One of my favorite looks for the Apple Watch is pairing the high-tech smartwatch with a nice leather band. The contrast of leather against the glass, OLED display, and metal case really pops, and it adds a classic appearance. The downside to leather is that it doesn’t fair so well with water and sweat. The Apple Watch itself may be waterproof, but a traditional leather band can stain, become brittle, separate, and generally be ruined by exposure to water. However, you can keep the leather look without worrying about water with Nomad’s new Active Strap for the Apple Watch.
Nomad makes some really nice leather Apple Watch bands using Horween leather. The vegetable-tanned leather is smooth, supple, and develops a wonderful patina over time. But—like most leather products—they’re not meant to be exposed to water.
Fully Waterproof, Not Just Surface Treated
The company recently took care of that with the new Active Strap. Instead of Horween leather, the Active strap uses waterproof Heinen leather from Germany. The back of the band is also designed to incorporate channels that help move water (or sweat) and allow the leather to breathe. It can be wiped clean of mud or sand and resists saltwater as well. Rather than relying on surface coatings to resist water, Nomad says the naturally tanned leather is hydrophobic—infused with natural lipids that maintain the water-resistance without requiring additional treatment. The custom buckle and lugs are made of marine-grade 316 stainless steel. Available in Black or Mocha brown leather (my review unit is Mocha, which is a rather dark chocolate brown rather than tan), the Active Strap is available for all Apple Watch models and hardware colors with a $69.95 price.
We had a bit of light snow, so I took the Active Strap outside. That wasn’t a real test, though, so I submerged it in water. As you can see, the water just runs off the surface of the Active Strap.
Once out of the water, it was clear that the leather is not absorbing water in any way. I wiped it off and there was no discoloration. This early on, it’s tough to say if the Nomad Active is going to stand up to years of repeated exposure to water, but Heinen has been tanning leather since 1891 and is well known for its expertise in waterproof leather. I suspect the Active Strap will last…
Should You Buy It?
I’ve never had a leather Apple Watch strap that’s been noticeably damaged by a short exposure to light rain. Pouring rain or swimming is another story. A workout with heavy sweat is another worst-case scenario. When I anticipate those kinds of conditions, I’ve always been careful to swap out the leather band. My go-to has actually been Nomad’s silicone Rugged Strap. But with the Nomad Active Strap, you don’t need to. It’s not as flexible as Nomad’s bands made from Horween leather, but the Active Strap is a great way to be able to wear a leather Apple Watch Band no matter how wet the conditions are.
Disclosure: Nomad provided an Active Strap for evaluation but had no input into this review. As an Amazon Associate, I earn affiliate fees from qualifying purchases.