Modern versions of sports watches like Panerai and IWC Ingenieur have quick strap replacement systems. In particular, a reason for Panerai watches' great appeal is the vast number of after market straps available readily for all of their models, with each strap being relatively easy to change in a few minutes using the quick strap changing tool that comes with some of their models. Rolex, despite its indisputable popularity – and an arguably massive commercial opportunity – has never ventured to offer a wide selection options as far as straps and bracelets are concerned. One of the more interesting after market alternatives are the RubberB straps, specially designed to fit different Rolex models (see our article on the Rubber B Rolex Deepsea Glidelock Watch Strap here). We have had a chance to consider the model created for the "SubC," i.e., the latest version of the Rolex Submariner with the ceramic bezel.
Some manufacturers, like IWC, Hublot, and Panerai, on a selection of their models, make the strap changing process even easier with a fast changing tool built into the strap or the lugs. This means that changing the strap requires no tools. Just press a button (or two) and change your strap. Cartier, more known as a jeweler, understands this convenience well, and many of their models include such quick changing systems, and in a few instances, they have lead innovations in that area.
However, what is one to do if you are one of the millions owning and wearing a Rolex sport watch, in particular the Submariner or GMT Master II? Rolex neither makes the process of changing straps easy nor even provides alternative bracelets or straps to adorn your watch with. Heck, Rolex authorized dealers are quick to provide a service to fix or change your watch's bracelet for you, but at a cost, and you will have to wait. And, as mentioned, no alternative bracelets or straps exists direct from Rolex. Enter RubberB's unique fitting straps for the popular Rolex models: Submariner and GMT Master II.
So what makes RubberB straps so unique? And what is my experience wearing RubberB straps on my Submariner for the past three months? First, material. The rubber on the RubberB strap is not your normal rubber that one finds in most modern watches. Instead, it's a special carbon-injected caoutchouc that is treated for feel, flexibility, and duration. This is important, since typically, a sports watch is worn for a good part of the day (at least in my case) and comfort, feel, subtleness, and flexibility are top attributes on my list.
RubberB does not disappoint here, since on the strap, the Rolex Submariner is about 40 grams lighter and feels very comfortable due to the flexibility and the soft feel of the strap. Also, since the RubberB strap is designed to integrate with and use the oyster clasp, you do not loose the convenience of the oyster glide lock on the Rolex Submariner, nor the protection of the oyster clasp double lock mechanism.
The RubberB strap integrates so well with the Rolex Submariner that it's hard to think it was not designed by Rolex. It fits perfectly flush with the Submariner's case and integrates brilliantly everywhere else. And due to its tone black color it also blends well with the black dial and the Submariner's cerachrom bezel.
However, while the RubberB strap does a great job of giving an alternative strap to the popular Rolex Submariner watch, it cannot however undo the fact that Rolex does not design their watches for ease of strap replacement. Replacing the Rolex Submariner bracelet to install the RubberB strap was not super hard, but it's also not easy. Short of bringing it to a watchmaker and paying the typical strap replacement fee, replacing the strap, at least for me, was a two-hour affair. While I did not spend the entire two hours replacing the strap, I opted to take my time so as not to scratch the bracelet or the case.
I would equate changing the strap as performing minor mechanical surgery. The new Rolex Submariner does come with screws for the links and the clasp, but the case uses a spring loaded pinion. And therein lies the main problem when removing the strap. Like most of these spring loaded cases one has to be super careful (even when using the appropriate tools) to avoid missing the little keeper and scratch the case.
So while adding clear value and advantage to your Submariner and filling a gap left by Rolex by not having after market straps, the RubberB rubber strap for the Rolex Submariner and GMT Master II has one considerable shortcoming in that it does not ease the difficulty of replacing Rolex bracelets. Arguably, there is not much RubberB can do about the construction of Rolex watches, but this issue is particularly apparent when I compare it with Panerai watches, where I can easily decide what strap to wear minutes before wearing the watch. With the RubberB-Rolex combination, the process is so involved that one has to pretty much plan to keep the watch with the strap for months so that the change is worth the effort. By no means is this a reflection on RubberB, but rather on Rolex's typical tight control over all aspects of their watches.
Therefore, if you own a Rolex Submariner or GMT Master II and are in search of an excellent alternative strap, that feels great, looks fantastic, and will last for a long while, then RubberB would be my first recommendation. Just plan to keep the watch on the strap for the entire summer, so that your efforts in changing to it are amortized over that period – or be ready to make the trip to your local watchmaker. Price for the RubberB strap is $250 for the one shown in this review, which allows reuse of the Rolex clasp. RubberB also offers another strap that comes with a tang buckle (not shown here) and it costs $240. rubberb.com