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I have a new watch with a steel wristband (or strap).

I had a few similar ones in the past. From that experience, the strap gets dirty and is very difficult to clean due to its complicated shape with crevices between the links. But worse, when exercising, the metal reacts with sweat (oxidises or something), leaving black residue on the wrist. I want to prevent this.

For reasons I'm not getting into, I don't want to replace the strap with a silicone one or something else naturally inert. Instead, I'm thinking of spraying or otherwise applying a thin protective layer to the inner surface, such as rubber, silicone or some such.

So far, I've tried (on a piece of old one):

  • PVA glue. When dried, it leaves a nearly perfect transparent film. Unfortunately, it is not waterproof: it clouds and wrinkles when exposed to water. It can be dried again, but it will likely peel off before it does from the constant skin contact.
  • Some masking liquids (used for model painting). They leave a more rubber-like layer, but, of course, peel off too easily (by design). Most of them are also even less water-resistant and all are coloured (which I almost don't mind, but transparent is preferable).

I also have some silicone, but it is too thick to be applied evenly.

It's easy enough to apply a sticky tape of some sort, but even the best one won't conform to the surface of this complexity, and dirt will happily get under it.

Any other ideas?

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  • You mentioned PVA; Elmer's Glue-All™ is a white "PVA" glue which dries very nearly clear and permanent. Glue-ALL™ (NOT the same as Elmer's School Glue) is not soluable as the school variety for children which is meant to be impermanent. – Stan Apr 10 at 17:18
  • You might also want to test for skin sensitivity for the material you choose – Journeyman Geek Apr 11 at 1:32
  • You said silicone is too thick, but there are a wide range of silicone products that could meet this requirement, however you're not going to find them at a hardware store. Platinum-cure silicones tend to be strong, resilient, and don't shrink during curing. You'd need to look for vendors who sell silicone paints for theatrical and prosthetic use. – barbecue Apr 11 at 20:12
  • @Stan, interesting; you could add it to your answer. However, I fear that any PVA won't be water-resistant enough. I might still try it, given that it's easily available and can be used for other purposes anyway. – Zeus Apr 12 at 0:33
  • @barbecue, thanks, that's also worth an answer. I just realised that I there are two-component silicone solutions which I might need anyway. I only fear its adhesion may not be strong enough, given that it's often used for mold making. – Zeus Apr 12 at 0:37
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If the circumstances require you to know the time, use another kind of timepiece such as a pocket watch or on a lanyard around your neck. I have a smart phone that will tell me the time when/if I ask and/or announced periodically. Time pieces can be attached to handy reference surfaces such as a wall or object.

If the circumstances require you to have a stylish, intricately shaped object around your wrist under various circumstances, consider applying a smooth layer around your wrist to insulate you from the object and its acquired filth.

If the circumstances require you to engage in activity which is strenuous or dirty enough to require you to wash before you continue with normal activity, consider removing the inappropriate article (ss bracelet) during that activity. Slip it into your pocket.

When the circumstances require you to engage in activity which is mutually exclusive to your desires, reconsider your choice for either.

Good luck.

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  • I'm sorry, but you are trying to frame challenge the question. That's not interesting. This is all obvious, but I just don't want to do it. This seems to be a simple enough LH problem to solve so that I wouldn't need to adjust my habits. – Zeus Apr 12 at 0:42
  • @Zeus No. Look up the meaning of 'inappropriate.' I am not challenging the question so much as your choice of equipment design, materials, and construction for your activities. Unusual and/or unconventional solutions are common here at Lifehacks and even sought for as a matter of course by some. – Stan May 2 at 16:49
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  • I think applying Acrylic Liquid Monomer which are used for Artificial nails may be useful.

  • While exercising, in case you need your watch to be worn, try consider wearing a sweat wristband(they're available in different thicknesses and length) and wear your watch over it. It may not be that good in appearance but will protect the metal of your watch from corrosion.

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I would expect silicone to be a good material for this: its flexible, inert, water resistant, reasonably hard-wearing, and sticks to metal.

You said that regular silicone sealant is too thick; you could try silicone seam sealer (marketed for sealing silnylon camping gear) which is more liquid. There are also various DIY methods of diluting silicone for this purpose, though none seem to be particularly good.

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Various kinds of elastic coating materials are available that might serve your purpose for a thin flexible insulating layer against your skin and your articulated watch bracelet.

I have used Liquid Latex (Web search) for various purposes and while it is not meant to be permanent, it is easy to work with and cures to a flexible material. All sizes are available.

I have not used Liquid Rubber™ but the characteristics described for the product may be good for your intentions. Again, a search for the material will be easy.

No matter the material you use, best results will probably be by applying (by brush) your coating on only those surfaces that touch your skin and by avoiding any articulating parts which do not.

Good luck.

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You could use one of those charity/promotional silicone wristbands that were ubiquitous a few years back - put that on your wrist and then wear the watch over it (depending on the relative width of the band vs watch you may need more than one). This will give you a flexible silicone layer in between your skin and the metal, while remaining non-permanent and also effectively invisible.

While they're not as a prevalent as they were previously they are still widely available, durable and inexpensive - you could probably even get a sample from a promotional goods company for a nominal cost or even free.

Depending on the size of your wrist you may need to shrink the wristband to get a snugger fit.

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Well, I've done quite a few experiments and now I can share my own solution.

Lacquer

Lacquer spray

Just a coat or two of a clear lacquer. I used Testors Glosscote (typically found in hobby shops) mostly because I already had it in a spray can, and because it has the best adhesion (being solvent-based).

I also experimented with Tamiya Acrylic (X-22). Surprisingly, it felt a bit less flexible, but this may be due to thickness of the layer (I applied by brush) rather than the material itself. Generally, it would work as well, or almost as well.


Other things I tried or considered:

Liquid Silicone "Rubber", mentioned by barbecue in the comment, aucuparia and Stan.

Theoretically, it could be the best material: flexible (I've got the one with shore hardness 15, quite soft), pleasant to touch, strong, inert. It's only problem (and feature!) is poor adhesion: it just doesn't stick to anything but itself.

Silicone coat test

I tried slightly different thickness (visible here), but it made little difference. The only way I believe it could possible work is to make it properly thick (>1 mm), like a separate band suggested by many, peel it off and stick back on a contact glue. This is not very trivial at every stage, plus it creates a potential problem in the overlapping part of the strap (it can't be too thick and would have to be clear of silicone)

Acrylic Liquid Monomer, suggested by Ak.

I haven't actually tried it, but my research shows that it would be too hard (literally). While acrylic can be made reasonable soft in a thin layer, the typical monomers sold for nail salons cure quite hard.

Separate silicone wristband

This would obviously work. But this solution is disqualified. It's a workaround rather than a solution to the problem. It's just too cumbersome to have a separate part. I wanted a solution to 'fix' the original problem, so that the watch could be used exactly the normal way. Besides, having a band would mean that I would always have to wear it (whether exercising or not): the added thickness would require adjustment to the position of the lock, which is not meant to be readjusted daily on this type of strap.

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  • This is not an answer but qualifies as research effort for your original question. It is not a valid answer, per se. You also seem to be working with your own set of Lifehacker qualification definitions and policies. – Stan May 2 at 16:42
  • Well, perhaps, but if I was to answer it today, I would answer exactly this - except for the last two paragraphs, which just didn't fit in the comments to other answers (where they belong). When I posted the Q, I didn't know. So far, nobody suggested this solution, and it is, I think, the most LH-style solution (except for a spearate band, which, I repeat, doesn't answer the Q), so I consider it valid. – Zeus May 3 at 0:38
  • That's why it qualifies as research. When you're happy with an actual response, give yourself a pat on the back and award the correct answer to yourself. Even better if it works. You seem to be working with your own set of rules, though. Whatever makes you happy is the important thing. Welcome to Lifehacks. Good luck. – Stan May 3 at 13:51
  • You say you are sharing your own solution but you are actually proposing more than one possible solution. It would be better to post an answer with the one solution that worked for you. – Chenmunka May 3 at 18:33
  • @Chenmunka, all other solutions were proposed by others. I'm just reporting why I haven't chosen one of them, even after careful consideration; If I had, I would have selected those as an answer. (But I still upvoted all those I tried). I don't see how it can be detrimental or inappropriate. – Zeus May 4 at 0:45
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I would advise you to visit your dentist for your Lifehacks problem solution. Discuss the issue with the dental technician.

In a previous answer, Liquid Acrylic Monomer was suggested as a watchband liner which I think is in the proper direction; but, does not go far enough from a technological view. There is a difference with the material used for finger nails and the acrylic used in dentistry.

Dental monomer (the liquid) is MMA. It will cure super hard. It also has smaller molecules and when in the liquid form should not get on your skin. Nail salon monomer is EMA. It still dries hard but not nearly as durable as the MMA dental monomer. This nail salon monomer is safer for your skin (why they put it on your nails) and doesn’t smell as terrible, but In my testing, doesn’t have the same durability.

The EMA (nail salon stuff) is supposed to be flexible/breakable. That way if you jam your finger the fake nail will break off. Before it was illegal for artificial nails, they used MMA... and jamming your finger could result in the loss of your actual nail because the fake one ain’t breaking or peeling.

For the application, if you have a well ventilated space and skin protection, the dental monomer is (in my limited experience) much more durable and cheaper. Plus once fully cured, both are safe for skin contact etc.

Good luck.

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  • Wait, but how can I use hard plastic for this purpose? The wristband must be flexible by definition. I can't cover each link separately, and besides one of the goals is to fill the gaps between and within the links so that dirt wouldn't collect there (as easily)... – Zeus May 3 at 0:28
  • @Zeus Silly, you do realize that it will be as flexible as the watchband is. That's because the dental acrylic is just as flexible (not) as the band material, stainless steel, is (not). That's the definition of flexible. Hint: think links. When you're finished, the acrylic will sit between you (skin) and the metal band. This is what you wanted. No? – Stan May 3 at 13:43
  • The material (links) is rigid, but the whole assembly is flexible. Like a chain. If I cover only the links, being careful not to fill the hinges, it would work. But even then only partially: as I said, one of the objectives was exactly to fill the gaps (you can see it on my photo with silicone). Still, even that way it's a lot of work. Maybe a manicurist would enjoy it... In general, hard materials are not a problem to find: if it was suitable, I might as well use less exotic epoxy or polyurethane. – Zeus May 4 at 0:35
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Topsy-Turvy Stainless Steel Watchband Hack:

Rather than pursue the technique of applying a flexible layer of some material to the bottom of your stainless steel watchband, flip the concept.

Here's how:

  1. Remove the band from your watch.
  2. Find the appropriate watchband for your activities—like the one motosubatsu suggested—made of silicone. It's easy to clean, seamless, inert, kind to skin, won't leave little black bits on you, etc.
  3. Fit it to your watch.
  4. For the appearance you prefer, attach s/s links to the outside/the visible side of the band — the part you and others see.
  5. You're done! Put it on.

Now, You have the best of both worlds — a silicone body-friendly material that looks macho (or whatever it's called.)

Good luck.

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