So, You Want to be an Astronaut? A look at the Forstner Komfit Bracelet, a Speedmaster Accessory for the NASA Enthusiast

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It’s something of a truism that when it comes to sports watches, there are bracelet guys, and there are strap guys. We see the divide right here on the Worn & Wound team, and I bet many readers have strong opinions either way about the appropriate mount for Speedmasters, Submariners, and the like. Generally speaking, I tend to fall on the bracelet side of things. If a watch comes mounted on a bracelet, I tend to find that the design team knew what they were doing, and it’s almost always more successful on steel than it is on leather (or fabric, but that’s a whole other kettle of fish). The Speedmaster is a strange exception, though. While it is certainly a “bracelet watch” in the eye of our popular culture, watch enthusiasts have come to understand that it looks equally great on straps. Complicating matters a bit is the dirty little secret of modern luxury watches: the Speedmaster bracelet (at least those that shipped with the now dead 1861 caliber Speedy) is not that good. I mean, it’s wearable, sure. But it doesn’t have a fully adjustable clasp, it’s thick and heavy, and a consensus seems to have emerged that it’s simply not very comfortable or good looking. So what’s a bracelet guy to do?

Fortunately for people like me (and like you – we’re all in this together) there’s a cottage industry around aftermarket Speedmaster bracelets. If you’ve spent any time at all on Speedy Instagram, you’ve seen them. You’re likely being served an ad for one right now as a matter of fact. As a relatively new second-time Speedmaster owner, I decided that this time around I’d dive into the aftermarket bracelet game. I had heard from many like minded enthusiasts that they’ve come a long way since I last owned a Speedmaster, and there was one in particular that caught my attention for a few fairly specific reasons: the Forstner Komfit bracelet. 

The Komfit as worn by NASA personnel. Image via Forstner.
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The Komfit, in a nutshell, is a thin mesh bracelet with a unique narrow profile that gives your Speedmaster (or any other watch you choose to wear it with) a striking look. Mesh bracelets have experienced something of a resurgence in popularity in recent years and I tend to think it’s largely a result of the excellent Apple Watch “Milanese” bracelet that was introduced all the way back with the first generation version of the now ubiquitous smart watch. Aficionados have loved them for ages, but there’s no doubt they’ve been popping up in more mainstream places in the last half decade. They have a sporty but refined aesthetic, and generally strike a great balance between comfort and durability, making them a great choice for true sports watches. 

While Forstner is not exactly a household name, it might ring a bell for a vintage enthusiast who has taken on the arduous task of ensuring they can match a period correct bracelet to their vintage watch. The company’s roots date back to 1920, and throughout the middle portion of the 20th century they were a prominent maker of bracelets in a variety of styles, including the Bonklip, which Blake covered in his review of the Serica 4512. Forstner eventually disappeared, but was reincorporated under new ownership in 2019, and since then they’ve introduced a series of vintage style bracelets that can claim at least some marginal authenticity given the historic brand name. 

The Komfit is of particular interest to me because of its ties to the space program. We all know by now that Omega’s Speedmaster was flight qualified by NASA, but that certification doesn’t extend to any particular bracelet. In the early days of the space program, astronauts often supplied their own bands and straps, and those who flew on the Mercury missions frequently chose the Komfit because it fit over their space suits. By 1964 (when the Speedmaster was chosen to be the watch issued to Gemini and Apollo flight crews) NASA was purchasing Komfits (which had been rebranded as “JB Champion” bracelets after the company was bought by Jacoby-Bender) for use on Gemini and Apollo missions. If you look at photographs of astronauts and NASA personnel from the period, the distinct, narrow mesh bracelets are fairly ubiquitous. They’ve become a real part of NASA history.

When you buy a Komfit bracelet from Forstner today, you have a few different decision points. First, there’s a wide version, and a regular version. Both versions attach to the watch with end pieces that compress, so the Komfit can fit watches with lug widths between 19 and 22mm. The wide version (the one I chose for myself) is 18mm, with the regular version measuring 2mm narrower. Being slightly larger wristed, I thought the wider bracelet would look more proportionate, and I think I was right (we’ll get  to the wearing experience soon). 

The other choice you’ll make when deciding which Komfit is right for you comes down to those end pieces. You can choose a “horned” style, which mimics the curvature of the case, or a more severe (and apparently more widely used among NASA folk) straight end piece. For my twisted lug Speedy Pro, I made the decision to go with the horned end pieces, but both work in exactly the same way – they take a standard spring bar, and fit between the lugs after being compressed. Forstner supplies a tab of tiny little pads that are meant to protect the inside of your lugs from scratches, but because danger is my middle name, and I couldn’t imagine Neil or Buzz painstakingly attaching these little stickers to their watches, I’ve decided to go without. 

One nice thing about the Komfit is that it’s essentially infinitely adjustable. To wear it, you move a small buckle up and down the mesh after attaching the watch to the case. This buckle is what attaches to the clasp, which itself is attached to the very end of the mesh chain. You slide the watch on over your wrist, pull the bracelet taught from the clasp end, and then attach the clasp to the buckle. If you’ve placed the buckle in the right spot, the Komfit is quite comfortable, but it can take some trial and error to dial it in correctly.

The Komfit worn over a space suit. Image via Forstner.
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Aesthetically, the Komfit is retro in the extreme. It doesn’t look like any other modern bracelet – it has the appearance of being too small for the watch (even on my 18mm wide Komfit) and really accentuates the shape of the case. It’s the inverse of the integrated bracelet style that’s currently incredibly popular. Instead of the lines of the case meshing perfectly with those of the bracelet in a seamless fashion, the Komfit fits to the case in spite of it. It’s a little jarring at first and makes you realize how even modern bracelets that aren’t truly integrated are designed to be perfectly matched to their case.

To be honest, I’m not sure if I actually like the way the Komfit looks. When I check the time, I don’t think to myself, “Damn, I’ve chosen wisely today,” or “This is a beautiful object!” It’s more like, “Maybe I am the weird one,” or even just a straight up “LOL.” But it’s distinctive, and I love seeing it on the wrists of astronauts when I watch a documentary, or flip through my copy of Moonfire. As a NASA obsessive, it has a definite charm. 

The best feature of the Komfit without a shadow of a doubt is the way it feels on the wrist. This bracelet is impossibly light and comfortable, particularly when compared to the stock bracelet on the modern Speedmaster. In that way, maybe the Komfit is a bit like that old hooded sweatshirt that’s been with you for years. You know the one. Its college logo has all but completely faded, it’s frayed in spots, and you don’t wear it outside or in public because of the obvious meatball stains down the center of it. It’s something you throw on because it’s easy and feels like a second skin, even if you know that if you showed up to the office wearing it, you’re going to be ridiculed and laughed at. My office is obviously full of watch nerds, so the analogy breaks down here, but I think you understand what I’m getting at.   

Image via Forstner

It took me some time to warm up to the Komfit, a process that remains ongoing. As much as I love the way it wears, and am getting comfortable with it aesthetically, it has some functional challenges that are worth pointing out. I said up top that I consider myself a bracelet guy, and in large part that’s because a bracelet has an ease of use to it that is appealing to me. They’re easy on, easy off, and once you have them sized (typically when you purchase the watch) they’re good to go for the duration, particularly if you have a clasp with micro adjustment capabilities. The Komfit requires a little more work. I find it somewhat tricky to mount and unmount, even with a good spring bar tool. Because the end pieces and spring bars both compress, you have to be really precise when fitting this to your watch. Most frustrating, however, is the clasp attachment. Forstner seems to know that this is going to be a challenge, and they’ve provided a handy video tutorial and explainer on their website. The clasp attaches to the buckle by sliding onto a thin cylindrical bar, and in order to be successful in attaching it you’ve got to approach at just the right angle and apply just the right amount of pressure. While it was positively infuriating for my first 15 minutes of ownership, I’m now at the point where it’s reached the level of a mere minor annoyance. A definite improvement, but if putting on the Komfit were an Olympic sport, I’d never make it out of the qualifying stages. 

Regardless of some of my reservations, I’m glad to own the Komfit. At $125, it’s positioned at the same price point of a lot of very nice straps, and I think many who buy it will enjoy wearing it for a period of time and swapping it out for leather, or something else, and then returning to it down the line when the mood strikes. In other words, for me this is not a permanent bracelet solution for my Speedmaster, but I have to say that I see myself wearing it more frequently in the future than Omega’s bracelet. And if you’re a hopeless space program dork like me, we know the bracelet’s faults really don’t matter a whole lot. Also, once summer rolls around, the lightweight nature of the thing is going to be very appealing. And just think, I’ve got all this time to practice putting it on between now and then. Soon I’ll be a pro. Forstner

Zach is a native of New Hampshire, and he has been interested in watches since the age of 13, when he walked into Macy’s and bought a gaudy, quartz, two-tone Citizen chronograph with his hard earned Bar Mitzvah money. It was lost in a move years ago, but he continues to hunt for a similar piece on eBay. Zach loves a wide variety of watches, but leans toward classic designs and proportions that have stood the test of time. He is currently obsessed with Grand Seiko.
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