Yes, the Juuk Locarno bracelet is an Apple Watch accessory and, yes, there's a Kickstarter project you can back (though it is in fact available for purchase already)... You see, I felt that this disclaimer was necessary because I am well aware how "Apple Watch" and "Kickstarter" are trigger words in our customarily traditional-watchmaking-focused community... and yet, I'm happy to have found it, reviewed it, and to now bring it to your attention. So, with that off my chest, here's why I chose to do this review.
Juuk (pronounced "juke") is a Hong Kong-based one-man company run by Eugene Ho, a super nice guy who reached out to us out of the blue and asked if we could catch up while I was attending the Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair where he was exhibiting, and check out his small project producing aftermarket Apple Watch bands. His bracelets turned out to be genuinely nicely made, so I agreed to take one with me from HK, put it on my Apple Watch to try out and either just give feedback or, if it really works out, write up a review. So here we are.
With over a year and a half after the launch of the Apple Watch, it is no surprise that you can find innumerable accessories, bands, cases, chargers, and cradles for the Apple Watch – and, at this point, they range from super cheap (and rather badly made options) to ultra luxurious ones. Take bracelets, for example: you can pick up metal bracelets for the Apple Watch for as low as $40, or get the original Link bracelet from Apple for as much as $449. The Juuk Locarno falls in between the two extremes. It is made by a Chinese manufacturer – that (surprise, surprise) also produces bracelets for high-end Swiss watches – it comes with a price tag of $245 for either the brushed or the polished versions, and promises to offer quality of execution comparable to that from Apple (if not better, which we'll see soon enough) at a more than considerable saving of $200.
For its metal bracelets like the Juuk Locarno or the Revo (which, between the two, looks more like Apple's Link bracelet), Juuk uses solid 316L links, available in either polished or brushed, or for the Juuk Locarno, two-tone steel-gold or steel-black combinations. It fits wrist sizes up to 214 millimeters or 8.42 inches and, with all links attached, weighs 107 grams.
The Locarno has a 5-link construction that, to me, looked way too busy in images, especially when compared to the sleek and clean lines of the Apple Watch case. In person, and especially on the wrist, it is a different story altogether: on the brushed version (featured in this review), the brushed surfaces have a satin finish sheen to them, with the angled semi-circle segments either reflecting plenty of light or appearing very dark, creating a lot of constantly changing contrast as you move your hand.
At first, the more complex aesthetic of the 5-link construction reminded me of (by today's standards, quite badly made) bracelets that we saw on watches from the '80s or so, but again, the moment you lift it out of the box and put it on the watch, its weight and (to the naked eye) genuinely nicely finished surfaces help you forget that image really quickly. It does change the look of the Apple Watch, though – in some way, to my eyes, it made it look a bit more grownup, a bit more serious.
The changed looks will quickly escape you, though, as it is easy to forget that you're wearing the Apple Watch when it's on this bracelet. What helps achieve this feat and what really stands out on the Juuk Locarno is the almost eerily silky-smooth inside of the links: the small, pebble-like links have a satin-finished inside and no matter how you fold the bracelet, no sharp edges will stick out. A lot of much, much more expensive bracelets lack this sort of refinement even though it makes a big difference in wearing comfort.
The devil really is in the details, and Eugene, having worked for two decades in the watch industry mainly for the Movado and Timex groups, appears to know that and tries to push his supplier in accordance. Even on this brushed piece, all 36 links (I did count them) that fall into the outermost rows of the bracelet have high-polished edges and sides – a small refinement that helps save the Juuk Locarno from looking like a big slab of metal.