Remembering The Speidel Twist-O-Flex Watch Bracelet

Remembering The Speidel Twist-O-Flex Watch Bracelet
Remembering The Speidel Twist O Flex Watch Bracelet   wrist time watch reviews
Speidel Twist-O-Flex Print Ad (1977)

Speidel is the name behind what was once an iconic element of wrist watches, especially in America. You may not know the Speidel name or the name of the product they produced, but everyone should remember those flexible metal bracelets that were once so popular. Called “Twist-O-Flex” Speidel flexible bracelets could be found everywhere, and the company behind them has been in continuous operation for over 100 years. Let’s take a look at the company that brought us Speidel bracelets and see what they are up today. Surprisingly, Speidel is not only still around and thriving, but they still make Twist-O-Flex bracelets along with some watches. Below we even have an interview with one of the co-owners, Ms. Lynn-Marie Cerce and a mini watch review.

Before we get into that, though, we need to dive into the bracelet that really is what most of us know Speidel for; the Twist-o-Flex. They introduced the flexible bracelet in 1959, when they had licensed it from it’s inventor, Karl E. Stiegele. It ended up becoming such an important part of their brand identity that Speidel’s logo became a Twist-o-Flex tied into a bow. The men’s model was quickly followed by a women’s bracelet (in 1961), as well as a children’s one (1963).

Remembering The Speidel Twist O Flex Watch Bracelet   wrist time watch reviews
Speidel Twist-O-Flex Ladies’ Watch Band Newspaper Ad (August 1962)

Part of their popularity no doubt came from their early advertising position – Speidel was one of the first brands that started advertising on television (in fact, they ended up eliminating their radio budget early on, concentrating solely on the new medium). Also, I can only imagine that the bracelet offered a bit of a break from the norm of what was out there, in terms of existing bracelets on the market. Not to mention, once you’ve got the bracelet adjusted properly, it should be comfortable on just about any wrist.

And think about it – you’ve probably noticed your own watch fitting differently at different times of the day, or perhaps in different seasons. An expansion bracelet like the Twist-o-Flex is able to accommodate those fluctuations without any problem. Or, what if you want to strap your watch over a sleeve, say, outside of your coat? Unless you have an extender on your strap, that’s likely going to be difficult. Expansion, though? No problem (within reason, of course).

So why have they fallen out of favor as of late? That’s likely due to a few different reasons. For starters, they are notoriously difficult to adjust. You have to unbend tabs in the right places (without breaking them), and then reassemble it just so. Not something most people would be comfortable doing. Next, while they are comfortable, many people complain of the expansion links catching, snagging, and pulling arm hairs – which isn’t the most pleasant feeling, as you may imagine.

Next, it comes down to quality (real and perceived). While Speidel is one of the big names for expansion bracelets, there are no shortage of brands who have made them over the years, to varying levels of quality. Some of this might be reflected in unsmooth expansion, or finishes (such as gold tone) flaking off quickly. Finally, it boils down to style. When it comes to the styles of watches that are popular today, many may not look quite right on an expansion bracelet – when it comes to metal, we seem to prefer something that’s specifically made to fit to our watch cases.

With that, you have a very quick overview of the Speidel Twist-o-Flex, it’s ascendancy in popularity, and some reasons why it’s waned in recent years. With that bit of history under our belts, let’s move on to our interview with Lynn-Marie Cerce:

Remembering The Speidel Twist O Flex Watch Bracelet   wrist time watch reviews
Lynn-Marie Cerce

aBlogtoWatch (ABTW): Can you describe the history of the brand?

Lynn-Marie Cerce (LMC): Since 1904, iconic American brand Speidel has been renowned for innovative designs, operational excellence, and passion for customer service. We are the number one recognized brand in the world for watchbands and identification bracelets, and offer a wide variety of products including our signature “Twist-O-Flex®” watchband, Speidel Identification Bracelets (Speidel ID’s®, My First ID®) and Medical Alert bracelets (Medilog®), as well as beautifully crafted traditional and contemporary timepieces.

The Speidel company can be traced back to 1867, when it was founded in Germany by Fredrich Speidel, and has been a household name in the US since we were launched here 109 years ago. Speidel products can be found at both independent jewelers and well-known mass retailers across the U.S.

Speidel has been headquartered in Rhode Island for over 100 years and we have a long and rich history of commitment to the communities we serve. In fact, Governor Lincoln Chafee declared January 2013 as “Speidel “Change A Band, Change A Life™” Month” throughout the state of Rhode Island to honor our support of America’s troops, veterans and their families.

Remembering The Speidel Twist O Flex Watch Bracelet   wrist time watch reviews

ABTW: When were the Twist-O-Flex® and ID® bracelets introduced and when they hit peak popularity?

LMC: The Twist-O-Flex was introduced in 1959 and was considered light years ahead of any other watchband product. It was a sales phenomenon, and truly was “the” fashion statement of the time. Speidel went on to introduce two other highly popular versions of the Twist-O-Flex: the Ladies Twist-O-Flex in 1961 and the Youth Twist-O-Flex in 1963.

Speidel began manufacturing ID bracelets in 1951 during the Korean War – the first product was the Photo Ident (shown on the right) – a combination bracelet with a photo and expandable wristband, which was advertised on television and became an immediate success. The ID was worn by members of our armed forces as a way to keep their loved ones back in the States close at hand and in their thoughts as they defended our nation.

In 1959, Speidel introduced chain ID bracelets called Big Boy/Best Girl, to diversify our offerings. These became some of the most popular bracelets sold in the industry and they remain so today.

Over the years we have continued to expand our Speidel ID bracelet product line, including the introduction of the very popular and successful My First ID® bracelets for children, and Medilog® Medical Alert bracelets – which have helped to save countless lives by notifying first responders and medical teams of health-related conditions of the wearer. And, like all Speidel IDs, they are proudly made in America.

20 comments
SpokaneRod
SpokaneRod

I still wear my gold Twist-O-Flex on my 1965 automatic Lord Elgin, which I wear almost daily.  It was my high school graduation gift that year.  Little did we know that was the last year for Elgin as an original US watchmaker.  I think the band was not original though.  I think it was a replacement for the original that broke when I wore the watch in Viet Nam 1970-72.  As with the watch, the band was a gift from Mom and Dad. 

jimmodo
jimmodo

I think I may be the only one disappointed in the "canned nature" of the replies - it feels a bit rehearsed and data-sheety. For example, when asking about the brand, instead of focusing on target customer markets and product aspirations, the reply is "innovative style, good service, and affordability".  How generic is that - or is that just it a generic brand focus? 

Also when asked about the brand awareness to the consumer, Patrick brought up that they have had almost no exposure since the 80s.  Instead of talking about what the product focus is, they make the claim the brand is as strong as ever. Although I remember the ad from the late 70s - I don't know which market this product belongs in now or who Spidel views as their competition.

pepecasas
pepecasas

My new Pulsar <Railroad Approved> model, has an Speidel Twiest O Flex  bracelet and is quite confortable, a Japanese watch with an American bracelet, a excellent combination...

bichondaddy
bichondaddy

I remember having these as a kid on my Timex watches I wore to middle school.  In HS I got tired of them pulling the hair on my wrist off, and switched them all out for leather straps.  My dad still had some of them when he passed in 2011...I ended up getting them as he left me all his watches, one of them is on the watch he got from the 1984 Olympic Games, as my father was a coach for the US Marksmanship team. 

CG
CG

Sigh! Am I really that old? Sometimes I hate history lessons. Oh well. Still have a few watches with Speidel bands, the small jewelry watch store down the street still sells NOS Speidel... wonder if they've omproved any from the hair biting bigs they were years ago. Definitely have a few old Bulova amd Elgin that could use a refit. BTW there should be a caption contest for that 77 print advert... hmmm what IS going on there? Older guy young girl, wife at home? Drinks with the office secretary I'll bet.

MID
MID

Babe. (Someone had to say it.)

plannerben
plannerben

I inherited a off-brand Swiss watch (Harper) with a Spiedel twist-o-flex bracelet.  When I had the watch cleaned, I also had them adjust the band (grandpa had wrists like small tree trunks).  Looks great!

Shawnnny
Shawnnny

OMG, I just looked at the inside of the band of an old, small, square, gold Benrus watch that my father gave me years ago. It says Speidel on each of the links. It seems to be more of a scissor type though. It's a hair puller, but that's ok, I like pain. Very cool to realize I own a piece of history. Very nice article!

DangerussArt
DangerussArt

Like Mark, this style of band was on my first "real" wrist watch at age 8 probably - a gold toned Timex. I also remember it fleeing my wrist during certain sports or sharp movements. I'm pretty sure that's the only one I've ever owned though.

The modern iteration and the reviewed watch are, well... let's just say, not my thing.

Tekky
Tekky

I still have an early 1960s Twist-O-Flex, it was on my grand-dad's Bulova wristwatch.  I've had the Bulova serviced several times and wear it probably four times a month, but the band is in a drawer.  It really is an epilator supreme.  Replaced it with a nice non-expansion bracelet.

Hair-grabbing was normal for the mid-market watch bracelets until just a few decades ago.  The Seiko and other decent Japanese bands of the 70s and 80s mostly had rolled links (staple adjusted) that snatched hair too. And the less expensive replacement bracelets - the Hadley Romas in the $20 instead of $50 range - still are that style and still do grab hair.  I'm not sure I'd risk a Twist-o-Flex with hairy wrists.

pepecasas
pepecasas

I own two watches with this type of expanson bracelets and wear them almost daily . One is a Seiko solar, black dial the other one is a Pulsar, quartz, both Rairoad Approved, this last one is the most comfortable watches I have ever own, you practically forget about it, it does not move around, it is by far more practical than leather bands and the normal SS bracelet. It is a pity that expansion bands are not used by more known wach brands. I do own SS Rolex, Longines, and other verry expensive swiss brands, but I do preffer for daily use the extension band watches that are almost indestructible and water resistant.

mcv1973a
mcv1973a

Awesome Peter Lorre advert...

But nowhere near as awesome as THIS!

www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xY7mBQrzXU

MarkOs
MarkOs

"Someone looking for a very affordable skeletonized automatic, and perhaps still drives a 1970s American non-muscle car."    Made me laugh!

I don't know if it was this brand but I remember my dad wearing a gold watch on a gold expandable bracelet in the 70's/80's I'm sure it was quartz, I'll have to see if he still has it so I can wear it if my disco pants come back into fashion.

OmniRak
OmniRak

WOW! Now this does bring back memories for me!  Oddly enough it’s the Speidel Twist-O-Flex that kicked off my interest in watches as a very small child.  My Grandfather had a watch with a Twist-O-Flex band on it.It fascinated me at the age of 5 as something amazing lol!   I remember stretching and puling at it whenever he’d leave it on a table.  

Just like Mark Carson’s it was black faux leather in appearance.  It made me want to have and wear a watch from a very young age.   It seemed very grown up and manly to me back then.The strange thing is, of all of the watches I’ve had throughout my life none ever had a Twist-O-Flex band!  I never even knew the name of this type of band until this article.  This has really brought a flood of good memories back to me today.  Thank you!

MarkCarson
MarkCarson

I remember the Twist-O-Flex ads and when I got a watch as a kid, I wanted and finally got a Twist-O-Flex for it. Having a dinky wrist at the time, I had to adjust it. Which was tearing links off with pliers, etc.  The finished result was pretty horrid looking where it attached  to one side of the watch, but hey, at least it was the right size then.

It was an arm hair puller for sure. But easy on and off and it stretched with your movements. But if you ever moved your arm very quickly (like in a whipping motion), the darn thing would fly off your wrist, watch and all. So you learned to be careful with it. It ended up being sporty looking but not good when doing sports as it would fly off  to at the least move down to the back of your hand with any quick motions.  Mine was black (faux leather looking metal) and silver tone. Classy I thought at the time.

Still pretty high-tech for its day and so much cooler than the scissor style expansion bracelets which where no doubt worse in every respect (except price).

marbstiu
marbstiu

...until Swatch used it for quartz plastic watches

aBlogtoWatch
aBlogtoWatch moderator

@William S Lerner These are such an important part of historic wrist watch culture, and in the last decade I've not seen anyone mention them or even a picture of a single vintage watch on one featured anywhere. So when the opportunity to came to discuss these, I figured we needed to.

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