History Of The Tropic Watch Strap
Anyone with even a slight interest in vintage watches will be familiar with the name of Tropic straps. Ever since their introduction in the 1960s, they steadily assumed popularity and were paired with watches from several notable brands.
These straps caused great ripples in the world of diving watches, to the extent of becoming the most preferred strap for both professional divers and diving enthusiasts. For vintage watch collectors, getting their hands on an original Tropic strap in good condition is nothing less than a dream come true. But owing to their rarity, these may cost a bomb!
But all is not lost, as several companies have tried to reconstruct this masterpiece with varying degrees of success. As the Tropic watch strap makes a comeback with a modern touch, let's take a moment to go through its journey of assuming a legendary status among the watch bands.
The Tropic Strap: A Brief History
The Tropic watch strap first came into the limelight in the 1960s. With the emergence of recreational diving as a popular adventure sport, many people looked forward to exploring the beauty of the underwater world. While diving watches ensured their safety to some extent, it came with another problem - the straps.
In those days, there were mainly two available options - leather straps or metal (usually steel) bracelets. With leather being ruled out for underwater use, metal bracelets were the only suitable alternative. But these were heavy, making them uncomfortable to wear underwater.
A New Alternative
As the demand for a flexible, waterproof, and durable watch band surged, the Tropic strap made its first appearance. Made of rubber, these sporty bands were stylish and could be used both in and out of the water.
It was a Swiss company that first came up with the idea of using supple rubber to craft a trendy strap that could complement the most iconic watches in that age. Best Fit or Best Fit Tropic, as it was popularly known, were the original makers of this strap that soon became famous among the divers.
But what made these straps attain such overwhelming popularity? A major problem of using steel bands for divers watches was that they would be easily damaged by the salty water, not to mention the discomfort of wearing it at greater depths. Tropic straps easily address this issue.
The waterproof rubber material could withstand the corrosive effects of saltwater with remarkable ease. At the same time, it was remarkably soft on the skin - posing no irritation while diving into the depths of the marine world. These straps could be used with most watches of the time and were incredibly easy to adjust at any time.
Several well-known watch brands of that time, including Rolex, Citizen, Enicar, etc., supplied many diving watch models with Tropic watch bands. Rubber is naturally water-resistant, which makes it the ideal choice for creating a diving watch band. The straps were available in various sizes and colors, making them an instant hit among people of all ages.
The Iconic Design
Even though there may be many different styles of rubber watch bands, the Tropic strap remains highly identifiable due to its unique design. The strap featured a basket-weave type of design throughout the outer surface, along with a sawtooth pattern on both edges. The loop of the original straps also had this distinctive pattern, which makes it easy to spot among a bunch of replicas.
Although there were multiple designs of the Tropic strap, the most popular one featured several holes or perforations along its tapered length, crafted in a geometric pattern. The underside of the strap came with a hollowed-out diamond pattern, each of which merged with the holes visible on the upper side.
The design wasn't decided on a whim. These patterns were the key to its remarkable success as a diving watch. In fact, the diamond-like patterns were responsible for minimizing the area of contact of the band with the skin, making it comfortable to wear underwater. The holes, on the other hand, increased breathability and allowed the saltwater to escape through the openings.
Although these looked to be simple rubber straps, it is clear that a lot of thought went into finalizing the perfect design. While they were originally created as secondary watch straps that could be easily disposed of, many of these are still found in working conditions after so many decades.
The New Tropic Strap
Despite being the go-to option for divers, the production of Tropic watch straps was stopped due to unknown reasons. But this could not curb their popularity as people are still fond of these vintage straps. But, one needs to part with a considerable amount today to own an original Tropic strap from the 1960s and ’70s.
But not to worry, as several companies have started to reintroduce modern versions of the once-popular watch band. And the good news is that some of these use the original molds of the Tropic straps! While the actual company that produced these straps has ceased to exist, the name ‘Tropic strap’ continues to be used to denote the straps reproduced from the original design.
Although it may look similar, the new Tropic strap is slightly different. Instead of the supple rubber used in the original, the modern versions use a vulcanized rubber formula. The optimized material is strong and comfortable while also being resistant to UV rays, heat, and cold.
Unfortunately, the iconic strap that ruled the world of diving watches isn't as easily available today. The original tropic strap can still pose tough competition to any modern sports watch band - and herein lies its significance. Not many accessories from the 1960s could hold their own in front of a modern-day product.
It's no wonder that vintage watch collectors put in great efforts to add another piece to their Tropic strap collection.
While of course, nothing can beat the original, the modern Tropic watch straps work quite well for diving watches today. And these Tropic-inspired rubber straps are still preferred by divers all over the world.