/>
X
Innovation
Why you can trust ZDNET : ZDNET independently tests and researches products to bring you our best recommendations and advice. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Our process

'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?

ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.

When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.

ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.

Close

Are third-party Apple Watch Ultra bands any good?

Is it possible to get that Alpine Loop look without the cost? We tried some options.
three Apple Watch Ultra models on stands
Jason Hiner/ZDNET

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.

Review: I put the Apple Watch Ultra through a Tough Mudder. Here's how it held up

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.

Two very similar watchbands, one shorter.

Clone Apple Watch Ultra band (top) next to a genuine Apple Watch Ultra band (bottom). Both are medium-size, but the clone is substantially smaller.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

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.

Clone strap on top of Apple strap, showing color difference.

The colors are nowhere near correct, with the clone strap (front) being a much darker red.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

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.

Alpine Loop and clone bands, comparing hooks.

The metal parts on the clone strap are different from those on the genuine Apple band, and the hook doesn't match the end bits.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

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.

Alpine Loop and clone bands, comparing hooks.

The metal parts on the clones are definitely not titanium!

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

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.

Apple Watch from the side, with a rougher band attached on the right.

Fit and finish of the genuine Apple Watch band (left) compared with the clone (right).

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

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. 

Peeling back the end of the strap that should be glued down.

This adhesive is very poor-quality and not built to last.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

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.

Verdict

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.

So my advice is to either wait for better clones to hit the market, or splash out on a genuine Apple Alpine Loop band

Editorial standards