At some point, a high price alone can dull your interest in something that’s otherwise desirable. Many people feel this way about Apple’s leather Apple Watch bands, which start at a jacket-like price of $149, jump to $249, then hit even crazier prices (effectively $600 and up) for versions co-developed with Hermès. Leather isn’t rare or magical, and a wristband only uses inches of it, so it’s hard to justify spending a lot of cash for something so simple.

Third-party developers agree, as evidenced by X-Doria’s Lux ($50) and Nomad’s Strap ($120-$150). Lux is an alternative to Apple’s Classic Buckle at 1/3 the price, and Strap resembles the Apple Watch Hermès Single Tour at around 1/4 the price — actually less, since you don’t need to buy a steel Apple Watch just to get it. While they’re obviously not identical to Apple’s versions, X-Doria’s and Nomad’s designs are far more affordable, giving you a luxurious look and feel on any budget…

Nomad Strap

Key Details:

  • Two different alternatives to Apple’s premium-priced leather Apple Watch bands
  • Lux compares with Apple’s Classic Leather at 1/3 the price
  • Strap compares with the Hermès Single Tour at ~1/4 the price
  • Small but noteworthy differences

Nomad has been making a name for itself as an Apple Watch accessory specialist, having released the beautiful metal Stand (review) and portable battery Pod (review) as upscale charging accessories. Strap is the company’s first leather Apple Watch add-on, and like its older cousins, it screams “high-quality.” Shipped in a handsome presentation box and noticeably thicker than any of the leather straps I’ve previously tested, it is designed to be softened and worn in over several days of use, developing a unique patina in the process. Nomad’s web site depicts it as it will be after a week or month on your wrist; my photos here show it fresh out of the box. (I’ll add another shot after it develops a patina.)

I’ve never particularly coveted leather watch straps until the Apple Watch came out, but the quality differences between the Italian leather Strap and low-end “genuine leather” alternatives are pronounced. Strap’s contrast stitching, reinforced eyes, and option to choose between silver or space black steel hardware are just a few details that make it look and feel leagues better than the cheap, easily damaged leather bands that are popping up online. With a suede-like outer texture and a more conventional pebbled leather inner texture, it looks like it was assembled by a careful craftsman rather than stamped out by a machine. On your wrist, it feels reassuringly solid and secure in a way that few other Apple Watch bands do — something that you’ll be happy wearing for years, rather than weeks or months.

Is Strap perfect? No. The steel Pre-V buckle is a little angular for my tastes, and nit pickers may note that the third-party lugs aren’t quite as perfect as Apple’s — a detail I only noticed when inspecting the Apple Watch off-angle, not when wearing it normally. Strap is also available solely in a 42mm size, and a single leather color that Nomad calls “unadulterated leather,” comparable in color to Hermès’ Fauve. But Strap is otherwise so impressive that it’s easy to recommend to anyone who appreciates quality leather goods. The $120 pre-order price applies until November 15, after which the price will jump to $150, closer to Apple band territory but still far below the Hermès Single Tour this Strap resembles. At either price, this is a very good value given the high quality of the design and materials.

X-Doria Lux

The best way I can describe X-Doria’s Lux ($50) is to call it a “straightforward but very nice leather band.” It’s sold in both 38mm and 42mm sizes, with pebbled black or brown leather (shown) for each size, and white croc (38mm only) or black croc (42mm only) options for people who prefer more aggressive textures. All of the hardware is chromed, a nice complement to the stainless steel Apple Watch that also works with the Apple Watch Sport.

Even though Lux looks different (with a coarser pebbled texture) and feels different (thanks to thicker leather) than Incipio’s $60 Premium Leather Band, X-Doria’s design feels just as “premium” as Incipio’s. I found the band’s tongue to be right-sized for my wrist and handsomely secured, with a lighter interior that doesn’t feel like it will irritate skin over time — an issue with cheaper leather Apple Watch bands I’ve tested. And I actively enjoyed wearing Lux; it’s comfortable, easy to put on, and looks really nice.

The only oddity is that the Lux review sample I received had a substantially different buckle than X-Doria’s photos, which depict an oval-shaped closure identical to Apple’s Classic Buckle. My Lux sample has the more common-looking D-shaped closure shown above. It’s unclear which version (or versions) X-Doria is actually shipping, but if you’re expecting the band to be identical to Apple’s, you may be surprised. This is the only question mark in an otherwise great entry-level leather band option.

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