There’s a very wide range of prices on the Apple Watch and a lot of that variation can be chalked up to variations in the band style. You don’t have to pay Apple a huge premium to get a different band, however, as you can swap it out at home with a myriad of styles. Read on as we show you how.

Why Do I Want To Do This?

There’s a wide range of reasons why you might wish to remove and change out your Apple Watch band but nearly all of them can be boiled down to cost (with perhaps a sprinkling of fashion sensibility thrown on top). All models of the Apple Watch are identical aside from the cosmetics of the body and band. If you spend $17,000 for the gold Apple Watch or $349 for the sport model, the guts of the watch are absolutely the same: same components, same apps, same Watch OS.

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In light of that most people are loathe to pay a premium for the high end models just to get a different band or a different material. It’s much cheaper to buy aftermarket bands or even, as we boldly experimented with, gold plate your stainless steel Apple Watch.

While swapping out the Apple Watch band is incredibly easy (and doesn’t even require special tools) the real challenge is deciding what you want to swap it with and finding a suitable replacement band that properly matches and aligns with the body of your Apple Watch. Let’s take a look at how to remove the band, how to replace it with an Apple Watch only band, and how to replace it with an adapter that allows for the use of any standard watch band.

How to Remove Your Apple Watch Band

Removing the band from your Apple Watch is ridiculously easy. So easy, in fact, that we were completely surprised by the process. It bears absolutely no resemblance to the kind of tools-required fiddling you need to do in order to remove the bands from traditional watches (be the band leather or metal links).

To remove the band simply turn the Apple Watch over in your hand, locate the small oval buttons at the top and bottom edge of the watch body, as seen in the photo above, and gently press them in with your finger while sliding the strap away from the case of the watch on a perpendicular plane (it doesn’t matter if you slide left or right as long as you depress the button).

Once the straps are removed you can easily see the mechanism that holds the strap on a little raised plastic bump kept under tension by a spring (depressing the button on the watch case depressed the tiny plastic bump and allows you to disengage the band from the watch case).

Installing an Apple Watch Specific Band

Replacement bands come in two flavors: Apple Watch specific bands and adapters. The Apple Watch specific bands are complete watch bands that include an integrated and non-removable connector for the Apple Watch case (just like the Apple-supplied bands do).

In such case installing the strap is as simple as removing the original strap, as we did in the previous section, and sliding the new strap pieces onto the Apple Watch case.

The photo above shows how cleanly the Spigen strap we used for this tutorial aligned with the case and, embellishments on the strap side, looks very much like the Apple Watch sport strap. In the photo the Spigen strap is attached on the left and the standard Apple sport band is on the right.

Installing an Apple Watch Generic Band Adapter

While there are already quite a few Apple Watch specific straps out there thanks to the popularity of the Apple Watch, that small pool can’t even compete with the sheer number of regular watch bands on the market. If you want to buy a regular watch band for your Apple Watch, you’ll nee to purchase an adapter for the Apple Watch that links the standard pin-style watch strap connection to the body of the Apple Watch.

Using an adapter is a tad bit more fiddly as it required the use of a screw driver and a steady hand, but it’s not too much of a hassle. There are many adapters on the market but they all essentially use the same design. There is a section that mimics the Apple-specific strap connection with the plastic bumps. Then, there are two little L-shaped pieces that slide into each other and then screw into the main body of the adapter. This is how you attach the strap to the watch, as the little linked L-shaped pieces replace the traditional tension pin.

In the above photo you can see a stainless steel generic adapter assembled with a strap in place, demonstrating how the L-shaped pieces replace the tension pin that would normally link the strap to a traditional watch body.

And here is that same stainless steel adapter inserted into a space gray Apple Watch. We purposely used a clashing adapter color to demonstrate the kind of fit and alignment you want with your adapter: notice how the edges of the steel adapter smoothly transitions into the body of the Apple Watch without any burrs or protrusions.

Shop Carefully For Watch Bands And Adapters

One thing we can’t emphasize enough when it comes to purchasing Apple Watch specific bands and adapters is the importance of reading product reviews. Thanks to the growing popularity of the Apple Watch the market is absolutely flooded with bands and adapters in a wide range of quality. Vendors are hawking everything from $10 bands with included adapters to $50+ bands with integrated strap components.

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A perfect example of the importance of reading product reviews is the STOUCH adapter we purchased while researching this article (and the adapter seen in the parts-diagram-style photo in the previous section). The top review on Amazon points out that the particular adapter we were purchasing, the space gray adapter, matches in color but not in finish. Sure enough when it arrived it has the proper space gray color but a polishing, not matte, finishing. Now that’s something you can fix easily with a little scouring powder if you’re so inclined but had we read the reviews carefully we may have purchased a different adapter. (For the record the STOUCH adapter is very high quality and fit perfectly on the watch, our only complain was the glossy finish).

In our experience testing a wide variety of straps and adapters we didn’t find a single product that was out of spec in terms of fit but we certainly found that it is difficult to get a perfect match when it comes to color/finish.

Besides reading the reviews to check the fit and finish of the model you’re buying the other important consideration is what size you’re buying. Apple Watches come in the 38mm and 42mm sizing and it’s super easy to buy the wrong size (and get stuck with the hassle of returning it). We’re not going to say we might have ordered a few wrong sized adapters, but we’re not going to deny it either. Double check your size before slamming the One-Click purchase button!


Have a question about your Apple Watch? Shoot us an email at ask@howtogeek.com and we’ll do our best to answer it.