Apple secures patents for magical Watch bands just in time

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If your Apple Watch freezes, just force it. Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac
The Apple Watch's Classic Buckle and Link Bracelet bands. Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

The first batch of Apple Watch preorders are starting to ship for delivery, and Apple has been awarded some key patents for its band designs.

While the company had already secured a patent for its Modern Buckle band, today the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office approved patents for “the ornamental design” of the Link Bracelet, Sport Band, and Classic Buckle.

Along with a few other veteran Apple designers, Jony Ive and Marc Newson are listed as credited inventors for each band design. Newson wasn’t brought on officially to Apple’s design team until after the Watch was unveiled, but his name on these patents confirm suspicions that he was involved with designing the Watch from early on in the process.

Each Link Bracelet takes "nearly 9 hours to complete." Photo: USPTO
Each Link Bracelet takes nearly 9 hours to complete. Photo: USPTO

Why would Apple need to patent its bands? While they may look similar to traditional watch bands already on the market, they actually represent significant design improvements.

The Link Bracelet design in particular (Apple’s most expensive band) is extremely detailed. It takes Apple “nearly nine hours to cut the links for a single strap.” Each link slightly increases in width towards the Watch case, and a button mechanism lets you remove links without the need for special tools. There’s also a “custom butterfly closure” that “folds neatly within the bracelet.”

If you’ve tried on an Apple Watch already at your local store, you know that even the most basic Sport Band is designed thoughtfully. The pin allows you to neatly tuck any remaining strap around your wrist. The band itself is made of a special synthetic rubber material called fluoroelastomer that’s known for its chemical and high temperature resistance.

Every Apple Watch band features magnetic clips that allow them to be easily swapped. Apple seems OK with letting third-parties design their own bands, but patenting its own designs will likely help the company keep shameless copycats off the market.