The Return of TROPIC: Your Favorite ’60s Rubber Straps Are Back!

Share this story:

Anyone who collects or loves vintage dive watches knows about the now legendary TROPIC rubber straps. They were made in the ‘60s and ’70s, and were often OEM standard issue and commonly found paired with different brands of divers, including Rolex, Enicar, and Jenny Caribbean, among others. Their design, durability, and comfort made them a staple of both leisure and professional divers, and if you were to look at just about any photo of a diver with his/her watch in the ‘60s, you would almost invariably find it paired with a TROPIC strap.

With the immense popularity of vintage dive watches, collectors have long sought out original TROPIC straps to complete their watches. However, because of that popularity, vintage TROPICs can command very high prices, and while there are many original examples out there, time as well as good ol’ wear-and-tear have made them harder to find in wearable condition. As a result, a number of companies today have produced their own interpretations of the TROPIC strap with varying degrees of success. Some are pretty good, and some are, well, let’s just say not so good.

But now the original is back, and as someone who’s sampled his fair share of the imitators I can say that I’m excited to see TROPIC’s return!

Welcome back, TROPIC.

Vintage TROPICs came in a variety of lug widths ranging from 16mm to 22mm, in several colors, and even a few different styles. The most iconic and classic style had a distinct cross-hatch pattern on top and a deep diamond-shaped underside with lots of channels for water and sweat. The Sport variant, with its pebbled texture and large rally holes, was one of the most common variants after the original.

Advertisement

The revamped TROPIC strap makes its debut at 20mm and in the classic style only (other sizes will be available down the line). The front and back textures are extremely faithful to the original, which is important for nailing that vintage aesthetic.

One of the things that made original TROPICS so popular with divers was the unique rubber formula that resulted in that oh-so-perfect mix of durability and pliability. The revamped TROPIC is made from a new and proprietary vulcanized rubber that is exceptionally soft and supple to the touch, and it really does a great job in capturing the overall look and feel of those older straps.

The new TROPIC is slightly thicker at the lugs than the original, and this adds to its durability and wearability with thicker modern divers. One downside, however, is how the strap flattens out and abruptly terminates the pattern at the lugs — both of these things are further accentuated by the thicker ends of the straps. I think rounded ends would look better, as would a continuation of the top-side pattern so the break doesn’t look quite so abrupt. It’d be nice to see something like that in version 2.o.

Note the flat ends near the lugs and how the pattern stops right at the edge.
Can’t knock a TROPIC on a snowflake Sub.

The new strap does keep the original taper, starting at 20mm at the lugs and going down to a very narrow 10mm tip on the longer piece, and to 16mm at the buckle on the shorter piece. That taper works great with vintage dive watches, as well as modern ones that maintain the proportions of their ’60s and ’70s-era brothers.

As far as length is concerned, this initial releases measures 125mm x 85mm long, which is a happy medium that should fit most people out of the gate.

The tang buckle is nice, but it is decidedly more modern in design than the original was. Based on some of  the reactions I’ve seen on Instagram, I think a more vintage-style steel buckle would be preferred, and I generally agree with that sentiment. That said, the current buckle is well made, signed with the TROPIC logo, and at 16mm it’s a good size that works with the overall vintage vibe. By the way, one of the nice things about a 16mm buckle is that many vintage buckles from the ’60s were that size, so one could easily install a branded vintage buckle on one of these straps should they desire. The new TROPIC strap is made by the Synchron Group, the same company that makes Isofrane straps and Aquadive watches. Since Isofrane straps have a couple of buckle choices, I’m hoping TROPIC will follow suit and offer a vintage style buckle in the future.

The TROPIC-signed buckle is solid, but I’d love to see a vintage-style buckle like the one here down the line.

The current lineup is available in a pretty inclusive range of colors, which includes black, brown, blue, green, orange, and yellow. I would love to see a gray/silver option in the future, as the vintage ones I’ve handled in that color look great on so many vintage dive watches. I’ve personally been wearing the 20mm black TROPIC on my vintage Tudor blue Snowflake, and it is so comfortable and easy wearing that it’s hard to take off. And, of course, it just straight-up looks killer paired with a vintage Sub.

But not just on vintage Subs. TROPICs on this Raven and Zodiac are natural fits.

These new TROPIC straps are available through the brand’s website for the very fair price of $79 a pop. Like I wrote above, there are many similarly-styled straps available on the market, but there is only one TROPIC brand, and now it’s back in proper fashion. With the cachet of the original brand, coupled with the excellent modern quality and retro look and feel of these new straps, TROPIC is likely going to be a big hit, especially at this price point. And if they address some of the issues I raised above,  add some more widths, lengths, and a vintage-style buckle, then they may not be able to keep them in stock. TROPIC

Advertisement
Images from this post:
Christoph (Instagram’s @vintagediver) is a long time collector and lover of all things vintage, starting with comic books when he was a kid (he still collects them). His passion for watches began in 1997 when he was gifted a family heirloom vintage Omega Genève by his step-father. That started him on the watch collecting path—buying and selling vintage watches of all sorts, with a special appreciation for vintage dive watches and Seiko.
vintagediver
Categories:
Article / Featured

Product Highlight: Model 2 Premium Straps

By
The Model 2 Premium is the vintage watch strap: evolved. …
Article / Featured

Product Highlight: Model 2 Classic Straps

By
The Model 2 Classic was designed to be a simple, …