Hands-On with BandLiners

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When, one day a few weeks ago, we received an email entitled “BandLiners”, I opened it with some trepidation. We get a lot of odd emails from brands, factories and internet marketing companies, so I wasn’t sure if this was going to be legit or not. What I found was a strange, but oddly ingenious concept from a young entrepreneur. Disposable, adhesive liners for watch straps to extend their longevity? “Hmmm…” I thought. “It’s odd, but actually a great idea”. Now, I’m sure plenty of people are going to not bother actually reading what I write here, instead jumping to the comments to express their disdain, but for those willing to take the time, hear me out… There is something here.

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My interest in Bandliners is two-fold, first as a watch wearer of many, many years, and the other as a designer of straps. When I think back to all of the straps I burnt through back in the day, both leather and rubber, I get a chill up my spine. Recollections of leather straps that were delaminating, smelled like a locker room and had a general “crustiness” to them… or rubber straps with that gross buildup of dead skin that would eventually crack… straps that friends would eventually complain about, prompting me to replace them. And I know I’m not alone in this… I’ve seen plenty a dude in the last couple of years with this same issue. You have your watch, it has a strap, and you wear it to death. You wear it when you work, when you play, when you shower, when you run, when you everything… and it gets nasty. If I could have cheaply slowed down this wear and tear, I totally would have.

As a designer of straps, my thoughts are more specific. First, we make what is for a lot of people an expensive accessory. Ranging from $65 to $150 (currently), these are luxury goods that are meant to be cherished and enjoyed, like fine shoes or watches themselves. We use high-quality, natural leathers that will eventually be affected by sweat. Sweat is brutal stuff. It’s salty and can be fairly acidic. Since we use leathers that are not coated in plastics or infused/spliced with vinyl, sweat effects it. It’s just reality. Most leather goods don’t make as much direct contact with your skin as a watch strap does, so they take a beating. I want our customers to get the most out of their straps, so a simple product that doesn’t effect how the strap looks or wears (well, not greatly, more on that later) seems like an obvious product to recommend. To me, it’s like adding rubber to your leather soled shoes, a must if you walk around NYC. This makes them last longer, so you can enjoy them more and get more value out of your purchase.

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But, what exactly is a Bandliner? Well, it’s a stick-on layer of microfiber that sucks up sweat, retaining it and keeping it out of the material of your strap. They cost $15 for a set 6, which is called a 3-month supply, but I imagine that would vary depending on how you use your watch (i.e. if you are highly active vs sedentary, if you wear multiple watches with different straps, etc…). They will come in a variety of shapes and sizes, with specific adhesives for the strap they are intended for, i.e. leather, silicon, nylon, etc… To use them, you simply peel off the lining layer, exposing the adhesive, and apply it like a sticker. When you’ve worn it for a while and it needs to be changed (which should be evident from the state of it) you peel it off, throw it away and put another one on. No mess, no fuss.

So, I was sent a few to try out, and I put them on one a couple of our straps (please note that the ones I tried and the ones in the photos are prototypes that were hand cut, so they look rougher than the finished product will). My immediate impression was that they are indeed easy to use. Attaching them to a strap is simple, and should you mess up and place it on an angle or something, the adhesive, which is obviously not permanent, is forgiving, letting you peel it up and try again.

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My second impression led to my first critique. The black microfiber stood out against the natural leather backing of the straps I tried it on. This is a simple fix, offering them in a few colors, likely black, dark brown, light brown, etc… This mostly wouldn’t be noticeable, but because it was visible on the extra length/tail of the strap, it stuck out. This led me to my second critique/first tip. On the first strap I tried it on, I used the entire liner, which was more than I needed. In reality, you can cut the strap just past the sizing hole you use, as the rest wont be touching your skin. Perhaps the liners should have an easy-tear perforation to make this simpler for customers.

I had the perfect opportunity over the last few weeks to try out the Bandliners, as we were struck with some brutally hot and humid days in NYC. The kinds of days where I do take my watch off when I get indoors to let it dry out. Strapping on my watch with Bandliner in tow, I found they were quite soft to the touch, but barely noticeable once strapped on. They do add a modicum of thickness to a strap, but not enough to change things. I did my usual thing, which often includes walking a couple of miles a day in NYC, whether going to and from our office, running errands, etc… After sweating profusely into them, the liner was quite moist to the touch, but the leather was dry. This is because the microfiber actually sucks in the moisture and retains it. On one hand, this means that it’s doing its job of keeping sweat away from the leather, but it also means that it’s a wet surface against your skin. Granted, this would be true if you had sweat into the leather, so it’s neither a win or a loss.

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Over the next couple of weeks, I periodically wore my watches with the Bandliners. Sometimes the Sinn 156 on the Model 2 Premium, sometimes the Seiko SRP775 on the Model 2 Shell Cordovan. Overall, the experience was good. You forget they are there, which is honestly a positive. Any add-on that changes what you are used to would be annoying. When the watch is off, they dry out and I noticed no odors, etc… One of the benefits of the Bandliners is that the Microfiber is treated for microbial growth. While I did sweat an awful lot into them, since I wasn’t wearing them all day every day, I didn’t “use one up”, and I imagine they would last a decent amount of time.

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Of course, removing them is a part of the process, so I gave that a shot. As noted, the samples I received are prototypes, and they did leave residue on the straps. I reached out to Ryan, the creator or BandLiners about this, who clarified what happened. The samples I had were from a batch with a glue that failed their testing. The goal is to have a glue that “(leaves) zero residue upon removal, no matter the duration of wear. (causes) no damage to the band itself (e.g. it won’t rip the finish off of a lined band). (has) appropriate flexibility of the adhesive (i.e. it isn’t too rigid where it “crimps” when worn).” I think we’ll all agree these are essential details for this product. So it’s a process of trial and error, but they are working with a major adhesives manufacturer to get it done. Since these were samples, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and anticipate that the final production versions will achieve these goals.

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Overall, I still think Bandliners are a very clever product that make a lot of sense for certain types of people. If you are a “preserver” of things, the type of people who keep things in impeccable condition, and you know who you are, these will be a must have product. Why buy an expensive strap only to watch it slowly deteriorate? Another is for one-and-done types. You have one watch with one strap and you want to get the most out of it. Clearly from the Bandliner Indiegogo page, you can see that they are marketing it more towards the smart watch and activity tracker crowd, who I think will fall into this category. Bandliners will keep the strap in better shape, so you don’t have to worry about getting it replaced. I imagine if they had a rack of these in Tourneau and other watch stores where casual watch consumers shop, they would do well. Really active people are another group, and so are, well… sweaty people.

Obviously the residue issue needs to be worked out, but I know they are working on it. So, if Bandliners seem like something you’ll use, head over to their current campaign to pre-order some.

Images from this post:
Zach is the Co-Founder and Executive Editor of Worn & Wound. Before diving headfirst into the world of watches, he spent his days as a product and graphic designer. Zach views watches as the perfect synergy of 2D and 3D design: the place where form, function, fashion and mechanical wonderment come together.
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