Recently, the cult of the Interchangeable Straps for watches a.k.a. “changing shoes for your watches” has become prevalent and is nothing new – but a customised, Swiss-made, high-tech rubber strap, delivered to your home, is a new concept.
Enter Swiss start-up, I-Unique, recently founded but with its parent company’s forty years history of supplying the watch industry with components like rubber seals and gaskets as well as crowns and pushers.
The more avid watch collectors amongst us will recognise some of the most iconic watch shapes from their famous clients.
Their latest offerings are rubber straps as a trendy, luxury accessory.
Some Fine Watchmaking brands offer extra high-tech rubber straps in addition to the regular metal bracelets or alligator leather straps as part of the luxury set. Chopard, Hublot and Zenith started the trend and now, even Omega has joined in to bring added value to highly-sophisticated timepieces such as fully-manufactured chronographs, diving watches, and all-terrain outdoor watches. Rubber straps combine functionality and style being extremely resistant as well as offering an almost infinite range of customisation possibilities.
Now, for the first time, all these possibilities are being made available to the general public. I-Unique is a fully-independent Swiss firm, building on the forty years of experience of its parent company, ISOSWISS, in making high-tech rubber straps for some of the most famous names in watchmaking, everywhere from Les Breuleux to La Chaux-de-Fonds via Bienne. It’s almost a game to find out if the brands are Richard Mille, Patek Philippe, Ulysse Nardin, Breitling or Omega.
Secrets of ‘high-tech’ rubber
What is ‘high tech’ rubber? First and foremost, the strength of its polymers – the result of many years of development and huge investment in R&D. Today most of the processes are exclusive to I-Unique.
‘High-tech’ rubber has survived stringent testing, including twisting, pulling, and resistance to UV radiation, as well as allergenic tests. Only a very few high-level rubbers can meet all of these criteria – and they are now available from I-Unique. Latest-generation, top-of-the-range FKM rubber, for instance, complies with the most demanding requirements, including the strictest international biocompatibility standards (REACH / FDA / BFR).
The terms FPM, FKM and Viton® very often cause confusion and lead to incorrect interpretations. All of these names actually stand for one single base material: fluoroelastomer rubber.
FPM is the international abbreviation according to DIN/ISO, whereas
FKM is the acronym for the fluoroelastomer category according to the American ASTM standard.
Viton® is the registered trade mark of DuPont Performance Elastomers now manufactured by Chemours. Other makers are Solvay – Tecnoflon™, Daikin – DAI-EL™ and 3M – Dyneon™.
Last but not least, this rubber is also rightly said to be ‘high-tech’ because of its polymorphic properties: it can be decorated with leather, crocodile, carbon fibre, and canvas type prints, to name but a few options, without losing any of its strength or durability.
The I-Unique rubber strap comes in 12 textures and 18 colours, giving a total of 216 possible combinations – then, there are the three different widths available from I-Unique (18, 20, and 22 millimetres), the range of different clasps, and a further 18 overstitching colour options, taking the number of potential permutations to over 35,000.
A ‘WYSIWYG’ configurator
The I-Unique website offers a user-friendly configurator, guiding users effortlessly through six steps: size, texture, colour, hand-sewn stitch colour, personalised name, and choice of clasp. Users see their straps take shape as they pick their options, with a magnifying function allowing inspection of even the tiniest details.
I-Unique is aiming to make these straps far more accessible than before, offering highly competitive, affordable prices, base rubber strap price starting at CHF 99. Straps are delivered directly to customers’ homes, worldwide, within ten days. All I-Unique straps are made to order, so every single one is unique – just like each watch and each owner.
For example, we “designed” an AlphaLuxe strap with our embossed name on the back, using the configurator, for a total of CHF 153 (US$ 154).
Base strap CHF 99
Stitching CHF 30
Embossed Name CHF 19
Buckle CHF 5
Total CHF 153
You can add accessories to your order:
Bar Removal Tool CHF 12
iWatch Connector & Tools CHF 12
If “The true cost of luxury is the choice that it affords”, then, I-Unique [CLICK] offers a luxury service not only for that unique 1 in 35,000 combination but also your personalised name embossed on the back of your strap!
Furthermore, it opens up possibilities for clients who do not want to harm animals but still like the look of alligator or snakeskin. Personally, I find that real canvas on NATO style straps too scratchy so these rubber alternatives again afford a choice.
Author’s Biography: Melvyn Teillol-Foo (MTF)
Dr Melvyn Teillol-Foo is a contributor on AlphaLuxe web-zine.
He was former CEO of PuristSPro.com horology discussion fora. He blends his scientific medical objectivity from the pharmaceutical industry with purist passion, in his musings about watches, travel, wine, food and other epicurean delights.
His travelogue ‘Lazing’ and feasting ‘Grazing’ series of articles have now passed into “mythic legend” on the original ‘ThePuristS.com’ website. Those were the halcyon days when he was “rich and famous” that he remembers with bittersweet fondness.
Dr Teillol-Foo is a quoted enthusiast on the watch industry, appearing in feature articles and interviews by Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Sunday Times (London), Chronos (Japan), Citizen Hedonist (France) and other publications. He has authored articles for magazines like International Watch (iW) – both U.S. & Chinese editions, ICON (Singapore), August Man (Singapore), Comfort (China) and The Watch (Hong Kong).