Apple Leather Link long term review: Still holds up after almost two years

Posted:
in Apple Watch edited August 7
It's been almost two years since Apple released the Leather Link band for Apple Watch and while it has signs of wear, it has held up remarkably well.

Baltic Blue Leather Link on Apple Watch
Baltic Blue Leather Link on Apple Watch


Apple debuted the Leather Link band in the fall of 2020 alongside the Apple Watch Series 6. At launch, we picked up a pair of bands representing two of the original four colors.

The ones we bought were California Poppy and Baltic Blue. Today, Apple has four different color options. You can choose between Sequoia Green, Midnight, Dark Cherry, and Golden Brown.




Leather Link details

The Leather Link was designed to fit both the larger 45mm Apple Watch -- what we've been testing -- and the smaller 41mm Apple Watch. There are also two different lengths, an S/M version, and an M/L version.

We opted for the S/M size because while the M/L fit us, the strap overlapped enough to touch the opposing edge of the Apple Watch. Apple does have a sizing guide to help you find your perfect fit.

Apple Leather Link
Apple Leather Link


Apple uses Roux Granada leather for the leather link, crafted in France. This type of leather is often used in furniture and has a strong top finish.

How they held up

We've been wearing the leather bands almost daily for the past two years. We wear the California Poppy a bit more frequently between the two.

Putting a clock on it, they've averaged about a year's worth of wear each -- give or take. Though there are signs of wear, we've been very impressed with how they faired.

Neither band had any stretching or was misshapen. They each fit just as well as on day one. The magnets were just as strong, and the lugs weren't showing any damage.

The California Poppy band, aside from being worn more, also has a lighter finish which shows wear more prominently. You can see the dirt that accumulated on the underside of the wrist.

We did accidentally cause inadvertent damage when we went to the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado, where there is a propensity of metal ferrite particles in the sand. They accumulated on the band, so when we slid it apart, the magnets smashed the ferrite pieces between the strap pieces and left additional dark marks.

This is probably not a common scenario for users, and the marks were limited to hidden parts of the band regardless.

Cleaning the Leather Link

We wanted to attempt to clean our Leather Link strap to see how well it could be restored. The wear marks didn't bother us, and they're only on the wrist portion, but we were curious.

Leather Link with dirt
Leather Link with two years of wear


We took our band and initially tried a moist paper towel, but it didn't do much to help. It didn't have enough scrubbing power for the smooth surface of the leather.

Eventually, some gentle scrubbing with our fingernails shifted some of the grime. If you have leather cleaner, this should also be useful.

One of the links after cleaning
One of the links after cleaning, not all managed this well


You can see the transformation above for the one link we cleaned, as almost all the dirt has come off. Some of the links did seem to have some of the colors removed, so it never returned to "good as new" condition in the end.

Comparatively, the Baltic Blue band had much less noticeable wear and looked nearly perfect when worn.

Is the Leather Link worth it in the long-term?

After having these bands for two years, these bands seem very worth their price. Because we liked the bands so much -- and didn't want to pay Apple's high price tag each time -- we've tried budget versions with terrible results.

Third-party Leather Link knockoffs use leather of unknown origins that is notably thicker and stiffer than Apple's. They start to fall apart, and the layers will separate with use.

We've also heard countless reports of the magnets being weak and falling off your wrist while running -- something Apple's won't do, even with the stainless steel Apple Watch. They've also been known to stick to objects and peel off your wrist, another thing we've not encountered with Apple's official version.

Baltic Blue Leather Link
Baltic Blue Leather Link


There's a substantial price delta between these bands and those produced by Apple, but based on how Apple's have held up, other than some minor wear, we think they're worth the premium.

Pros
  • Regularly refreshed with new colors
  • Absurdly comfortable with multiple sizing options
  • Able to be cleaned with leather cleaner
  • High quality materials that don't stretch overtime or lose strength
  • Darker options hide long-term wear well
  • Easy to put on or off
Cons
  • Light-colored versions show wear more easily

Rating: 5 out of 5

You can pick up Apple's Leather Link on Amazon. At press time, the band is discounted to $84.99, a 14% markdown off the regular $99 price.

Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 9
    How about hand washing? Swimming?  If it been two years, then this is pandemic-era info, right? I am a nurse and wash my hands up to my wrists constantly and avidly. What were your hands washing routines? Sanitizer? Did you have to take your watch off to dry it or does it dry fairly quickly on it own and let out the water? Or does it hold it and start to smell? Just wondering, because leather, in itself, doesn’t stand up to water well. Let alone continuously adding water, soap and sanitizer! Also a swimmer. 
    pulseimageslkruppwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 9
    Huh. The day I ordered the 45mm large midnight version, you put this out.

    I plan to use it for my 44mm AW5, and later for the AW8 - if it's usable for it.

    So ... for the 45mm band, S/M indicates it's for 140-180mm wrists, and the M/L is for 165-205mm wrists. I measured the circumference of my wrist and it's 194mm - so the M/L is my size, right? It's the total circumference of the wrist, not just the size of the band, right?

    Anyway, I guess I'll know Wednesday :D .

    Just got tired of the cheap nylon elastic band which needed tightening every time I put it on, and my metal JUUL band kept feeling like it would scratch my 16" MacBook Pro lower case.

    My original Apple sports band bit the dust earlier this year.
    lkruppwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 9
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 2,394member
    That was the band I got with my AW6. I wore it for a year, and like you said it’s solid, never failed, never fell off, it’s a great band. After a year I switched to a Braided Solo Loop, why? I guess I just wanted a change. I told myself that the Leather Link would snap together either slightly too tight, or slightly too loose. There are discrete places where the magnets cling together. It’s not infinitely adjustable. But in reality that wasn’t a big deal. I just wanted a different band. Likely I’ll change bands again this fall/winter.

    But yeah, if you want a leather band that looks good, and wears like iron, you could do worse than the Leather Link.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 9
    Ok so you buy a $100 wristband and after a year of use you, are glad that it still holds together? For that price it should

    lkruppchadbag
  • Reply 5 of 9
    charlesncharlesn Posts: 343member
    How about hand washing? Swimming?  If it been two years, then this is pandemic-era info, right? I am a nurse and wash my hands up to my wrists constantly and avidly. What were your hands washing routines? Sanitizer? Did you have to take your watch off to dry it or does it dry fairly quickly on it own and let out the water? Or does it hold it and start to smell? Just wondering, because leather, in itself, doesn’t stand up to water well. Let alone continuously adding water, soap and sanitizer! Also a swimmer. 
    This is like asking if a $1,000 pair of Prada loafers are good rain shoes. I'm going to go out a limb here and suggest that if you're always wrist-deep in water you shouldn't be considering ANY leather band. 

    That said, I'm coming up on one year of use with my black (or was it midnight?) Apple leather link and it still looks and performs as new. Very impressed with the high quality of this band. I prefer it by far to Apple's previous version of a leather band similar to this. 
    edited August 8 mike1watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 9
    amar99amar99 Posts: 148member
    I have never liked Apple's leather products personally, not due to their durability itself but due to the discoloration. Purchased a leather iPhone case years ago, and in under a year it looked so bad (and not in an attractive way) that I purchased leather cleaner to try and restore it. Even that wouldn't help the severely degraded color which turned a bright yellow into a very dirty looking case.

    I'm not sure the appeal, maybe some people like what I disliked so much! I just personally don't get it.
    lkruppurashid
  • Reply 7 of 9
    chadbagchadbag Posts: 1,800member
    Ok so you buy a $100 wristband and after a year of use you, are glad that it still holds together? For that price it should

    Exactly.   It better darned sure last for years for $100.  

    The earlier iterations of this band were $149.   When the Apple Watch first came out I eyed the blue one but couldn’t justify the cost.  I finally got the dark green last Christmas.   Been awesome since. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 9
    mpantonempantone Posts: 1,934member
    charlesn said:
    How about hand washing? Swimming?  If it been two years, then this is pandemic-era info, right? I am a nurse and wash my hands up to my wrists constantly and avidly. What were your hands washing routines? Sanitizer? Did you have to take your watch off to dry it or does it dry fairly quickly on it own and let out the water? Or does it hold it and start to smell? Just wondering, because leather, in itself, doesn’t stand up to water well. Let alone continuously adding water, soap and sanitizer! Also a swimmer. 
    This is like asking if a $1,000 pair of Prada loafers are good rain shoes. I'm going to go out a limb here and suggest that if you're always wrist-deep in water you shouldn't be considering ANY leather band. 
    Will you stop being so rational and level headed? This is the Internet and above all traits like common sense aren't widely appreciated.

     :p

    Anyhow, pick the right tool for the job.

    Especially with the Apple Watch, the bands can be changed quite easily. This is not the situation with my conventional Seiko automatic divers watch so I just keep a stainless steel wristband on it.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 9
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 6,177member
    amar99 said:
    I have never liked Apple's leather products personally, not due to their durability itself but due to the discoloration. Purchased a leather iPhone case years ago, and in under a year it looked so bad (and not in an attractive way) that I purchased leather cleaner to try and restore it. Even that wouldn't help the severely degraded color which turned a bright yellow into a very dirty looking case.

    I'm not sure the appeal, maybe some people like what I disliked so much! I just personally don't get it.
    I was surprised to find that I actually really like the leather iPhone 12 Pro case more than any other I’ve tried before. I’m not really a case person but got one for a trip where I knew I’d be handling it a lot, and have been using it consistently ever since. The lack of bulk and gripability, and general fit and finish is nice.  
    It did get discolored being Baltic Blue and picking up black dye from my pants over time, and was pretty dinged up, so I ordered a counterfeit version on Amazon that looked really similar but was crappier in every way (go figure). Tossed it in the trash and ordered a new genuine replacement, after about a year since buying the first one. The discoloration is fine by me. Just call it a “patina”.
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