What is an Expansion Bracelet?

Article By: Logan Hannen

Sep 26, 2018

What is up, watchfam?! Today, we’re going to take a look at one of the more unique, somewhat controversial strap choices that we have as watch geeks – the expansion bracelet.

First, a bit of history – the expansion bracelet was introduced to mainstream audiences by a brand called Speidel, who had acquired the design from its original inventor, Karl E. Stiegele, and released it in 1959. Since then, Speidel has gone on to become synonymous with the expansion bracelet, and while other brands have stepped up with their own versions over the years, nobody has managed to knock Speidel off their throne as kings of the expansion band.

Speidel Twist-O-Flex Ad
Source: ABlogtoWatch

Speidel dubbed this type of strap the “Twist-O-Flex” which, once you get a look at the way they present the thing in ads like the one pictured above, becomes kind of self explanatory. The strap, because if it’s design, is able to contort and bend in all manner of ways and stretches pretty significantly as well. The end result is a strap that is, in principle, the most comfortable option available because of its endless ability to resize perfectly to your wrist. There is, naturally, one issue with any strap that features pieces of metal stretching out and then closing again – the sheer level of hair pulling can be downright insufferable. I’m generally a pretty hairy guy (I blame it on the Italian in me), and my personal experience has always been that they will grab hairs and try to forcibly remove them from your wrist at any and every opportunity. Well, okay, there is one exception to that rule…

Interior of a Kreisler Expanding Bracelet
Source: Me, Myself, and My Great-Grandfather’s Gruen

The bracelet pictured above belonged on the vintage Gruen my Great-Grandfather wore, and the interior of it, as you can see, is designed with links that expand in a slightly more angular way than the traditional Speidel bracelets (see below). The end result is an expansion process that doesn’t involve expanding and contracting in a totally straight line, but rather at an angle which, when coupled with the rounded profile of the inner links, more pushes wrist hair then traps it.

Speidel Twist-O-Flex
Source: Speidel

Now, the connotation that I’ve always seen online and in person is that the expansion band is a sort of “old-man’s option” for a strap, and to an extent, that’s a valid way of looking at it. They were incredibly popular in the 60s and 70s, and thus became the sort of default strap option for an entire generation of watch wearers, many of whom are now into their 60s and beyond. In fact, the expansion band was so popular back then that it became one of the earliest bracelet options found on the Omega Speedmaster (this one also produced by Speidel), as well as the Rolex Explorer of a certain well-known British spy (at least in Ian Fleming’s novels). For most people of a certain age, a metal bracelet on a watch stretched, and it’s a habit they’ve kept alive to this day for that very reason.

Omega Speedmaster on Speidel Twist-O-Flex

Alright geeks, I hope you enjoyed this little trek into one of the more interesting strap options there are. If you’ve got one of these bad boys, be sure to show us in the comments on Facebook and, as always, keep it classy, watchfam!