leading on-line stockist for Hirsch straps and run an extremely helpful and efficient service – they are not a discount website but they have the full range of Hirsch, and many other premium straps and importantly are extremely helpful over the phone.
The downside of dispensing with a bracelet is the watch is no longer waterproof and as I have a couple of sailing trips planned over the summer I started looking at waterproof strap options.
Watch Obsession have recently taken the exclusive distribution for Everest Rubber straps, a small US based maker who have designed a hardwearing strap for the more extreme Rolex watches (Explorer, Daytone, Submariner etc). They are not cheap but are beautifully crafted and fit the Rolex case perfectly. Their website focuses on the more sporting Rolex models and doesn’t specify if the straps fit the less chunky Datejust. As Gary at Watch Obsession didn’t think he’d be able to get an immediate answer from them, he offered to let me try the strap for size and return it if it didn’t work.
The strap arrived this morning and it looked like it should work. Having now completed the fitting the result looks great – although I think it’s pretty fair to say that while the Everest EH-1S works and looks great it probably isn’t specifically tailored for the Datejust. (In fact I just had a pretty instant response from Michael at Everest who tells me that they are testing some new designs for the DJ and the Jubilee strap – so worth looking out for).
Below are some photo’s of the fixing process if you happen to fancy the option on your Datejust – the Everest website has very full instructions for fixing to the bigger watches, but the fix for DJ/Jubilee is different. The key thing about the Everest strap is that it’s designed to use the deployment clasp from the existing bracelet – especially bracelets that have a diver’s extension that allows you expand the strap to fit the watch over a wet suited wrist.
What arrives from WO is a nice Everest branded pack with a fairly unprepossessing plastic bag inside holding the two small pieces of rubber strap and a pair of spring bars designed to fit the holes in the Everest strap. It doesn’t immediatly feel like a lot for the price but they are made in the US not China, are very limited run, made of a unique Thermoplastic Elastomer Rubber and do look great. I understand from Gary that they are planning to move production to Switzerland to improve their provenance, given that they are designed exclusively for Rolex. If they do this price is likely to increase closer to the £200 charged by the other rubber specialist strap made by Rubber B.
Having checked that the rounded ends would fit the actual watch case, and that the spring bar holes aligned, I set about dismantling the clasp from the bracelet so that I could fit the rubber strap. On the jubilee strap this requires tapping out the cotter pin to detach the bracelet.
I re-inserted the cotter pin and it was a snug but clean fit, and the catch that secures the clasp still worked. So far so good.
The next step was to fit the other strap to the clasp. This required using some of the bracelet in order to make the strap long enough. This sort of replicates what happens on the bracelets on the more extreme watches like the Rolex Submariner and Daytona.
The only slight shame with the Jubilee bracelet is that the middle link doesn’t get a full fixing and it sort of floats – but it’s out of sight.
Fixing the strap to the actual watch body is a bit of a fiddle… I think the spring pins are under a little stress rather than just sitting in their holes. However it feels like a snug and solid fit. When I remove the strap after the Summer I’ll look at maybe expanding the hole in the strap if it looks like the spring bars are under stress.
Overall I’m very pleased, it’s a comfortable fit and an awful lot lighter on the wrist than the full metal bracelet. It also continues to make the watch look a little more discreet than with the full bracelet.
I’ve been wearing the strap for most of the day now and would add two things – it actually feels incredibly soft and supple, pretty much feel-wise like the calf leather lined Hirsch straps I’m used to wearing with the watch. It feels nothing like the sort of rubber straps you get on a Swatch.. and as part of this it doesn’t get sweaty. All in all I’m impressed.