I tried the new Apple Watch Series 9 watch bands — and there's a clear winner

Apple Watch Series 9 bands
(Image credit: Future)

While the Apple Watch Series 9 notably packs performance upgrades and a neat new double tap gesture, one of the reasons it's a major improvement over the Apple Watch Series 8 is that it's the company's first carbon neutral device.

Changes to both the internal architecture and the distribution process helped the Apple Watch Series 9 (and also Apple Watch Ultra 2 and Apple Watch SE, for that matter) earn the carbon neutral certificate you'll now see on the packaging. But there's another big move Apple needed to make: it redesigned the included Apple Watch bands to be more eco-friendly.

Apple turned two of the best Apple Watch bands — the Sport Loop and Nike Sport Band — into the carbon-neutral complements to the aluminum Apple Watch Series 9. For the stainless steel Series 9, leather bands are no longer an option. Apple is phasing out leather accessories company-wide in lieu of a material called Fine Woven. Fine Woven is featured on two watch band options.

I was actually able to try out these new band options for myself using the Apple Watch Series 9. In general, I'm delighted that they're all better for the environment, but there's one I liked more than the others. 


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Apple Watch Sport Loop

Apple Watch Sport Loop

(Image credit: Future)

The Apple Watch Series 9 band I think most people will end up purchasing is the new Sport Loop. As a reminder, every Apple Watch comes with an Apple Watch band, though there are select styles that don't introduce an added fee. Furthermore, not all the band styles result in the Apple Watch Series 9 having the carbon neutral certificate. 

If you want a carbon neutral Apple Watch Series 9 and don't want to pay a premium, the Sport Loop is the popular choice. Now made of 82% recycled yarn, the Sport Loop colors come color-matched to the Apple Watch Series 9 aluminum finishes. So my pink Apple Watch Series 9 band flashes a similar pastel pink hue. 

The double-layer nylon weave is soft, breathable and easy to adjust. My only complaint with it is that it gets soaked in a shower or even while washing dishes. (This was also the case with the previous Sport Loop design.) As a result, it's not the easiest band to keep clean.

Apple Watch Modern Buckle

Apple Watch Modern Buck band

(Image credit: Future)

As I mentioned above, Apple committed to phasing out the use of leather for its mobile accessories. Leather iPhone and Apple Watch accessories have been quite popular over the years, but now customers will need to purchase them from third-party retailers. I, however, suggest trying out the Apple Watch Modern Buckle first.

Made of Apple's new Fine Woven (sourcing 68% post-consumer recycled content), the new Modern Buckle has a suede-like feel and sleek magnetic closure. The bottom half of the buckle sits on a fixed notch, while the top half snaps on and off to secure the watch to your wrist. A pair of release latches ensure the band doesn't detach accidentally.

The band's minimalistic look pairs well with the Stainless Steel Apple Watch Series 9. Though it will cost $100 more on top of the $699 starting price, making for a heavy $799 checkout cost that could get you an Apple Watch Ultra 2 instead. 

Apple Watch Nike Sport Band

Apple Watch Nike Sport Band

(Image credit: Future)

Of all the new Apple Watch Series 9 watch bands I've tried, my favorite by a good margin is the new Nike Sport Band. I already liked the Nike Sport Band because it's water-resistant and lined with perforations, making it by far the most breathable Apple Watch strap.

But to make the Nike Sport Band worthy of a carbon neutral badge, Apple transitioned to a design featuring repurposed Apple Watch bands. Repurposed bands are turned into small speckles that create a colorful, sprinkle-like effect throughout the Sport Band.

This makes the Nike Sport Band special. Why? Now, no two bands are exactly alike. Despite the ability to customize the appearance of your Apple Watch face, the Apple Watch in general has a highly uniform look. So, not only is the Nike Sport Band comfortable, but I can walk around knowing my band is one-of-a-kind. 

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Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is the managing editor of social and video at Tom’s Guide. She covers smartwatches, TVs and audio devices, too. Kate appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account, which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her taking up a new sport, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef.