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Like it or loathe it – and the jury seems to be very split on this one – but that orange Alpine Loop Band for the new Apple Watch Ultra is very eye-catching and fabulously distinctive.
And so, it wasn't going to be long before third-party copies started to go on sale at the usual places.
I've had quite a few questions about these bands that I decided to take a look for myself, so I ordered three different orange Alpine Loop-style bands from three different sellers. The straps were priced between $15 and $24.
My first surprise was that all three bands were same. Packaging varied slightly, but the bands were identical to each other.
The color, the weaving, the finish on the metal parts, all the same. This leads me to believe that they all came from a single source originally.
Another thing I noticed was that these bands are small. I'd ordered medium-size bands (I wear a large band, but I was sent a spare medium band), and the Apple band is some 25mm or 1 inch bigger than the clone. I'd struggle to get an Apple Watch Ultra fitted with a medium band on my wrist, but with this one I had no chance.
Then there's the color.
The loop part of the band seems to be a close match in color to the Apple band, but the main part of the strap is a deeper color, more red than orange. In fact, on close inspection it looks like a weave of red and white threads.
At a glance, the copy might pass as a genuine Alpine Loop, but a closer look is going to easily dispel that idea.
The fit and finish of the metal parts are quite good. Not anywhere as good as the finish of the parts on the genuine Apple Alpine Loop, but not bad at all. However, the hook is magnetic, which means that it's definitely not titanium, and the end bits are much brighter and polished, and while they're not magnetic, they're not titanium either. I'm guessing they're made of stainless steel, but maybe not.
While I wasn't expecting titanium parts, it is worth noting that two of the three straps I purchased specifically mentioned a titanium G-hook in the listing.
Now, so far, these bands don't feel too bad. I mean, the genuine Alpine Loop band is $99 and these range between a quarter and a sixth of that price.
The clone strap fits well on the Apple Watch too. The fit isn't as tight as the genuine strap, but it's more than acceptable.
What do you expect.
But then I took a look at the strap itself.
I noticed that the ends are glued down, and they came apart with very little encouragement. This adhesive wouldn't stand up well to water or sweat even in the short term. Underneath the tab was some ugly-looking stitching holding the hoop together.
The good thing here is that when the adhesive gives way (it's not a case of "if"), the stitching will stop your Apple Watch from falling off your wrist. But the quality of the stitching isn't brilliant either, so how long that will last is up for debate.
I wanted to like this first crop of Apple Watch Ultra Alpine Loop clones, but given the poor quality of the strap, I really can't recommend them. Sure, if you want a strap that'll last for a few weeks and are happy to toss it into the bin when it starts to fall apart, then that's OK.
But your watch strap falling to bits is one thing -- if both the adhesive and the stitching come apart, then you could lose your Apple Watch, which is another thing entirely.
I also have concerns about the metal parts. If you're allergic to metals such as nickel then I'd be wary of using a clone strap like the ones I examined, because one thing's for sure, those parts are not titanium.